We’re weeks away from the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, or the Great War, or the War to End All Wars. Most history books refer to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (at left) on June 28, 1914 as the event that precipitated the war. You could also refer to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia on July 28th, 1914, or the next day when Austrian artillery rained down on Belgrade in what is now Serbia.
There were vast numbers of casualties, around 37 million, which includes 16 million dead and 21 million wounded, according to Princeton The ripple effect of the war is still being felt today, especially in parts of Europe and the Middle East, according to this article from the New York Times .
“Some see a continuing struggle between Germany and Russia for mastery of Europe, a struggle that marked both world wars and continues today, and not just in Ukraine, where a century ago its people fought on both sides. Others see World War I, at least as it began in Sarajevo, as the third Balkan War, while the post-Cold War collapse of Yugoslavia and its multinational, multicultural, multireligious model continues to present unresolved difficulties for Europe, in Bosnia, Kosovo and beyond. Similar tensions persist in Northern Ireland, the rump of Ireland’s incomplete revolution that began with the Easter Rising of 1916.”
What really caused the war? It’s too long and complex for a blog posting, so check out this essay from First World War.com or check out historian David Fromkin’s book Europe’s Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?
Rentschler Library’s book collection has been weeded and updated to offer some great reads on this important event. You can generally find WWI books in the D507 – D625 section. We have overviews like Peter Englund ‘s The Beauty and the Sorrow, along with books about specific battles like Verdun, the Somme and Gallipoli. To read about the United States’s eventual entry to the war, look at historian Justus Doenecke’s Nothing Less than War. If you have narrower interests, like battlefield medicine during the war look at Wounded: a New History of the Western Front in World War I. African American participation in the war is covered in Torchbearers of Democracy by Chad Williams. We will be adding more titles in the years to come, as it has been a popular topic for research and recreational reading.
On the web, check out the First World War Centenary It has a nice collection of information about the war and celebrations going on over the next four years.
The History Channel has an extensive list of resources including videos, biographies and information on battles.