World War I began with an assassin’s bullet in Sarajevo. How did it end? This vigorous study offers answers.
The war part of WWI has been thoroughly documented. But what of the peace part in this centennial year? Cuthbertson (English Literature/Liverpool Hope Univ.; Wilfred Owen, 2014, etc.) follows an intriguing premise, examining how people greeted the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, and the inevitable question, “Is it peace at last?” As to the latter, there were plenty of doubts, for the end of the war really was an armistice, with a peace treaty that came only a year later. Still, writes Cuthbertson, many Europeans took it as a sign that the slaughter had come to an end. As he tours nations and battlefronts, the author turns up varied reactions: Upon learning the news, Prussian officers held as prisoners in England grumpily refused to play their morning soccer game, while the great folklorist and anthropologist James G. Frazer, observing the exultant bonfires lit in London, thought back to the bacchanalian revels of ancient Rome: “Anyone who knew his work could have seen the world of The Golden Bough come to life.” And people were still dying as the Spanish flu raged around the world, killing as many as died in battle. The question of whether the end of the war really constituted a victory for the Allies was a nagging one indeed, for no sooner did the war end than a revolution began in Germany that would eventually give birth to yet another war. Meanwhile, British and American forces were off to a different front, fighting the Bolsheviks in Russia. As Cuthbertson sagely observes, “during the Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev would remind the USA that while Russia had never invaded America, America had once invaded Russia." Naturally, the author concludes in that matter, “capitalism made the most of the Armistice as an opportunity to make money.”
A novel and wide-ranging examination of the conclusion of the war once solemnly declared to be the one to end all wars.