Two weeks ago, Florence Green -- the last known surviving veteran of world war one -- died. She had been a waitress in Britain’s Royal Air Force. The story of the war that was to end all wars survives in historic accounts, novels, poems and pictures. Millions of British and American viewers recently got a glimpse of the battlefield on PBS’s popular Downton Abbey.
The prevailing historical narrative is that the trenches were slaughtering troughs and that The Great War was inevitable…a percolating crisis waiting for a catalyst….we learned in school that the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June of 1914 was the spark that ignited war in Europe. Jack Beatty explores new scholarship to offer contrary views. “Historical inevitability is a doctrine for history without people,” he writes in the introduction of The Lost History of 1914, the book chronicles some largely forgotten events and players that could have derailed war, and argues that trench warfare saved lives. Jack Beatty is news analyst for NPR’s On Point, and author of The Rascal King and the Age of Betrayal. His new book, The Lost History of 1914: The Year the Great War Began.
Review of The Lost History of 1914