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The Great War Reexamined

Our own Jack Beatty joins us on the Great War, the war to end all wars, the First World War, and how it all could have been different.

Often described as troops "going over the top" in trench warfare near St. Pol. France, in October 1916, some researchers now believe this World War I photo shows Canadian Army troops during a training exercise well behind the front lines. (AP)

Often described as troops "going over the top" in trench warfare near St. Pol. France, in October 1916, some researchers now believe this World War I photo shows Canadian Army troops during a training exercise well behind the front lines. (AP)

They called World War I the “Great War.”  The war to end all wars.  It was bloody and brutal and massively murderous.  Trenches.  Mustard gas.  Bodies heaped in the millions.  It ended what we remember as an age of grace and ushered in a century of mechanized, total war.

In school, we’re taught that it’s beginning, in the summer of 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, had a kind of inevitability to it.  In a new book, my colleague Jack Beatty says no.  That the Great War, all wars, come as a choice.

This hour, On Point:  a century on, the lessons of the summer of 1914.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and author of The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the year the Great War began. You can read an excerpt of the book here.

From Tom’s Reading List

Nashua Telegraph “In taking a new and unique look back at the political landscape of Europe in 1914 and the circumstances that were to be the prime catalysts in igniting the bloody conflict that came to be known as “The Great War” and “The War to End All Wars,” Beatty has fashioned a thoughtful book that’s decidedly different from many of the standard – and often dry and tedious – historical volumes.”

Associated Press “World War I histories typically focus on the tragic decisions of European political leaders like Joseph and mind-numbing carnage as 19th-century military strategies ran into the mechanized death machines of the 20th century.”

Video: Footage From The Battle Of The Somme

Here is some rare film taken at the Battle of the Somme in November 1916. After six months of fighting, the German, French and British armies suffered a combined one million casualties, making it one of the bloodiest military operations in history.

Excerpt: The Lost History of 1914

Playlist

It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary by Coldstream Guards Regimental Band

Over There by Nora Bayes

Pack Up Your Troubles by Murray Johnson

Boys in Khaki, Boys in Blue by F. Wheeler

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