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The Year That Was

Author: Elizabeth Lunday

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A look at history one year at a time, from as many angles as possible. Famous people, infamous people, obscure people; wars, revolutions, peace treaties, art, science, sports, religion. The big picture, in an entertaining podcast package.
11 Episodes
The Irish had tried to free themselves from British control for centuries, always to fail. But in 1922, the Irish Free State took its place among the world's independent nations. Learn how an election, a shadow government, and a key literally baked into a cake brought independence to Ireland--along with a bloody civil war.Thomas Ash died in a British prison in 1917 after a botched forced feeding when he refused to lift his hunger strike.His funeral had every appearance of a state funeral, even though when Ash died he was considered a traitor by the British. Here a squad from the Irish Volunteer Army fire a volley at his graveside.The day after Easter 1916, Irish nationalist rebels seized key locations in Dublin in an attempt to spark a national uprising. Few photos were taken by the rebels. This rather poor quality image is one of the only in existence; it was taken from within the General Post Office and shows several soldiers. Notice how young many of them are.James Connally led forces in the General Post Office. He was praised for his courage and determination; Michael Collins later said he would have followed him through hell.Michael Collins was young, dashing, and handsome--and relatively unknown before the Rising.The American-born Eamon de Valera led troops in the southeastern part of Dublin.Within a day of the rising, British troops began pouring into the city and quickly overwhelmed the rebels.The situation rapidly deteriorated for the rebels. This drawing is an artist's depiction of the last day with the General Post Office. Notice the smoke from fires and the wounded Thomas Connally lying on a stretcher. On Saturday, they had no choice but to surrender.Dublin was left in ruins and 260 civilians were left dead.The British rapidly executed 16 men, inadvertently turning public opinion against them and creating a whole host of martyrs to the Irish cause. Commemorative posters like this were popular across Ireland.Irish republican leaders poured their efforts into winning the vote in the 1918 general election. They framed the election as a mandate on Ireland's future--and won.The Irish were well aware of the fight for self-determination among other European nations such as Czechoslovakia. When the Peace Conference opened in 1919, the Irish argued they deserved independence as much as the Czech or the Poles, sometimes using blatantly racist arguments.The first Dail Eireann, or Irish national assembly, moved rapidly to create a shadow government in early 1919. Michael Collins, the minister of finance, is second from the left; Eamon de Valera, president, is fifth from the left.Irish-American activists urged Woodrow Wilson to take up the cause of Ireland at the Paris Peace Conference. This postcard is a political cartoon that shows Uncle Sam escorting Ireland into the conference. Wilson refused to address the issue of Ireland, following the insistence of British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George that Ireland was not the business of the conference.Wilson would pay for this decision when Irish-Americans organized against the League of Nations and helped ensure its defeat in the the U.S. Senate.Eamon de Valera spent most of his first two years in office touring the United States to raise money and support for Ireland. He toured the entire country and made a remarkable visit to the Chippewa reservation in Wisconsin. He greeted the Chippewa as a representative from one oppressed nation to another. The Chippewa adoped de Valera as a member of their tribe and gave him this magnificent headdress.Meanwhile, back in Ireland, IRA units systematically targeted members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, killing and wounding hundreds. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Sir John French, denounced Sinn Fein as a "club for killing policemen."The British responded to the RIC attacks by sending in veterans of the Great War, nicknamed the Black and Tans for the dark coats they wore over khaki uniforms. The Black and Tans had little training and policemen and imposed a harsh regime of searches (as pictured here), checkpoints, reprisals, and extra-judicial killings (which is a nice way to say they murdered people outright.)In reaction, the IRA's special assassination unit "The Squad" targeted British spies, killing 11 on Sunday, November 21, 1920. The furious British surrounded a football match between Dublin and Tipperary and fired into the crowd. Shortly before Bloody Sunday, Terence MacSwiney died after a 74-day hunger strike. His slow martyrdom was followed by the entire world, and other countries started asking the British pointed questions about their policy toward Ireland.Finally, the Irish and British began negotiating a peace that would remove the British from Ireland--but keep the country tied to Great Britain and divided along religious lines. The Irish, led by Michael Collins, signed the treaty, kicking off a bloody civil war. Pro-Treaty forces, led by Collins, argued that the treaty was the right solution for Ireland that guaranteed peace.Anti-Treaty forces, led by de Valera, argued that the treaty was being forced on Ireland and was a betrayal of all they had fought for.Collins was winning the fight when he was shot by an Anti-Treaty ambush on August 22, 1922. Collins became the ultimate Irish martyr, always young, always dashing, always a hero. Within nine months of Collins' death, the Anti-Treaty troops agreed to a ceasefire and peace came to Ireland. Or, at least, until the Troubles began in the north--but that's another podcast.Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only recommend books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
The emergence of the flu virus that swept the globe between 1918 and 1920 was entirely unexpected, but the resulting pandemic can't be called an entirely natural disaster. Governments made decisions that made the flu much, much worse, and those decisions would have long-lasting consequences--and leave between 50 and 100 million dead.Colonel Charles Hagadorn was a respected officer who had served in the Philippines, Northern Mexico, and Panama as well as at West Point as a drawing instructor. His suicide was reported across the United States.Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois was like many of the army camps thrown together after the United States declared war on Germany. The camp's experience with the Spanish Flu was not unusual; many camps were devasted by the pandemic. In this photo, soldiers at the camp play baseball, probably during the months either before or after the flu, since during the crisis all hands were needed to care for the sick and tend to the dead.This photo depicts typical hospital conditions in army camps. It was taken at Camp Funston in Kansas, which some researchers believe was where the flu virus originated. Unusually virulent cases of flu had been reported in Kansas, and the camp saw some of the first cases in the United States. That did not stop the camp from sending soldiers to other camps across the country and to Europe.Despite the fact that cases of flu had been reported among navy personnel in Philadelphia, the city went ahead with its massive Liberty Loan parade in September 1918. The streets were packed with several hundred thousand people. Within days, tens of thousands fell ill.As the crisis continued, the Archbishop threw open churches for use as hospitals, ordered seminary students to help bury the dead, and allowed cloistered nuns to serve as nurses. Toward the end of the pandemic, the city had to recruit workers to dig mass graves for the dead. Cities tried to implement measures to limit the spread of the disease. Spitting on the street was a frequent target.Islands and remote communities tried to impose quarantines to keep out the sickness. Many of these, as in Prince Edward Island, Canada and Australia, proved ineffective. However, Gunnison, Colorado's strict restrictions kept the flu out of the community.Despite the dire situation, many governments tried to downplay the seriousness of the flu. They considered it important to maintain morale and avoid panic. The Albuquerque Morning Journal argued that fear took more lives than the disease. The flu was a global disaster, although I have found it difficult to find photos that give a real sense of its scope. This image is from Tokyo and shows schoolgirls wearing gauze masks in an attempt to prevent spreading or catching the disease. Masks were worn around the world during the flu outbreak.I mentioned in the episode the terrible losses in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Native villages across Alaska were hit particularly hard by the flu, and thousands of orphans were left in the aftermath of the pandemic. This photo shows a group of these orphans at the Kanakanak government orphanage.Mohandas K. Gandhi, seen here in a photo from 1915, was one of many political and social leaders who became seriously ill with the flu. Katherine Anne Porter, pictured here about 1912, nearly died in the influenza epidemic and was one of few writers of the era to chronicle her experience.It is a truth universally acknowledged that no matter how terrible the crisis, someone will try to make money off of it. The Victor Victrola dealer of Billings, Montana, for example, informed the public they could still enjoy music even while concert halls and movie theaters were closed if they bought their own record player.Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only recommend books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
In 1919, thousands of American soldiers fought Russian troops on Russian soil--despite the fact President Woodrow Wilson had promised to allow Russia to determine its own political future. Why did the Allies rush to land troops in eastern Siberia and along the Arctic Ocean? And why have we forgotten all about it?General William S. Graves wanted to lead troops in France, but instead he was given confusing and contradictory orders and sent to Vladivostok in far eastern Siberia. The Americans joined representatives of multiple other nations in Vladivostok, including French, British, Romanian, Serbian, Polish and Japanese troops. Many of the British units were from Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Representatives of the Czechoslovak Legion and the White Army were also on hand. In this photo, American soldiers parade through Vladivostok shortly after their arrival in 1918.I continue to struggle to find maps that show what I want. This one shows a few key points. First, the location of the territory firmly in Bolshevik hands, land generally surrounding Moscow, is in dark gray. The route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, along which the Czechoslovak Legion seized territory, crosses Siberia. Dark arrows indicate where various Allied troops landed and tried to advance into Russia. You'll notice arrows moving up from the South, from the Crimea and around the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. These were primarily French and British troops, and Americans weren't involved. I haven't discussed these attempted invasions just to simplify matters.Conditions in Siberia and northern Russia were predictably harsh. This photo shows American soldiers eating while sitting on a snow bank. This looks like a relatively happy gathering; it was not usually this pleasant.This photo gives at least an inkling how cold it was, especially in northern Russia.Most Americans had no idea their soldiers were in Russia until the issue was picked up by Senator Hiram Johnson of California. Johnson, a Republican who despised President Wilson, made the return of the troops his number one priority in late 1918/early 1919. He hoped the issue would carry him all the way to the White House.Johnson's pressure combined with the new-found strength of the Red Army and the general American desire to bring all of the boys home ended American intervention in Russia. Most troops in northern Russia were home by the summer of 1919. The Polar Bear Division, the 339th Infantry Regiment from Michigan, were welcomed with an enormous party in Detroit, seen here. Japan sent more than 70,000 troops to Vladivostok. The campaign became deeply unpopular at home, in part because its purpose was unclear, in part because it was a resounding failure. In order to rally public support, Japan produced numerous propaganda images. This one shows Japanese troops landing at Vladivostok to the great joy of the Russian people. The defeat of the Japanese army in Siberia contributed to the collapse of democratic rule in Japan.Americans might have forgotten about the Allied intervention in Russia, but the Russians certainly didn't. When Nikita Krushchev visited New York in September 1959, he pointedly brought up "the time you sent the troops to quell the revolution."Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only recommend books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
The world has been obsessed with the tragedy of the Romanov family for more than a century. It's easy to forget that the Tsar's family were among hundreds of thousands of people killed in the Revolution as well as in conflicts that swept across Eastern Europe. These conflicts would have lasting implications for the entire world.Notes and LinksI have really struggled to find a map that shows what I want a map to show. None of them really focus on exactly what I'm focusing on, alas. But, this is one of the best I've found. This map is dated to the end of 1918. Notice the purple stripe that goes all the way across central Siberia--that's the Trans-Siberian Railway and the territory controlled by the Czechoslovak Legion. Eventually, the White Army would travel along the railway with the Czechoslovaks and fight the Red Army.The dark blue areas labeled "1" are areas where Allies invaded and seized territory. The reddish-brown area in the west is the territory controlled by the Bolsheviks.OK, here's another map--and you're going to say, "That's not even in English!" No, it's not, but work with me here. Just refer to the previous image. This map is a year or so later than the previous one. The Trans-Siberian Railway is the black and white line crossing the entire map. Those red arrows along the line show the path of the Bolsheviks moving against the Legion and the White Army as they retreat back to Vladivostok.Notice the dark red striped area in the upper west. That's the Bolshevik-controlled territory, and you can see from the red arrows how the Red Army moved out of this stronghold and across the entire country. Ukraine is the lime green area on the far left of the map. It was handed over to Germany in the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, but Russia reclaimed it. The borders on this map reflect the final size of the new USSR by 1922.It's not hard to see the Romanov daughters as individuals. You can find biographies of each young woman online and learn all sorts of details of their lives. Here you see Tatiana seated, with Maria, Anastasia, and Olga from left to right.Similarly, Alexei is recognizable across history as a little boy whose life was shadowed by an incurable and painful illness but who liked to play tricks on his sisters and always wanted a bicycle.In contrast, the many victims of the Red Terror, and the simultaneous White Terror, are difficult to discern as individuals. I found photos from the Terror, but I'm not going to post them here. They are horrifying.Allied troops, including British, French, Japanese, and American soldiers, were sent to Vladivostok in the far east and Archangel north of St. Petersburg. French and British troops also fought in southern Russia. This photo depicts American units marching through Vladivostok. The Allies never sent enough men to make a real difference in the conflict, and they were withdrawn after having done little more than offend the Russians.The Allies took their own sweet time returning the Czechoslovak Legion to their newly formed homeland; the last troops weren't evacuated from Vladivostok until early 1921. The Legion was incredibly frustrated by the delay. This is a cartoon from a newspaper operated by Legion troops . It shows one last soldier standing along the Sea of Japan waiting for a ship home; it's dated, facetiously, 1980.This map shows the new nations created after the war in eastern Europe. Finland, Estonia and Latvia achieve independence from Russia. Poland was combined from portions of Russia, Germany, and the Austria-Hungarian empire. Notice the pale green strip extending to the Baltic Sea; that's the Polish corridor, that left East Prussia separate from the rest of Germany. Czechoslovakia, Austria and Hungary arose out of the former Austria-Hungarian Empire. The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was soon renamed Yugoslavia; it combined territory from Austria-Hungary with the former Serbia. Romania seized territory from its neighbors, gaining a sizeable increase in land.Dividing up territory in Eastern Europe was difficult and contentious. Self-determination had made it seem easy, but who "owned" a city like Cieszyn in Upper Silesia? The region had been controlled by multiple states over its history and was claimed by the Poles, the Czechs, and the Germans. Cieszyn (its Polish spelling), also known as Těšín in Czech and Teschen in German, was divided down the middle by the Paris Peace Conference, a solution that satisfied no one. Here you can see a guard station hastily erected on the international border in the middle of town.Another contested territory in eastern Europe was the Sudetenland; those are the dark brown portions on the map. While traditionally part of Czech territory, they were largely inhabited by ethnic Germans. The Paris Peace Conference sided with the Czechs and gave the land to the new Czechoslovakia, to the fury of the Germans. The Nazis would never let the perceived injustice of the Sudetenland die.Many of the sources for this week are the same as last week, and I won't repeat them here. The following are a few sources that are particularly relevant to this episode.
One of the strangest conflicts of the Great War happened 1000 miles east of Moscow between two units of Czech and Hungarian former POWs. What these troops were doing on the edge of Siberia is a fascinating tale of ethnic resentments, self-determination, and unintended consequences.Notes and LinksA word about dates. Anyone writing about the Russian Revolution must wrestle with the date issue. The Russian empire used a different calendar than the rest of the world for several centuries. This means that the Russian calendar ran about two weeks ahead of the rest of the world. So an event such as the February Revolution occurred on February 23rd on the Russian calendar but March 8 on the western calendar.The Bolsheviks converted to the western calendar in February 1918, making life easier for them but more complicated for humble podcasters a century later who must decide which date system to use. I have chosen to give dates before the Revolution according to the old calendar, as people in Russian themselves would have experienced them. So in my text, the February Revolution happens in February and the October Revolution in October. Comparing the map of Europe before and after World War I reveals how many new nations came into being after the collapse of the Austria-Hungarian empire and the division of territory by the Paris Peace Conference. For years the Armistice, armed conflict stretched from southern Finland through the Baltics, Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Before the Great War, Tomáš Masaryk was a professor of philosophy and Czechoslovak nationalist leader. He fled Prague early in the war and spent time in London drumming up support for a new Czechoslovak nation. After the Tsarist regime was overthrown in February 1917, he traveled to St. Petersburg to convince revolutionary leaders to allow the creation of a Czechoslovak Legion drawn from POWs that would fight the Central Powers.Russian POW camps were grim, overcrowded, and disease-ridden. They only became worse after the Revolution, when the new government put little priority on the care and feeding of prisoners. POWs were eager to leave the camps, to go home, to support the Czechoslovak Legion, or to join the Bolsheviks.Tsar Nicholas II was the heir to the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty and the supreme autocrat of all Russians. In effect, the entire nation was his personal fiefdom. He was diligent and hardworking but utterly unprepared for the task of rule and, frankly, not very smart.Nicholas was married to Alexandra, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and the couple had four daughters and one son. Alexandra became even more passionate about Russian autocracy than her husband, once telling her grandmother than the Russian people love to be whipped.Alexei, the young son and heir, had a blood disease hemophilia. He was frequently ill and likely would not have lived to adulthood. The trauma of her son's illness sent Alexandra scrambling for help and healing. She found both in the peasant mystic Grigori Rasputin.Rasputin was foul-mouthed, lecherous, and dirty, but he convinced the Empress that he and he alone could save her son.During the 1905 Russian Revolution, the people rose up in protest, but the military remained loyal to the regime and put down riots before they got out of hand. In one incident, troops opened fire on peaceful protesters, killing hundreds; this is an artistic representation of that scene. The Tsar implemented reforms to limit the revolution, but he walked them back as soon as possible.By 1917, the military had lost faith in the regime and began supporting protesters rather than fighting them. After the Revolution, the Provisional Goverment tried to control the government. On paper, they looked powerful, but in reality they quickly squandered any authority they might have had.The soviets or councils of Moscow and Petrograd had the real power in 1917. They were large, unruly bodies made up of factory workers, peasants in from the countryside, soldiers, and a handful of trained, experienced communist organizers. They attempted a form of direct democracy that ended up disorganized and brutal.Vladimir Lenin rushed back to Russia after the Revolution and quickly began organizing the Bolsheviks into the most formidable political force in the country. He and his party seized control in October 1917.The Czecho-Slovak Legion traveled east along the Trans-Siberian Railway. This map shows the entire route of the railway. The Legion actually joined the railway on a leg not pictured on this map that extended into Ukraine southwest of Moscow. According to their original plan, they would have to travel roughly 5000 miles from Ukraine to Vladivostock.A unit of the Czechoslovak Legion stands with one of their trains on the Trans-Siberian Railway.Five members of the Legion pose in a photo studio. I love this photo--it raises so many questions. When and where did they find a photo studio? Who came up with the pose? Did anyone recognize how silly they looked against a clearly painted backdrop of a classical column? Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only recommend books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
In 1919, two competing art movements went head-to-head in Paris. One was the Return to Order, a movement about purity and harmony. The other was Dada, a movement about chaos and destruction. Their collision would change the trajectory of Western art.Hugo Ball established the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, where Dada came to life in February 1916. In this photo, he's dressed in his "magic bishop" costume. The costume was so stiff and ungainly that Ball had to be carried on and off stage.You can hear the entire text of Ball's "Karawane" on Youtube ( You can also read the text ( Duchamp arrived in New York to a hero's welcome, a far cry from the disdainful treatment he was receiving in France. He was hailed for his success at the 1913 Armory Show, where his painting "Nude Descending a Staircase" was the hit of the show."Nude Descending a Staircase" was considered radical art, but it was still oil paint on canvas. Duchamp would soon leave even that much tradition behind.Francis Picabia was handsome, rich, dashing, and about as faithful as an alley cat. That he wasn't court martialed for neglecting his diplomat mission to Cuba for artistic shenanigans in New York was entirely due to his family's wealth and influence. He was also well known in New York for his visit there during the Armory Show.Picabia abandoned traditional painting for meticulous line drawings of mass-produced items, including this work, titled "Young American Girl in a State of Nudity." Duchamp horrified New Yorkers when he presented "Fountain" to an art exhibit as a work of sculpture. A urinal may not seem particularly shocking now, but it violated any number of taboos in 1917. While "Fountain" is generally atttributed to Duchamp, it is possible, although by no mean certain, that it was actually created by the Baroness Else von Freytag-Loringhoven. A German ex-pat, she was creating art out of ready-made objects more than a year before Duchamp and lived her life as a kind of non-stop performance art. Whatever her role in "Fountain," she deserves to be better remembered as a pioneering modernist.After he returned to Europe, Picabia's art became less disciplined and more outlandish. He titled this ink-blot "The Virgin Saint."Picabia also published a Dadaist journal, in which he published this work by Duchamp. It's a cheap postcard of the "Mona Lisa" to which he added a mustache. The title "L.H.O.O.Q. is a pun in French; it sounds like "she has a hot ass."Tzara and other Dadaists in Paris devoted themselves to events and performances. This is a handbill for a "Festival Dada" that took place on May 26, 1920. Tzara and Picabia are listed as performing, along with several other prominent Dadaists including Andre Breton, Louis Aragon, and Paul Eluard. These evenings became increasingly frantic and nihilistic as Dada wore on.By 1919, Pablo Picasso part of the artistic establishment and no longer a radical on the edges of society. In 1911/1912, Picasso paintings looked like this--this is "Ma Jolie," a dense, complicated, frankly intimidating Cubist painting.Ten years later, he painted this work, Woman in White. With its clarity, beauty, and nods to tradition, it is a prime example of Picasso's embrace of neo-classicism after the Great War.The impulse to create clear, simple, ordered art existed in many European countries. In the Netherlands, Piet Mondrian worked in the Neoplasticist movement creating his iconic grid paintings. This is "Composition No. 2" from 1920.At the same time, in Germany the Bauhaus was established. As a school of arts and crafts, it taught a stripped-down, clean aesthetic that applied to everything from architecture to furniture design, industrial design to graphic design. This poster advertising a 1923 exhibition is a good example of Bauhaus design and typography.The Surrealist movement arose out of Dada's ashes in the mid- to late-1920s. It combined the traditional painting technique of neo-Classicism with the bizarre imagery of Dada. Salvador Dali's "Persistence of Memory," for example, is a technical masterpiece, with masterful execution. It's also impossible and, frankly, disturbing. T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" gives the impression of randomness, of lines picked out of a coat pocket. In fact, it is painstakingly constructed and shows as much technical skill as Dali's clocks. You can read the poem (, or listen to Alec Guinness read it ( maybe do both at the same time. This meme was created in 2013 by cartoonist KC Green. It captures the Dadaist attitude that shows up in popular culture a great deal here in 2019--a sense that the world is really weird right now. Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only recommend books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
The most important task at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference was the drafting of peace terms for the losers of the war. Germany and Austria assumed Woodrow Wilson would insist on a fair, respectful compromise peace based on the Fourteen Points. So they were shocked when the Treaty of Versailles demanded territory, demilitarization, and reparations. Is this what caused World War II? Show NotesThe story about the police horse in Vienna is recounted by author Margaret MacMillan, author of the book Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, in a 2007 speech to the National World War I Museum. MacMillan's speech, like her book, is fantastic--you can see it here ( map depicts the hunger levels of Europe in December 1918. It was created by the US Food Administration in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Education. Germany and Austria-Hungary (which, in fact, no longer existed) were labeled "Unclassified" because when this map was prepared, two two countries were still classified as enemies and the food blockade was still in effect. Austria, at least, would have fallen into the black zone. Food riots became common across the Central Powers countries. This photo depicts a delicatessan in Berlin that has been looted by a mob.This cartoon, published in 1917 in the Österreichische Volkszeitung, is about the food conflict between Austria and Hungary. The Austrian part of the Habsburg Empire ("Cis") is represented by the Viennese Mayor Richard Weiskirchner (1861-1926) and the Federal Minister of Food Anton Höfer begging for food deliveries. On the other side of the river Leitha, the Hungarian part ("Trans") is shown as a fat man stone-heartedly withholding his herd of animals and boxes of supplies. This cartoon reflects Viennese popular sentiment toward Hungarians, who they believed were selfishly withholding critical supplies. In fact, Hungary did restrict shipments to Austria in order to safeguard food for its own people. However, the attitude of paranoia extended to numerous ethnic groups and poisoned relations between the multiple nationalities of the Austro-Hungarian empire.German Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff fully understood that his troops had been defeated in late September 1918. This diary entry ( by a German General Staff officer makes it clear that Ludendorff had no illusions about Germany's ability to go on fighting. However, by the spring of 1919, Ludendorff had convinced himself that the army had never been truly defeated in battle. Instead, the military had been betrayed by sinister forces at home, most likely Communists and Jews.The Fry and Laurie sketch on the Treaty of Westphalia is pure fantasy--no, Luxembourg was not divided between Sweden and France--but it accurately depicts the attitude of diplomats for most of European history. To the winners of war went the spoils, and never mind what the people who actually lived there thought about the matter. You can watch the entire sketch (, which was originally broadcast on BBC 1 in January 2000, on YouTube.The Allied leaders at the Paris Peace Conference argued heatedly and at length about the fate of Germany and Austria. French Premier Georges Clemenceau (second from right) believed Germany would inevitably rise again and seek revenge for its defeat; he wanted the country to be stripped of land and resources, its industry destroyed, and its economy crippled. American President Woodrow Wilson (far right) on the other hand, argued for a more just and fair peace, based on the Fourteen Points, that would prevent future conflicts--although he held more resentment and animosity against Germany than he liked to admit. British Prime Minister David Lloyd-George (far left) fell in the middle; he was in favor of reparations but also wanted Germany to recover and again trade with Britain. Italian Premier Vittorio Orlando had little input on real decision-making.Germany lost about 13 percent of its territory after World War I. Alsace-Lorraine, at the far western edge of Germany, was returned to France; Germany had seized the provinces in 1871. The Rhineland was occupied after the war by the Allies, but despite Clemenceau's vehement arguments, it remained German territory. The Polish Corridor runs along the eastern edge of the country. You can see that it allowed the new nation of Poland access to the Baltic Sea but separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany. This map is among the resources on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website (, German Foreign Minister Ulrich von Brockdorff-Rantzau made a terrible first impression on the Allies when he began by complaining that Germany was being treated unfairly. His stern and cold personality didn't help.The Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. The room was packed with diplomats, delegates, academic advisors, journalists, soldiers, and smattering of spies. The signing was captured by a film crew. You can watch some of the original footage ( on YouTube.British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote the blockbuster bestseller The Economic Consequences of Peace in a rage after the Paris Peace Conference. He argued that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust and vindictive and would ruin the economy of Europe. Keynes' book helped convince the public that Germany had been mistreated in 1919 and deserved justice in the 1930s. Keynes went on to become one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, with an entire school of economics bearing his name. Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only recommend books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
Woodrow Wilson believed he and he alone could end war--forever. His plan for the League of Nations would usher in an era of eternal peace. So it really hurt the president's feelings when not everyone agreed with his vision. American author John Dos Passos in his World War I uniform. Dos Passos spent 1919 traveling around Europe and wrote about the adoration of ordinary people for Woodrow Wilson. The story about the baker from Belfort was included in essay titled "America and the Pursuit of Happiness" and published in The Nation on December 29, 1920. The essay is included in John Dos Passos: The Major Nonfictional Prose. The book is out of print, but you can find it at libraries.President Woodrow Wilson believed himself a pure and shining force for good. He had many fine traits, including an inspiring faith in the potential of humankind, but modesty was not among them.Wilson outlined his Fourteen Points in a speech on January 8, 1918. General Principles1. Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.2. Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters, alike in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.3. The removal, so far as possible, of all economic barriers and the establishment of an equality of trade conditions among all the nations consenting to the peace and associating themselves for its maintenance.4. Adequate guarantees given and taken that national armaments will be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety.5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable government whose title is to be determined.Territorial Issues6. The evacuation of all Russian territory and such a settlement of all questions affecting Russia as will secure the best and freest cooperation of the other nations of the world in obtaining for her an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for the independent determination of her own political development and national policy and assure her of a sincere welcome into the society of free nations under institutions of her own choosing; and, more than a welcome, assistance also of every kind that she may need and may herself desire. The treatment accorded Russia by her sister nations in the months to come will be the acid test of their good will, of their comprehension of her needs as distinguished from their own interests, and of their intelligent and unselfish sympathy.7. Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored, without any attempt to limit the sovereignty which she enjoys in common with all other free nations. No other single act will serve as this will serve to restore confidence among the nations in the laws which they have themselves set and determined for the government of their relations with one another. Without this healing act the whole structure and validity of international law is forever impaired.8. All French territory should be freed and the invaded portions restored, and the wrong done to France by Prussia in 1871 in the matter of Alsace-Lorraine, which has unsettled the peace of the world for nearly fifty years, should be righted, in order that peace may once more be made secure in the interest of all.9. A readjustment of the frontiers of Italy should be effected along clearly recognizable lines of nationality.10. The people of Austria-Hungary, whose place among the nations we wish to see safeguarded and assured, should be accorded the freest opportunity to autonomous development.11. Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro should be evacuated; occupied territories restored; Serbia accorded free and secure access to the sea; and the relations of the several Balkan states to one another determined by friendly counsel along historically established lines of allegiance and nationality; and international guarantees of the political and economic independence and territorial integrity of the several Balkan states should be entered into.12. The Turkish portion of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.13. An independent Polish state should be erected which should include the territories inhabited by indisputably Polish populations, which should be assured a free and secure access to the sea, and whose political and economic independence and territorial integrity should be guaranteed by international covenant.The League of Nations14. A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike.Decisions at the Paris Peace Conference were supposed to be made by a council of four, pictured here. Left to right, they were British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Italian Premier Vittorio Orlando, French Premier Georges Clemenceau and US President Woodrow Wilson. In reality, Orlando had very little influence. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, a Republican from Massachusetts, opposed the League of Nations covenant as it had been written but was willing to accept it with amendments and reservations. He deeply disliked Wilson, once stating, "I never expected to hate anyone in politics with the hatred I feel for Wilson." Senator Hiram Johnson of California was one of the "irreconcilables" who considered the League of Nations unconstitutional. He fought hard against the League throughout 1919. The speech that I excerpted was read by an actor in a production called "Great Senate Debates: The League of Nations" by the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. You can see the entire documentary here ( William Borah, a Republican from Idaho, was another Irreconcilible who rejected American involvement in the League of Nations in any form. His speech denouncing the League was one of the most emotional moments during the final push for a vote on the Senate Floor. The excerpt from Borah's speech is also read by actor and from "Great Senate Debates: The League of Nations." ( Lady Edith Wilson was fiercely protective of her husband after his stroke in October 1919. She controlled all access to the president for months. She passed along decisions that she claimed had been made by her husband, but it's not clear if he was capable of even of communicating during this time. Some historians have suggested that in a weird, unconstitutional way, Edith Wilson was the first female president of the United States. * Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only suggest books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
Welcome to the World Bar. It's a tough locale, with scratched tables and angry patrons, and you won't find it on Yelp. But it's here that the most powerful European countries stumbled into the most devastating war the world had ever known in August 1914.Here's the original meme that inspired this episode:I left out a few lines to simplify things, but I love it.This is a look at the different alliances during the war. The green countries are neutral. The pink countries are the Central Powers. Note that Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire didn't join the Central Powers until later in the war. The tan countries are the Triple Entente. Similarly, Italy, Romania and Portugal also didn't join this alliance until later in the war.Introducing Austria Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. Their assassination on June 28, 1914 began the crisis that ended in the Great War.Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany gave Austria a "blank check" to take any actions it chose against Serbia. This is the emperor in only one of his outrageous uniforms. The skull on the cap is a nice touch.Germany's plan for defeating both France and Russia was to put Russia on hold and make a lightening strike against France. ThiTSchlieffenhe plan, named after the general who developed it, was to sweep across neutral Belgium and Luxembourg into northern France and circle around Paris. The French and British stopped Germany at the outskirts of the capital.In early 1917, the German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sent a telegram to Mexico urging it to join the war against the United States. In return, it would be awarded all of the U.S. states it lost in 1848. This is a copy of the telegram that was intercepted by British code-breakers and translated into English. Outrage over the telegram was the final straw that broke U.S. resolve to stay out of the war. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson originally didn't want to join the war, but once he was thoroughly riled up, he threw all American resources into defeating Germany.Wilfred Owen wrote some of the most devastating poetry of World War I. He was a young British officer, and he was killed one week before the Armistice.Here's a link to the complete text of "Dulce et Decorum Est," ( and here's Christopher Eccleston ( reading the poem for the BBC.Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling was once a huge supporter of World War I, but after his son Jack died, his tone changed. Here's a link to several excerpts from his 1919 collection Epitaphs of the War. ( more World War I poetry, I recommend this collection ( by the Poetry Foundation. Production NotesThanks to Chris McAdams, my marvelous husband, for helping me record this episode.The theme music for this podcast is "Mostly Mo" by Aaron Steinberg, from Strike Audio, courtesy also provided several sound effects for this episode.Thanks to Kraigpartridge for the bar scene sound effect, courtesy note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only recommend books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
Lucy Maud Montgomery became one of Canada's most successful and beloved authors with the publication of the Anne of Green Gables series. After Montgomery lived through World War I, she decided to recount the war years through the eyes of Anne's teenage daughter. The result is Rilla of Ingleside.This is the cover of the first edition of Rilla of Ingleside, and it's almost unbearably sweet. The book itself has plenty of sappy moments, but it doesn't shy away from the enormous grief and anxiety experienced by families with sons in the war. Rilla of Ingleside is available in numerous editions, and I've linked to one on Amazon at the bottom of the page. Or you can listen via LibriVox (, a service that records books in the public domain; I used the LibraVox recording, by Karen Savage, in this episode.Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a Canadian poet, physician and author. He served as a battefield surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, treating the wounded in a 8-foot by 8-foot bunker dug into a dyke along the Yser canal. During the battle, McCrae's good friend Lt. Alexis Helmer was killed. After attending Helmer's funeral, McCrae wrote the poem "In Flander's Fields." It was published in December 1915 and soon became one of the most popular verses of the war. McCrae writes in the poem about the poppies that he saw growing in Flanders; poppies are the first flowers that bloom in the churned-up earth of battlefields. The enormous popularity of the poem led directly to the poppy being adopted as a symbol of remembrance. Initially, poppies were used only in commemoration of the Great War, but over time they came to represented all lost in battle. Many people wear poppies in the first two weeks of November and on Remembrance Day, November 11th, in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.McCrae did not survive the war. He died on January 28, 1918 of pneumonia.You can read the entire poem "In Flanders Fields" ( on the Poetry Foundation website or hear Leonard Cohen read "In Flanders Fields" ( William Butler Yeats was no doubt a brilliant poet, but he had a bad habit of falling in love with beautiful, tormented, unattainable women. He decided to leave all of them behind in 1917 and marry someone "serviceable" instead.Georgie Hyde-Lees, soon to be George Yeats, was the "serviceable" woman Yeats chose. She was smart, capable and self-effacing--and saved her marriage when she discovered her "gift" for automatic writing.This is another view of George, in a painting titled Mrs. W.B. Yeats by the artist and illustrator Edmund Dulac. Dulac is best remembered for his illustrations for children's books, including fairy tales and The Arabian Nights. (I had a copy of his illustrated Stories from Hans Christian Anderson and have a vivid memory of his drawing for "The Princess and the Pea" of a huge stack of mattresses.) Dulac and Yeats were close friends and occassional collaborators. Dulac places George in a fairy tale setting, with a charging unicorn in the background. Yeats must have loved it.You can read the entire poem "The Second Coming" ( on the Poetry Foundation website. Or check out actor Dominic West reading it ( in a production for Irish public broadcasting service RTE.Research NotesI referred to several biographies of Yeats, including the following:Keith Aldritt, W.B. Yeats: The Man and the Milieu. New York: Clarkson Potter. 1997.R.F. Foster, W.B. Yeats: A Life II: The Arch-Poet, 1915-1939. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003A. Norman Jeffares, W.B. Yeats: A New Biography. London: Continuum. 2001I also consulted the one biography of George Yeats:* Ann Saddlemeyer, Becoming George: The Life of Mrs. W.B. Yeats. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2002.Please note that the links below to Amazon are affiliate links. That means that, at no extra cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. (Here's what, legally, I'm supposed to tell you: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.) However, I only recommend books that I have used and genuinely highly recommend.
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