Monday, June 30, 2014

Learning the lessons of history

Last week was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war to end all wars…World War I.  Most people were unaware of that anniversary, unless you are a history buff you probably don’t really care much about some royal Austrian dude from 100 years ago, but this one event still has major repercussions even today.  The literal shape of the modern world was drawn as a result of the conflicts, alliances, winners and losers of World War I. 

As you may have guessed – I love history.  I love learning about the events that helped to make us who and what we are.  This love has translated into my choice to write historical fiction.  I have been doing lots of historical research while working on my book, which is set in 1918.  Understanding the events and mindset of the time are critical to ensuring an accurate portrayal of my characters. 

World War I was a completely avoidable, yet totally inevitable war.  Yes, I know that is a contradiction – but so was World War I.  A small group of men saw war as a way to prove their country’s strength, and they used fears and a pretty slick media campaign to draw their fellow countrymen into a conflict that would lead to over 30 years of bloody conflict including two world wars, killing over 70 million men, women and children.  During those 30+ years, we saw the rise of the cruelest dictators that history has ever known.  We also saw some of the greatest acts of humanity and courage ever witnessed. 
We cannot go back and undo history.  I would love to have prevented Archduke Ferdinand and his lovely wife Sophie from getting into the car that day – but I’m not sure it would have made any difference, our world was on a collision course, and that day, June 28th in 1914, the Archduke and his wife were merely the pawns in a chess game that had been started long before they decided to visit Sarajevo.   
It is important to understand the events that led to this horrific war and all its unintended aftermath.  As the popular quote by Edmund Burke reminds us “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”  Understanding the roots of today’s modern conflicts, we can work toward a more peaceful future. 


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