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Legacy of the Great War

Ninety Years On

Edited by Jay Winter

Publication Year: 2009


In late 2007 and early 2008, world-renowned historians gathered in Kansas City for a series of public forums on World War I. Each of the five events focused on a particular topic and featured spirited dialogue between its prominent participants.
In spontaneous exchanges, the eminent scholars probed each other’s arguments, learned from each other, and provided insights not just into history but also into the way scholars think about their subject alongside and at times in conflict with their colleagues.
            Representing a fourth generation of writers on the Great War and a transnational rather than an international approach, prominent historians Niall Ferguson and Paul Kennedy, Holger Afflerbach and Gary Sheffield, John Horne and Len Smith, John Milton Cooper and Margaret Macmillan, and Jay Winter and Robert Wohl brought to the proceedings an exciting clash of ideas.
The forums addressed topics about the Great War that have long fascinated both scholars and the educated public: the origins of the war and the question of who was responsible for the escalation of the July Crisis; the nature of generalship and military command, seen here from the perspectives of a German and a British scholar; the private soldiers’ experiences of combat, revealing their strategies of survival and negotiation; the peace-making process and the overwhelming pressures under which statesmen worked; and the long-term cultural consequences of the war—showing that the Great War was “great” not merely because of its magnitude but also because of its revolutionary effects. These topics continue to reverberate, and in addition to shedding new light on the subjects, these forums constitute a glimpse at how historical writing happens.
            American society did not suffer the consequences of the Great War that virtually all European countries knew—a lack of perspective that the National World War I Museum seeks to correct. This book celebrates that effort, helping readers feel the excitement and the moral seriousness of historical scholarship in this field and drawing more Americans into considering how their own history is part of this story.

Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

The Great War continues to tantalize and fascinate Europeans. Recently too, Americans have begun to take an interest in a conflict that harmed their country little, though their involvement in it inaugurated their involvement in world affairs that now dominates their politics. America’s generation-long forgetfulness of the war derives from its in-...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xvi

This is an unusual book within the historical literature on the First World War. There are entire libraries devoted to the subject, and the avalanche of publications on it shows no sign of abating, now nearly a century after the outbreak of war in 1914. Indeed, it is likely that the pace of publication will pick up in the run-up to the war’s centennial....

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Introduction: Approaching the History of the Great War: A User’s Guide

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pp. 1-17

Writing history is always a dialogue. When historians put pen to paper, they carry with them the accumulated interpretations their colleagues have developed over time. Frequently, it is against the grain of these interpretations, in opposition to them, in exasperation with them, that historians decide to write. To be sure, there are many occasions when ...


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pp. 18-32

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One: War Origins

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pp. 33-60

Jay Winter: This conversation is the beginning of a unique event. While there has been a mountain of historical writing produced about the First World War, there has never before been a series of conversations among historians who are specialists in the history of the 1914–18 conflict, about what they agree about, what they disagree about, and what ...

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Two: Waging Total War: Learning Curve or Bleeding Curve?

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pp. 61-90

Winter: Thank you all for coming to our second historians’ conversation about the First World War. When the text of these exchanges will be published in 2009, it will form the only book in our field in which conversation between historians replaces the individual voice. And in my thirty-eight years of teaching, I’ve come to learn that our ...

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Three: The Soldiers’ War: Coercion or Consent?

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pp. 91-122

Winter: Welcome to everyone this evening. Today we turn to the soldiers’ war. It may be possible for us to unravel problems about why wars break out—the subject of our first scholars’ forum—but it seems to me an even more difficult task to answer the question as to why do men go through battle? In the First World War, why was it not a natural...

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Four: Ending the Great War: The Peace That Failed?

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pp. 123-158

Winter: This series of conversations enables us to appreciate how extraordinarily active, alive, effervescent, is the study of the First World War in many parts of the world today. I welcome John Cooper, an old friend, and Margaret MacMillan, a new friend, because they have contributed in fundamental ways to our understanding of both war and ...

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Five: The Great War: Midwife to Modern Memory?

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pp. 159-184

Kemper: I’m Crosby Kemper, the director of the Kansas City Public Library, and it is my pleasure and my honor to welcome you to this symposium cosponsored by the Liberty Memorial and the National World War I Museum, the Truman Library and Truman Library Institute, and the Kansas City Public Library....

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pp. 185-198

It rained heavily in Glasgow on the morning of 2 August 1914. De-spite that and despite the conventions of the Scottish Sabbath, after lunch Thomas Livingstone, a shipping clerk, walked from his home in the south side of the city, across the River Clyde, to the town center. He wanted to find out the latest news. As recent historians of the phenom-...


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pp. 199-204

Select Bibliography

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pp. 205-212


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pp. 213-218

About the Editor, Back Cover

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pp. 219-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780826271990
E-ISBN-10: 0826271995
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826218728
Print-ISBN-10: 0826218725

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 17 illus
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1