We know now that the Great War (World War I) started in the summer of 1914, and that it changed the world forever. A hundred years ago, of course, nobody knew the Great War was coming. In 1911, our grandparents and great grandparents were still living in a nineteenth century world, a world of wars and revolutions, despotic governments, assassinations, poverty, disease, economic disparity and amazing technological advances, but a world blissfully unaware of the horrors the future held in store.
The centennial of the Great War is approaching. My plan in this blog is to follow world events leading up to the war as they happened, month by month, a hundred years ago. Each post will appear 100 years after the fact, so my first post (October 1, 2011) will review current events through the end of September 1911. The countdown will continue every month: the October 31, 2011 post will review the events of October 1911, and each successive post will review the events of the month just ended. I think it will be interesting and instructive to follow those events as they occurred in real time, much as a newspaper or news magazine does. As we follow those events, we'll know how they affected the subsequent history of the world (from our perspective of a hundred years on), but at the same time we'll try to put ourselves in the shoes of people who lived at the time, reporting and reacting to those events without knowledge of the future. I would welcome additions to, or disagreements with, anything I say in this blog.
Most narrative histories, even as they follow a generally chronological structure, are organized thematically, and for good reason. But this organization will encourage us to experience history as the people who lived it did -- day by day, month by month, lots of things going on all over the world, maybe related and maybe not, but all happening at once.
This will be a learning experience for me. By following this chronological format, I hope to reach a better understanding of a period of history that has always fascinated me, and that I've long believed is crucial to understanding the world we live in today.
The next post (a review of world events as of October 1911) will appear next week.