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Under a Spell – The Armistice at 100 (unintendedconsequenc.es)
44 points by paulorlando 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments





I really learned to appreciate the scale and horror of the war after listening to Dan Carlin's 6 part podcast series on it. I highly recommend it though it isn't for the faint of heart. https://www.dancarlin.com/product/hardcore-history-50-bluepr...

This is a fantastic series, and it's worth noting that it is free to download. Buckle in for a wild 24 hour ride...

Ghosts of the Ostfront similarly cannot be recommended enough.


>> ‘The politicians are the guilty ones,’ said one cavalry officer. ‘I am all for revolution after this bloody massacre. I would hang all politicians, diplomats, and so-called statesmen with strict impartiality.'

This section was the stand-out for me. Some things haven't really changed very much, have they?


> The waiter drew a diagram on the table-cloth. ‘I was just there.’ The three cavalry officers laughed. ‘Extraordinary! We were a few yards away.’ They chatted with the waiter as though he were an old acquaintance who had played against them in a famous football-match. They did not try to kill him with a table-knife. He did not put poison in the soup.”

This rarely happens after a war. A lot of wars are fought over ideological reasons: Crussades because the Cristians hated Muslims, lots of medieval European wars because Catholics and Protestants hated each other, the Napoleonic wars because monarchists hated republicans, etc.

In my opinion WW1 was different because the cause of the war was not ideological, but more materialistic: Germany had perceived that it had achieved technological military parity with Great Britain. They did that after a phenomenal 50-year burst of productivity advances that rivaled the advances seen in Great Britain roughly 50 years before. They probably had the feeling that everything is possible. So any spark could, and did trigger a war. The people in the trenches though, had nothing agains each other. They fought because they would be executed if they didn't, but otherwise it was natural for them to be friends once the war was over.


> A lot of wars are fought over ideological reasons: Crussades because the Cristians hated Muslims,

Well, I guess in part, in that Eastern Christians hated being conquered by Muslims, and so called out for help. On the Catholic side, though, it was more that the nobility has a whole bunch of second sons without acceptable prospects (yay primogeniture), whose skills were primarily military, so really any pretext to get them fighting a war far from home was welcome, and opportunity for conquest that wasn't at the expense of close family was a plus.

> lots of medieval European wars because Catholics and Protestants hated each other

Protestantism didn't even exist until the very end of the medieval period even by the broadest interpretation of “medieval”; the Catholic/Protestant Wars of Religion were in (and after) the Renaissance.

There were lots of reasons (mostly materialistic) for medieval wars, the Catholic/Protestant dispute really wasn't among them.

> the Napoleonic wars because monarchists hated republicans, etc.

France v. Everyone else predated th revolution (one of the charges against the King was that he was playing for the wrong side in that pre-existing conflict.)

And Napoleon I, Emporer of the French, King of Italy, etc., wasn't exactly a Republican.


The Napoleonic wars were fought because Napoleon wanted to great a "big blob". He knew times were changing and only big blocks would be able to play an important role in the future.

Most medieval wars were fought over very materialistic concerns. The 100 years war is basically a "dynastic war". Most important wars in the middle ages or the Renaissance were conquest wars that had nothing to do with religion.

And also, Muslims probably hated Cristians just as much.


> Most medieval wars were fought over very materialistic concerns.

Indeed. Though, religion can be a very useful ideological pretext for getting you to do something that materially benefits me.


Probably not even religion, but anything that unites a tribe. Religion is useful if you're looking to invade a Muslim realm, but race, class/status, and political ideology are all popular rationalizations for motivating attrocities.

Religion is also a useful pretext if you are a merchant competing with Jewish merchants. Religion is real enough if you are promoting one religion as the only true way and there are people practicing another religion in the vicinity who seem to be going fine and undercut your claim of "the only true way." In that case you might find common cause with the merchants who want to get rid of the competition. Having an ignorant rabble hungry for loot at your disposal doesn't hurt either.

I think you may have missed my point which was that it’s not religion _per se_ which provides the pretext, but rather any appeal to our tribal nature (religion is a favorite, but any sufficiently strong tribal boundary will suffice—racism, nationalism, secularism/theism, political ideology, etc).

> And also, Muslims probably hated Cristians just as much.

Surprisingly, not as much as you'd think. In most of medieval Islamic lands, non-Muslims were second-class citizens, but they were generally allowed to worship as they pleased. You didn't get large-scale pogroms like medieval Europe.

Edit: It's telling that people are downvoting this.


I wonder how much this is a result of the distribution of minorities in Islamic and Christian territories, respectively. The Ottomans conquered huge swaths of predominately-Christian eastern Europe, so perhaps they were disinclined to crash the economy (their tax base) by _extreme_ persecution, so they settled for a more mild form. There isn't an analog in Christian territories.

I must add the Bangladesh Civil War, 1971-87 , to the pogrom count, the other way around. Calcutta Brahmin Hindu families intermarried and converted to Islam. The Muslims were supposed to go to Pakistan, as it became. But the ties were deeper than just family; Calcutta was a technical powerhouse in its prime. Skilled workers couldn't find work outside the community, which of course moved to East Pakistan/Bangladesh. The numbers were not few, and the fact that the war is officially dated to the first year of Independence, is the start of the most sorrowful tale. Three million women and children were killed or perished. Veterans of that war, ten years ago, suddenly were allowed to immigrate to the UK and America. The UK dropped the prohibition of entry and settlement, of elderly, infirm, uneducated and dependant relatives. I have friends whose futures were ruined, as the burden, despite having free healthcare and extremely generous benefits, if you have cooperative society, which in a majority ghetto concentration, you can rely on as friendly, my friends watched younger siblings lose education and housing chances, the family resources depleted entirely. Caring for unwell elderly is not compatible with the part time jobs which young mothers and school age children forwent to be on hand to attend often multiple great grandparents and even aunts and uncles. THE EFFECTS ARE CATASTROPHIC the strictly patriarchal Bengali society was obedient to elders who alienated the younger population from general society. The youngest are growing up in houses no longer bilingual, but Bengali only for avoidance of offense to the elders. The elder men collect voting cards. Twenty five, in my friends family. I see families suffering from organised indignities. I see racial discrimination in sensitive positions like social workers, who are largely another race altogether. Unusual in i predominantly, 80% Bengali area. We have frightening frequency of forcible adoption and removed from mothers and the most amazingly brazen aggressive and fraudulent routine abuse of Family Division of the High Court. I experienced this obviously through friends but then with my mother because I fought in Court Pro bono and started winning the kinds of cases that sicken me to know many go unchallenged. I became unwell as a result.

It had nothing to do with Serbian ambitions?

The fact that Serbians assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir is what started a war in the first place. The fact that World War I was not a small "Third Balkans War" (in three years!) is due more to the great power relations of the time. In terms of studying the causes of the war, the instructive part is not the trigger but why it expanded into war when, say, the Fashoda incident did not.

The assassination of an Austrian prince on 29th of June had very little to do with Germany invading Belgium on 3rd of August, based on war plans drawn 9 years in advance.

https://www.historyonthenet.com/world-war-one-timeline


You can use the unstable sand pile analogy to describe the state of Europe at the time. The assassination was the last grain of sand that triggered the collapse of the sand pile.

> You can use the unstable sand pile analogy to describe the state of Europe at the time.

Or, if you want to be direct a d literal, you can note that a key feature of great power relations was belief in (what is now recognized as the myth of) offense dominance—the belief that the technology of the day rendered the power that attacked first an overwhelming military advantage, such that in the face of likely impending war it was critical to attack first. It was literally an inverse of MAD.


This is the best story on HN right now, it has been up here for an hour and nobody has sought to comment.

It brings insight on a WW1 reporter who most people know nothing of and could be enlightened by. A true literary gem is here.

Had there been a post on something really vital such as that newish function key strip thing they have on those Apple computers these days then there would be 480 comments on how to customise it best for Vi/Emacs.

And then we wonder why we - us - human beings - fall into the same traps of propaganda and war every time.


Thank you! It's comments like yours that keep me writing. And as to your point on what draws attention.. yes, agreed. Recognizing that is a step and I remain optimistic.



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