Thursday, February 09, 2006

geography and history

don't look down

My idea of a summer driving trip is beginning to take a little bit more shape...as I learn American geography. I don't know how I thought I could 'stop by Kansas City' en route to Dallas. Fortunately, maps.google is completing my education in geography.

But seriously, I have a few friends to join me on various legs of the trip, and as I continue to study the map and process what a trip it will be - I'm getting more excited! There are, naturally, several details that need to come into place before this will really be a wise decision. But we shall see, we shall see.

Meanwhile, World War One pervades most of my thoughts. I am discovering, far more so this year than last, that WWI is a fascinating topic of study, and that so many of the events of the twentieth century can be traced back to what happened there. Unprecedented human brutality, genocide, disintegration of huge empires - lumping of people groups into Yugoslavia & Palestine, cutting up of the Middle East, famine and economic disasters that led the way to fascism and the rise of Communism. All of this comes out of World War One.

And the thing that strikes me is that the more I learn, the more I want to talk about it, and the more I do talk about it, and the more I realize that most people don't know anything about it. The magnitude of what I'm learning is overwhelming, and I want to share what I learned. A crash course - what everybody should know about WWI. I think it will help me to process my thoughts and pull out the most significant meaningful things, and have an outlet for sharing because sometimes people are tired of me talking about it...

So, if the years of 1914-1918 were so pivotal in the course of history, how is it that we got to this point? Well, most can pinpoint the assassination of the Archduke's Ferdinand as the catalyst. He was shot by a Serbian in Sarajevo, Bosnia which was a province (of sorts) of Austria-Hungary. But to understand why that happened, and why that would set off a fire, we must go back further.

The 19th Century was a century of imperialism, nationalism and rising and falling empires. Germany, France, Britain among others were fighting for lands in Africa, Mid East, and Southeast Asia. The Ottoman Empire was falling apart. People groups inside of it were getting restless and Russia was trying to lap it up/help them get their independence. Austria-Hungary was trying to help itself to remaining portions - areas in the Balkans. It took Bosnia and had tense relations with Serbia. Meanwhile, both Italy and Germany have just become unified. Italy doesn't gain a whole lot of power, but Germany, led by the war-Hungary Prussian Bismarck, is eager to match Britain in colonies and a navy. In its pursuit of land and power, Germany fights France for a region on their border, Alsace-Lorraine, and wins (1871).
In summary: France doesn't like Germany for fighting them and taking their land. Britain doesn't care for Russia being imperialistic and she's always had issues with France. Britain is very wary of Germany's militarism. Russia and Austria-Hungary are at odds over land in the Balkans (present day Bulgaria, Greece, Bosnia, Croatia, etc.) and the Ottoman Empire weakening still. Germany has made enemies with nearly everyone.


So, in all this tension over land (Imperialism) and a rise of Nationalism (pride and feelings of superiority) and building of army/navy (Militarism) you add forming of Alliances to make a pretty acronym of MAIN, and the causes of World War I. France and Russia form an alliance for protection from Germany (smack between them). Germany forms an alliance with Austria-Hungary because that's the only friend she's managed to keep. (Italy was in with that too, and it was called the Triple Alliance, but Italy will back out.) Russia forms an alliance with little Serbia because she helped lands in the Balkans get freedom from the Turks and would not like Austria-Hungary to eat it up. Naturally Austria-Hungary does not care for Russia. Eventually, by 1907, Britain decides to join the side of Russia and France, making the Triple Entente. Meanwhile, things are so bad that some countries are mobilizing troops and Germany had a major war plan: the Shifflein Plan.

When the ol' archduke's assassinated on June 28, 1914 (because Serbs don't like the rule of Austria-Hungary over Bosnia where some Serbs live, simply put) it creates a chain of events. Austria-Hungary sends an ultimatum to Serbia with terms that mean war. Germany is eager to back Austria-Hungary to prove loyalty. When they declare war on Serbia, Russia joins to support her ally. France joins to support her ally. Germany declares war on France and Russia and sets her Schifflein plan in motion, which involves a surprise attack on France through Belgium. Britain rushes in to rescue her ally, Belgium (from those terrible baby-eating Germans). The war has become a world war. Eventually the Ottoman Turks will join the Central Powers I think because the Germans helped to build her army up. Italy will remain neutral until 1915 when Allied Powers promise her lands in Austria-Hungary where Italians are living. Japan joins the Allied Powers hoping it might gain some land in the Southeast. I think that's it. Switzerland, naturally, remains neutral.

...a map would be good here...

And, of course, America joins in 1917 'to make the world safe for democracy.' They join because those Germans kept shelling passenger ships from their U-boats (submarines) and in the famous sinking of the Lusitania, 128 Americans were killed. In January of 1917 Germany sent a coded telegram to her ambassador in Mexico saying basically: "We're about to again begin unrestricted submarine warfare. This might pull US into the war. In that case, would you join our side, and we will promise you lands of the Mexican Cession in return (ie Texas, Arizona, etc.)." The Zimmerman Note. This was decoded in Britain, and the British waited until the time was just right to present this to the American Public when it would be the 'tipping point' for American sentiment against those Germans. Propaganda was also working its charms.


that's all for now folks. i'll try to dose it out in edible quantities.

5 comments:

kate said...

p.s. Hurray now google toolbar will show updates. I inadvertently turned it off...experimenting.

Ken said...

is this going to be on the test?

Amy H said...

i made it all the way thru, kate, and it was wonderfully informative :) ... can't wait for the next installment

Jenny Atkinson said...

I feel like I just played a quick game of Risk! Thank you for the delightful reads, Kate.

Courtney said...

I finally got a chance to read it all. Enlightening. The last time I remember learning anything about WWI was 8th grade. That's pitiful.