Archive for the ‘First World War’ Category

One Publisher and PC Anzac
January 6, 2015

I’ve reached page 82 of Carolyn Holbrook, Anzac: The Unauthorised Biography (Sydney: NewSouth, 2014) only to see that the next page is page 35.  From there the reader may reread pp. 35 through 82.  The argument–such as it is–is rejoined on page 131.  This remarkable performance on the part of the printer and publisher reflects quite well the quality of the argument of the author which has received loud approval from various academic historians of a particular political stamp (not that there seem many if any exception possible).  The book is notable for what it leaves out much more than for what it includes.

One of the cover blurbs comes from Jay Winter.  I wonder: has anybody every conducted a critical reading of the work of this historian?  His eccentric definition of transcendence should set alarm bells ringing  .  .  .  but apparently not.  After all, like his Australian counterparts, Winter reckons some people unworthy of genuine attention.  Curious, is it not, that these same people of the past may prove either to have been a substantial minority of public opinion or roughly half of the population here and there in Australia.  Still, we must not let empirical evidence get in the way of contemporary political imperatives.  I suppose that publishers who cannot put the physical book together probably help in this.  Then again, when the books are as tedious as Holbrook’s, what does it matter?


The Great War–according to George Weigel.
February 12, 2014

The short answer to the question posed–not uniquely–by George Weigel, Why did the First World War begin? seems to have no answer than that “Men have forgotten God”.  At least that’s the impression left by the only report available thus far.  I offered the following comment on that particular page.  For whatever reason the moderators at the Family Research Council found it unacceptable.


Hmm!  Not notably enlightening.  Pity.  More interesting–and Weigel’s lecture was said to be discussing this question–is why the conflict continued.  “That men have forgotten God” provides little that is compelling regarding beginning of the Great War and even less regarding its continuity, its extraordinary momentum.  One should recall, too, that the Kaiser, for all his faults, as well as his cousin, Nicholas II, himself not without fault, both recognised in July 1914 that the war then impending would be catastrophic for millions of men–and they knew it was wrong.  Politicians had taken control, acted in a variety of ways none of which were commendable, and those men indeed paid the price.

Some 360,000 volunteered from Australia, most served in Europe.  In excess of two thousand of them in splendid voice on 25 April 1916 sang Kipling’s Recessional in Westminster Abbey, having been invited by the King who, like his continental cousins, recognised the moral depravity of this war.  Many Australian soldiers believed deeply in the rightness of their cause, primarily for freedom.  The public at home supported them to the hilt.  And some highly varied notion of God underlay that determination to work for victory over “Prussianism”.  They mourned 60,000 fellow citizens killed in the First World War but did not relent.  Politicians then served up another within twenty years.