Armistice Day--the 95th anniversary

Two minutes of silence are observed in the UK at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month: November 11 when the guns of the Great War fell silent in 1918. The U.S. has renamed this "Veteran's Day," in honor of the fallen from all of our 20th and 21st century wars, but in the UK, World War I is still is considered the Great War. Here is the BBC story of today's observances.

Today is the 95th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the slaughter of the Great War. Very soon, 2014, we will be observing the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war. Several books have appeared retelling the story of the events leading to the outbreak of hositilies in August 1914. I am currently reading Margaret MacMillan's The War that Ended Peace, and during the summer finished Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers: How Europse Went to War in 1914.

How did the war break out? It depends on when the authors think incipient hostilities began.

MacMillan plays up the Morocco crisis of Spring 1905; Clark begins quite precisely at 2 AM on June 11, 1903 when Serbian military officers carried out their plan to murder their monarchs, King Alexander and Queen Draga.

MacMillan is focused on English-German rivalty. Clark points to the impact of Serbia and the leverage that Balkan tensions played in forcing Russia, Germany, France and England to firm up what were loose alliances at the end of the 19th century.


Margaret O’Brien Steinfels is a former editor of Commonweal. 

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