Friday, 27 December 2013

No World War One parlour games needed

It may not have been his objective, but Martin Kettle succeeded in proving EH Carr right; counterfactual history, basically guessing what might have happened had events taken a different turn, is little more than a "parlour game", or what EPThompson called "unhistorical shit"! (What if the Germans had won the first world war?26/12/13) Kettle is correct, however, to say that next year the country must "see the war more objectively and thoughtfully" than has been the case in the build-up to the centenary commemorations so far, but this will only be achieved when some basic truths about the war are accepted.
     Like nearly all wars, World War One could have been avoided, had the politicians in power not included amongst them people intent on increasing their own country`s economic power at the expense of that of their rivals.Isn`t that the basic reason for modern wars? The "just cause", as we know from the Iraq war, tends to be added as an afterthought, to persuade the populace. How respected historians like Margaret MacMillan can conclude that "it is condescending and wrong to think" the people in 1914 were "hoodwinked" is baffling; after an elementary education consisting largely of the 3Rs and a smattering of nationalist history, which taught the inferiority of all other races, including that of the increasingly "barbaric" Germans, mainly as they had the audacity to be building a powerful navy at the time, the youth of Britain were conned into volunteering for war by a government promising to have them home for Christmas!
   21st century experience in Britain tells us how governments still use information and data, often inaccurate, to support their own agendas, and it was ever thus in 1914. Wars can be avoided when the people and their representatives know the facts, and are aware of the consequences; Asquith`s Liberal government knew both the likely duration of a war with Germany and her allies, and its basic format, trench warfare leading to a war of attrition. Wouldn`t it be far more preferable for people to be given the facts about the first world war, rather than governments` sanitised and politicised versions? The "parlour games" can come later.

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