My bedroom and desk are both strewn with numerous books, the bookmarks section of my Firefox browser is full with links, and my hard drive is stuffed with primary sources and maps–all on the First World War. WWI was a blip on my radar, even when I began blogging at Edwardian Promenade. My history classes during my K-12 years skipped from the Civil War to Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points and The League of Nations and then to the rest of the twentieth century, with nary a pause for breath to delve into the war.
In America, “The War” is either the Civil War or World War Two, with the American Revolution trailing a bit behind. The burial of World War One in our basic history is rather odd. Even though we didn’t enter until 1917, all four years of war affected American society. Not only did our 1920s prosperity have its roots in increased wartime production, European nations owing us substantial debts, etc, but returning veterans had just as much they wanted to forget in booze and parties as post-war Britain and Europe.
Downton Abbey’s second series pushed me into WWI history. If I was to provide historical context for the upcoming series, I had to know more about it than the events leading up to it and the end result (Germany’s loss, fall of empires, et al).
My perception of the war has been shaped by popular imagery of senseless carnage, futile battles, and “lions led by donkeys,”–and the rows of gleaming white headstones across the quiet, manicured fields of Flanders and Northern France appeared to attest to this truth.
I also suppose this is why many historical romance readers are hesitant to read Edwardian-set novels: the possibility that the hero and heroine who got their HEA in 1906 would be parted by his death between 1914 and 1918. The intrusion of this reality also caused me to hesitate until I became gripped by the variances of WWI history.
At this moment, over two years after delving into the four years of violence, hope, courage, death, love, and loss, the First World War haunts me.