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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

New developments in the Great War scene?


BatterySergeantMajor

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When I started my "Great War" career I was far too easy accepting the "Butchers and bunglers" view. To my credit I should state that at that moment the scene in Flanders was dominated by what seemed as a new and refreshing approach: SAD's, officers died in their bed and similar subjects which became very familiar to us since then. After all these years I think that this new vision was an understandable reaction on the way in which Great War (and probably also WW2) commemoration was used up to then almost only for purely nationalistic purposes, without too much attention for the results of the war on the individual man and woman. With that in mind, it has been an interesting and probably useful development. But there have been some serious negative consequences also.

My interest developed as a fever (may sound familiar to a lot of you?), and I discovered that this purely emotionally approach was also very unscientific. Sometimes I even suspect that it was developed as a kind of marketing strategy to promote battlefield tourism for the people of the 90's. It is also good to keep in mind that some people behind it had their origins in the pacifistic movement , which I greatly respect if they are using sound arguements, but who's vision I do not share because of too naive for me.

The Haig- discussion is a typical exponent of this "fin de siécle"- (re)view of the first War, as are the "soldiers as victims" and SAD- discussions.

Experiencing the Great War emotionally is a good thing. As long as it is connected to commemorating, remembering,... But if you study the war you should put aside your emotions as much as possible. The more emotions, the larger the bias. And that's what often happens in all these discussions. It seems that even historians are very often starting from a "what we have to prove" point, instead of drawing conclusions after they had studied the available material. Maybe because books and studies without strong titles and statements do not attract enough attention?

But there is hope. I am relieved to see that my personal learning curve seems to reflect what is happening in the whole scene: a move to a more unbiassed and more scientific study of the facts on every level, combined with the desire to understand how the simple soldier and civilian lived and experienced things.

I am convinced that we will see in future even more less exaggerated and out of the context approach in favour of a more mature analysis. This development is already clearly visible in the way in which some newer or renewed are organised: presenting facts in an attractive way and leaving it to the visitor to draw conclusions.

I first intended to put this in the new "Haig"- thread, but because I think it is about something which I feel is a new development it maybe it deserves a discussion on itself. Curious how high emotions will rise.

Erwin ;)

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I agree: you will note that I am trying to get Pals off the villain/hero treadmill. With four [at least] threads on DH running, at least the most extreme views in each direction should become diluted!

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Agree - but it is good that we can at least be grown up in our disagreement (as with cats......), and all power to the starters of these threads. It's part of what we should be doing - see the thread elsewhere about the review of the Petain biography; we need to be addressing that sort of idiotic nonsense, whether we're 'pro', 'anti' or just agnostic on the Haid question.

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Perhaps chris should consider a whole section devoted just to Haig.

regards

Arm.

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I agree - but history isn't a science. We can't 'prove' things in the way that scientists can, we can only interpret the evidence available in the best way we can! Obviously we can reach different conclusions but that provides the impetus for informed debate.

This topic is very much worth discussion. I find the variety of views expressed on this forum very refreshing and in a number of cases they have made me seriously reconsider my opinion on particular subjects.

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I agree - but history isn't a science. We can't 'prove' things in the way that scientists can, we can only interpret the evidence available in the best way we can! Obviously we can reach different conclusions but that provides the impetus for informed debate.

This topic is very much worth discussion. I find the variety of views expressed on this forum very refreshing and in a  number of cases they have made me seriously reconsider my opinion on particular subjects.

To my opinion history IS a science, but not an exact one.

I had the same experience. Some contributors have managed to alter my opinion due trough their sound argumentation.

Erwin

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Yes - I meant 'science' in the sense of something which is objective and can be measured and proved exactly. I just don't think that's possible with a lot of history - but that's what makes it so interesting!

Swizz

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I am a bit astonished about the few reactions on this subject. I can imagine that not everyone agrees with my point of view? Or did I hit the nail so obviously that there are not much comments?

Erwin

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Hi Erwin

I agree history is history; sticking emotion into the pot will not change what happend, but can produce a dangerous concoction.

The SAD debate is classic, with lots of well meaning people crying out "pardon them", which would seem harmless, but if we take slavery as a similar emotive historical fact and then in the same well meaning manner we "Free all the slaves", retrospectively, we could create a few years down the line the opportunity for somebody else to say "There was no such thing as slavery".

If a commander does not have absolute believe in himself, nobody else will believe in him either. Who would want to be commanded by a General who went around saying “Ever so sorry about the last failure chaps, I will try and get it right next time”, or spent his time sobbing at every field hospital he visited.

I spent several years as a nurse, you cannot give yourself the luxury of too much emotion in that job, and I would assume it is the same for an army commander .

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I think the difficuly of history is when we compare what somebody did compared with what they thought they were doing.

Particually with hindsight it is difficult to argue somebody was wrong when they may have been relatively right.

Overall I fall into the camp of "You cannnot undo what was done", even if we feel differently now it rather too late.

Perhaps there is more than one single history of an event, all equally valid within their own terms.

These various facets of an issue is what engages me. I rather enjoy the diversion even if I disagree. So long as the point isn't some mindless uninformed generalisation - which is forum is mostly free from.

zoo

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