Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Debating the First World War – myths, meanings and origins - videos

If you're worried that the commemoration of the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war is being reduced to nationalism, pomp and an attempt to compress complex history to into simple good vs bad - an approach demonstrated by the likes of Michael Gove and various B.B.C pundit/'historians' - then this wonderful debate - hosted by the British Library, is a good place to start when looking for a more complex approach.

A diverse panel made up of Professor Gary Sheffield, Dr Annika Mombauer, Dr Dan Todman, Dr Neil Faulkner and Paul Lay take on a number of questions including nationalism, blame for starting the war, class divisions and responses to the war, and the question of how different nations approach commemorating the war which left more than 16 million dead.

The star of the debate, for TMO at least, is Dr Neil Faulkner, a Research Fellow at Bristol University, a leading First World War archaeologist, and the author of the Stop the War Coalition pamphlet 'No Glory: the real history of the First World War'.

"There are two ways of looking at history - there have been two ways of looking at history actually for about the last five thousand years, since the world was divided into rich and poor. In 1914 there were two Europes. Not just two Europes in the sense that there was an Entente alliance and a Central Powers alliance; there was another sense - a more important sense - in which there were two Europes: there was a Europe of rulers, of industrialists, of bankers, and of generals, and if you view history from above that's what you see. You see one group of bankers and industrialists and generals gathered around a Union Jack in one place, and as you pan across you see another group of bankers, industrialists and generals gathered around a French Tricolor, and then you pan around a little further and you see another group of them gathered around a German Cross, and they're competing with each other, competing for empire, they're competing for markets, they're competing for raw materials. They've gobbled up the rest of the planet amongst themselves, and now that war for empire and profit has rebounded into Europe, created an arms race, and that plunges Europe into War... There's another way of looking at 1914. You can look from below. You can look at the experience of the mine-worker on strike against poverty pay in south Wales, and compare him with them mine-worker on strike against poverty pay in the Rhineland, or the Czech mine-worker in Bohemia, or the Russian mine-worker in the Donetz basin. They're enemy isn't the other mine-workers, who are being put into uniform and sent out to kill other mine-workers. They're enemy is the mine boss. You can look at history that way. "

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