Sunday, 5 January 2014

Gove and WWI

 We must all congratulate Sir Richard Evans for hitting back at Gove`s "ignorant attack" on "his analysis of the conflict".How dare Gove, with his schoolboy and ideologically-inspired view of World War One, insult an historian, knighted for the knowledge and understanding of 20th century history, revealed in his superbly crafted and diligently-researched works?
    Gove has also frequently complained that film and TV comedies like Blackadder have left the British public with little understanding of the war, as if teachers used them as an evidence-base for facts, rather than a source for whetting appetites, and increasing interest in the topic. His complaint couldn`t have anything to do with more government-inspired tampering with history, could it, nothing to do with our perception of the privately-educated, largely clueless, officers, the "donkeys", making mistakes, repeating failed tactics time and time again, and actually causing thousands of deaths? Why, it might even reflect badly on our present privately- educated politicians and officers, who seem as keen as ever to spend billions of taxpayers` money on preparation for future, needless wars!
 As Professor Sheffield says, it can be argued that "it was a war against aggression", but that does not mean, 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.
 There can be little doubt, that 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?

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