HIST 2203 -- World War I


“I have not seen any dead.  I have done worse.  In the dank air I have perceived it, and in the darkness, felt it…No Man’s Land under snow is like the face of the moon: chaotic, crater-ridden, uninhabitable, awful, the abode of madness.”

Wilfred Owen, to his sister, January 19, 1917.


“We had to jump from corpse to corpse.  If we stepped in the mud on either side, we’d get stuck.  We had to use the dead face-down because if we stepped on their stomachs our feet would sink in.  It was disgusting.  It was terrible.  We were surrounded by death.”

Marcel Batreau, survivor of Verdun, 1995.


The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the match that set the tinderbox of Europe alight.  Within a mere five weeks of this critical June 1914 event, Europe embarked on the most destructive conflict the world had ever seen.  A century of tranquil prosperity was shattered by the roar of shells, bullets, and bayonets.  By the time the guns fell silent a full 1,500 days later, cities lay smashed and farmland appeared as pocked and sterile as the lunar surface.  Upwards of 13 million civilians and soldiers perished in the violence—many lying in unmarked graves.  Hundreds of thousands of young men bravely climbed over the trenches and were simply never seen again.


The aftermath of the Great War was just as horrific.  Even with an end to the violence, a further 7 million survivors remained permanently maimed, carrying the scars of war for the rest of their lives.  Meanwhile, the nations of Europe remained bankrupt, bitter, and broken—conditions that bred the genocidal pestilence witnessed a short two decades later.  Europe, which had dominated global politics for half a millennium, lay shattered and prostrate.  Worst of all, World War I was to be only the opening act of the long, bloody 20th century.



Course Documents


WWI Syllabus - Fall 2009.doc


13. Review Powerpoints2.ppt