Neu erschienen: Francia (Bd. 40 / 2013) – Heather Jones, Arndt Weinrich: The Pre-1914 Period: Imagined Wars, Future Wars
Die aktuelle Francia (Bd. 40 / 2013) enthält ein von Heather Jones und Arndt Weinrich herausgegebenes Themenheft „The Pre-1914 Period: Imagined Wars, Future Wars”. Es handelt sich um ausgewählte Beiträge der vom Deutschen Historischen Institut Paris und dem Centre de Recherche de l’Historial de la Grande Guerre organisierten internationalen Tagung “Future wars, imagined wars: towards a cultural history of the pre-1914 period”, die am 9. und 10. November 2011 in Paris und Péronne stattgefunden hat.
Aus der Einleitung:
“A golden age; a lost generation; a belle époque: our idea of the pre-1914 era has long been dominated by such clichés, enduring testimony to the way that the outbreak of the First World War shattered the sense of continuity with the past for contemporaries, proving such a cataclysmic historical caesura that it rendered all that came before it halcyon and nostalgic.
The stereotypical interpretations of the pre-war era have deep roots: it was the initial shock of war in 1914 itself, when countless bourgeois and aristocratic summer holidays were dramatically interrupted by the unprecedented carnage of August and September 1914, that created these first stereotypes about the pre-war period, stereotypes that have gone on to influence historians ever since. The Western European image of the pre-war world, as orderly, peaceful and prosperous, fitted with theological schemas of a lost Eden before the fall of man, matching easily the widespread sense after 1914 that the war had brought a loss of innocence and catastrophic fall from grace for Western civilisation – which through the conflict had revealed its primitive inner barbarism. That last pre-war summer of 1914 became a metonym for the emotional bereavement that followed; by lamenting its passing, the war generation could articulate the grief and shock the conflict caused. Emphasising the pre-war era as a golden age became a means of highlighting and accentuating the war’s horrors by way of descriptive juxtaposition.
Yet this narrative was always an unstable one: this idea of the pre-war period as idyll coexisted with the search for long-term causes of the war within it, as historians, politicians, journalists and diplomats set out in their writings hypotheses that firmly located the origins of the war in the decade that preceded it, in the disruption of the European balance of power, the weakening of the concert of Europe, the arms and naval races and the rise of German militarism1. This was a debate that would rage well into the interwar years, as people sought in the pre-war period great causes that would match the scale of the great catastrophe that had unfolded in 1914. The idea that the catastrophe might not have major causes was too difficult to accept; by finding explanations for the war contemporaries gave it meaning and, crucially, allowed for the attribution of responsibility for its outbreak. The war thus became part of a coherent historical narrative, the consequence of a series of pre-war »causes«, which made it easier to come to terms with than just random disaster. In sum, people needed to believe they could understand what had caused the 1914–1918 conflagration and thus ensure that such causal developments never recurred and led to war again; situating those origins in the distant past rendered them safe and containable on the basis that causes that could be identified could be dealt with or treated; all of this was a deeply comforting notion in the interwar years2. This establishment of a cause-and-effect narrative around the pre-war period, which turned the years from 1890 to 1914 into a canon of diplomatic and structural crises, each a signpost on the road to war, rendered the war’s outbeak more comprehensible […] “
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- Ernest R. May, Samuel R. Williamson Jr., An Identity of Opinion: Historians and July 1914, in: Journal of Modern History 79/2 (2007), p. 335–387.
- See, for example, the account by Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth. An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925, London 1978, p. 86-93.