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Posts Tagged ‘World War I

“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence”*…

 

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We use data from the Global Peace Index 2018 report, which tries to put a figure on the expenditures and economic effects related to “containing, preventing and dealing with the consequences of violence”.

According to the report, the economic impact of violence to the global economy was $14.76 trillion in 2017 in constant purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. This is roughly 12.4% of world gross domestic product (GDP), or $1,988 per person.

While those figures themselves are quite staggering, how it all breaks down is even more interesting…

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More chilling data at “The Economic Impact of Violence.”

* Bayard Rustin

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As we pine for ploughshares, we might recall that it was in this date n 1914 that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo… which precipitated Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia… which triggered a series of interlocking alliances (that’s to say, which led the Central Powers, including Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Serbia’s allies to declare war on each other)…  starting World War I.

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Franz Ferdinand, ca. 1914

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“Regard your good name as the richest jewel you can possibly possess”*…

 

Argument over a Card Game by Jan Steen

Before people had an image, they had their honour. For much of history, little was more valuable than individual honour. ‘Better to die 10,000 deaths than wound my honour,’ as a character in Joseph Addison’s Cato, A Tragedy (1712) put it. In his bestselling Of Domesticall Duties (1622), William Gouge declared: “a good name is a most pretious thing.”

Despite the persistence of the word and a loosely related idea, the concept of honour, as earlier eras understood it, is so foreign to moderns that it can be hard to grasp. A stereotyped account holds that in early modern England a man’s honour was associated with a willingness to use violence to defend his name, while for women honour was about the maintenance of a proper sexual reputation.

But this is a very thin and misleading idea of honour in early modern England. Personal letters and diaries of elites indeed reveal a preoccupation with honour, a sense of its almost inestimable value. They also reveal that honour wasn’t just about violence among elite men or sexual propriety among elite women. Honour concerned one’s whole person. Likewise, it was less a static, overarching code of behaviour than a loosely defined concept with an array of meanings that could be variously privileged, one over another, with fluidity depending upon the needs and objectives of an individual in a given situation…

On the complicated business of living an honorable life: “The early moderns had their work cut out curating their honour.”

See also: “Ye of ‘Bad Faith’.”

* Socrates

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As we wax nostalgic for a time when honor mattered most, we might send conflicted birthday greetings to a man whose life illustrated the early modern to modern transition from honor to image; Fritz Haber was born on this date in 1868.  The recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918 for his invention of the Haber–Bosch process, a method used in industry to synthesize ammonia from nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas– thus enabling the production of more, more affordable, and more effective fertilizers, which in turn allowed millions to avoid starvation– Haber is equally well known as the Father of Chemical Warfare for his pioneering work developing and weaponizing chlorine and other poisonous gases during World War I, especially his actions during the Second Battle of Ypres.

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Written by LW

December 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

“War is progress, peace is stagnation”*…

 

Even if one doesn’t share Hegel’s copacetic take on conflict, one can observe that wars do, in fact, usually encourage bursts of technological innovation.  Indeed, most of us are pretty familiar (in both senses of the phrase) with the range of epoch-defining technologies that were a product of World War II: radar, radio navigation, rocketry, jet engines, penicillin, nuclear power, synthetic rubber, computers… the list goes on.

But we are perhaps a little less familiar with the advances– now so ingrained that we take them for granted– that emerged from World War I.  Readers will recall one such breakthrough, and its author: Fritz Haber, who introduced chemical warfare (thus lengthening the war and contributing to millions of horrible deaths), then used some of the same techniques– nitrogen fixation, in particular– to make fertilizer widely and affordably available (thus feeding billions).

Five other key developments at “The 6 Most Surprising, Important Inventions From World War I.”

* Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

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As we look for the silver lining, we might that it was on this date in 1917, “Army Registration Day,” that the draft was (re-)instituted in the U.S. for World War I.  Draft board selections were subsequently made, and conscription began on July 20.

These draft boards were localized and based their decisions on social class: the poorest were the most often conscripted because they were considered the most expendable at home.  African-Americans in particular were often disproportionately drafted, though they generally were conscripted as laborers.

Young men registering for conscription during World War I in New York City, New York, on June 5, 1917.

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Written by LW

June 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary”*…

 

… In the meantime, let us remember that, as history repeats itself, so does the call on us all to do what we can to help.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East, which put these posters in circulation in the last years of World War I, began in 1915 as the American Committee for Armenian and Syrian Relief and was formed as a humanitarian response to the Armenian genocide and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. As World War I developed, the group began to offer food and shelter to displaced people in Syria, Persia (now Iran), and Greece.

The American Committee for Relief in the Near East’s posters often used the image of a child, or a young woman, to appeal to passers-by. Throughout the war, Americans also donated to relief campaigns for Belgian and French children, and the image of hungry young people and frightened mothers came to symbolize the plight of civilians caught up in the war.

In Syria, after the war, shelters run by Near East Relief (which was renamed and granted a Congressional charter after the end of the war) housed 45,000 orphans. The organization operated these facilities until 1930, when the last war orphans aged out of the need for care…

More at “The Heartbreaking Posters That Convinced Americans to Help Displaced Syrians During WWI.”

* Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah

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As we reach deep, we might we might recall that it was on this date in 1659 that Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” was shipwrecked and marooned on the desert island that was his home for the next 28 years.  Defoe called his novel, based in part on the true story of shipwrecked sailor Alexander SelkirkThe Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates.

Title page of the first edition

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Written by LW

September 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties”*…

 

Ratios of Democrats (blue) vs. Republicans (red). Data source: Campaign contribution data from the FEC.

Just some of the occupations covered in Verdant Labs‘ “Democratic vs. Republican Occupations” (a note on methodology here).

Check ’em out.

* John Adams

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As we choose up sides, we might recall that it was in this date in 1914 that Franz Ferdinand, 51 year old heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo, then the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovnia, where he was visiting to inspect the Empire’s troops.  A member of the Black Hand nationalist group, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed both the Crown Prince and his wife as they were being driven through the city.  The assassination– triggering, as it did, competing accusations and the “calling” of interlocking alliances– ignited World War I, which broke out one month later.

Franz Ferdinand

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Written by LW

June 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help”*…

 

Horseshoe charm made from a fragment of German shell by a wounded Belgian soldier.

 

During (and after) World War I, British folklorist Edward Lovett made a point of collecting examples of lucky charms and amulets that soldiers had carried to war. Some of these—included in a new book about the Imperial War Museum’s World War I collections, The First World War Galleries, by Paul Cornish—are below.

Lovett was a contemporary folklorist, collecting and analyzing material from his own city of London instead of working with archives or in other countries. Most active during the 1910s and 1920s, Lovett worked at a bank by day, gathering examples of amulets, charms, and talismans in his free time.Lovett was interested in seeing how country folklore lived on in working-class parts of London. He investigated the use of such charms to cure illnesses, wish ill upon enemies, or attract good luck. You can see some of his larger collection online through this Wellcome Library digital exhibition.

The charms Lovett collected from soldiers were sometimes fashioned from materials with some significance to their owners: bog oak or Connemara marble, carried by Irishmen as mementos of home; [or as in the photo above] bits of armaments that could have killed the bearer, but didn’t.

Take in more talismans at “The Lucky Charms Soldiers Carried Into WWI.”

* Calvin (Bill Watterson)

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As we rub our rabbit’s feet, we might spare a thought for George Frederick Ernest Albert, George V, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India; he died on this date in 1936.   In a statement, the King’s physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, reported that the King’s last words were “How stands the Empire?”  But in his diary, uncovered much later, Dawson recalls a less elegant end:  The physician confessed in his memoir that he prescribed the fast-failing King a fatal sedative so that his death would be announced in the Tory morning papers (and opposed to the afternoon tabloids).  George’s actual last words, as a nurse approached with the morphine- and cocaine-filled syringe, were God damn you, you’re going to kill me!”

George V

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Written by LW

January 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing”*…

 

What did the United States look like to Ottoman observers in 1803? In this map, the newly independent U.S. is labeled “The Country of the English People” (“İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi”). The Iroquois Confederacy shows up as well, labeled the “Government of the Six Indian Nations.” Other tribes shown on the map include the Algonquin, Chippewa, Western Sioux (Siyu-yu Garbî), Eastern Sioux (Siyu-yu Şarkî), Black Pawnees (Kara Panis), and White Pawnees (Ak Panis)….

See a larger version of the map and learn more about it and about the history of Turkish maps of North America at “The Ottoman Empire’s First Map of the Newly Minted United States.”

* C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

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As we ponder perspective, we might recall that it was on this date in 1918– four years and a day after joining World War I as allies of Germany– that the Ottoman Empire surrendered and signed an armistice with the Allies at Mudros, ending the war in the Middle Eastern Theatre.

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Written by LW

October 30, 2014 at 1:01 am

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