Coffee & History

Most of the current debates about the Great War are euro-centred. Maybe also because of the euro-crisis, European leaders take the anniversary of a war that started a hundred years ago as an example to remind the Europeans of what Europe represents today for a lot of people: a unified continent with cooperations of friendly states that transcent borders.


But how come it is called the First World War, when everybody is only talking about the war in Europe? Sure, most of the battles took place in Europe, but the war itself affected the whole world. On 16th of September 2014 a WeberWorldCafé (WWC) took place at the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) Berlin and took the war as it was – a global one. The Café started with a guided tour through the temporary exhibition “Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914–1918” that also focusses on different locations of the First World War. Although most of the participants of the WWC already had an extensive knowledge about the First World War, there were also new things to learn:

Elisa Marcobelli (DHI Paris) and Juliane Haubold-Stolle (DHM Berlin) talked about Western Europe. The results were written on a table cloth.  Photo: Helen May

Elisa Marcobelli (DHI Paris) and Juliane Haubold-Stolle (DHM Berlin) talked about Western Europe. The results were written on a table cloth.
Photo: Helen May

After 45 minutes the WWC started: eight tables in the café represented the eight regions the participants could discuss about. The regions discussed were Western Europe, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, North America/Oceania, Western Asia, Near and Middle East, East and South Asia and Africa. Although the event aimed at a transregional understanding of the war, Europe was overrepresented but could not be left out since the First World War had such an impact on Europe.
The two table-hosts on each table, who had done scientific research on the regions they represented, provided sources from the First World War and gave direct insight on the impact of the war on everyday life of contemporaries all over the world.

Valeska Huber (DHI London) and Fatameh Masjedi ( Zentrum Moderner Orient) discussed the influence of the war on the Middle East. Photo: Helen May

Valeska Huber (DHI London) and Fatameh Masjedi ( Zentrum Moderner Orient) discussed the influence of the war on the Middle East.
Photo: Helen May

The WWC was really a place where everyone could discuss everything. There were no “stupid” questions, whereas at panels during conferences some questions may not be asked, because they seem to be too irrelevant, this was a really pleasant atmosphere – and without any doubt it had also to do with the coffehouse-like atmosphere and the cakes and drinks that were offered. The results of the 25 minutes long discussions were written on the table cloths, so that when one group moved on to another table the new participants could build upon the previous discussion. Furthermore it was a good opportunity to note important discussion topics.

There were so many different aspects that it is hard to sum them all up, maybe some tweets by Science Reporter and participant Janine Noack can give an insight:

There were also several blogposts published by the science reporters, who had been invited. If you would like to read what they think about the WWC, here are the links:

Urkatastrophe oder Katalysator? – by Isabelle Daniel (German)
Interview by Isabelle Daniel with the curator of the temporary exhibition and tablehost Andreas Mix about the exhibition “1914-1918″ (German/English)
Narrating the First World War and experiencing the World Café by Janine Noack (English)
Interview by Isabelle Daniel with table host Michelle Moyd about the impact of WWI on African societies (English/German)


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