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The Lost History Of 1914 – What If Franz Ferdinand Hadn’t Gone To Sarajevo?

(One in a series of posts about Jack Beatty’s book, The Lost History Of 1914.)

LostHistory1914World War I began on July 28, 1914 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, one month to the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to Franz Joseph I, was assassinated by Yugoslav nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, while on a state visit to Sarajevo.  At the time Franz Joseph had ruled as Emperor for 66 years and had less than three years to live.

Beatty devotes a chapter of The Lost History Of 1914 to examining the “counterfactual” of Franz Ferdinand not being assassinated.  He does so not because of the Archduke’s role as a symbol of the monarchy, but because of his very active and important role as one of the Emperor’s chief advisers; and in particular, for his role as a persuasive advocate for avoiding a war in the Balkans.

Beatty quotes from a letter Franz Ferdinand wrote in 1913: Read more…

Morning Song – If I Had My Way

There’s a bit of Samson and Delilah, a bit of Daniel in the lion’s den, and a whole lot faith in the face of unrelenting adversity in Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s version of “If I Had My Way”.  (And if that’s not enough to get the Holy Spirit warming up inside of you, then there’s Randolph’s sacred steel guitar soloing over a double-time shuffle beat.)

Down with the Daniel in the lion’s den,
Trying to make it out again;
Everybody in the world
Trapped here too or so I’ve heard;
So much sorrow, so much fear,
Got us all fouled up down here;
Oh but if I get my way
We’ll be leaving soon today.

If I had my way there’s no suffering in this land;
If I had my way there’s no suffering in this land;
Suffering in this land,
Suffering in this land.

The Lost History Of 1914 – Mexico, The United States & Woodrow Wilson’s Bungled Moralism

(One in a series of posts about Jack Beatty’s book, The Lost History Of 1914.)

LostHistory1914The US involvement in World War I is, among other things, one of the great examples of the theory of unintended consequences.  Woodrow Wilson took office as president of the United States in March 1913, just weeks after the American ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson (no relation),  had conspired with General Victoriano Huerta in a coup d’etat overthrowing the democratically elected Francisco Madero.  Beatty writes:

For Woodrow Wilson Mexico was a moral proving ground.  On it he would show that U. S. hemispheric imperialism was a thing of the past.  For the best of reasons, he wanted to stay out of the Mexican Revolution; for the best of reasons he got pulled in.  When Wilson intervened in Mexico, in April 1914, no one could have guessed that he was plunging the United States into a stream of events that, in April 1917, would sweep it onto the stage of world history.  No other Great Power would follow so improbable a path to belligerency.  The United States would enter the European war through Mexico.” (pp. 128-29)

Read more…

Morning Song – Blue Moon

There was a blue moon last night, so let’s listen to that classic, durable and resilient Rodgers and Hart song, “Blue Moon”.

Lorenz Hart wrote four sets of lyrics over the span of two years in the early 1930s before “Blue Moon” was used—first as the theme to a radio show, then in a series of MGM movies.  But it wasn’t until 1949 that the great Billy Eckstine turned it into a popular hit that later was covered by everyone from Mel Torme to Elvis Presley to The Marcels to The Mavericks and The Cowboy Junkies.

Enjoy (because the next blue moon won’t come around until January 2018).

The Lost History Of 1914: England’s Forgotten, Narrowly Avoided Civil War

(One of a series of posts about Jack Beatty’s book, The Lost History Of 1914.)

LostHistory1914Jack, God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.” (p. 87)

Those were the words of British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith to Liberal Party Whip J. A Pease on Aug. 3, 1914, less than a week after World War I had begun.  What Asquith meant was that the outbreak of war with Germany and its allies had prevented the outbreak of civil war in Ireland, with British Army commanders treasonously refusing to follow orders from His Majesty’s government.

As Beatty writes, “Not Germany with its seditious Right boiling to shoot the Reichstag, not Russia with its seething revolutionary underground, but England, long-peaceful England, was the society nearest cracking 1914.”  (p. 87)  And the cracking point was Ulster; throughout the early summer of 194 the “Revolt in Ulster” was the most widely followed story in the world:  “the attempt by Asquith’s Liberal government to grant ‘Home Rule’ to Ireland; the forming of a private army in the Protestant north of Ireland to resist ‘Rome Rule'; the mustering of ‘Volunteers’ in the Catholic south to resist the resisters; the landing of German guns up and down the Irish coast; a Tory party talking rebellion taunted by the young lion of the Liberal Cabinet, Winston Churchill, to bring it on.” (pp. 87-89) Read more…

Morning Song – I Second That Emotion

We sometimes joke here about Smokey Robinson’s prodigious talents as a lyricist, but it truly is—as the old saying goes—“half in fun, whole earnest“.  The man can flat out write, and it’s hard to find a better example than “I Second That Emotion”.

Smokey took a malapropism from friend and fellow songwriter Al Cleveland (who meant to say “I second that motion“) and turned it into one of the most perfectly crafted set of song lyrics of the 1960s…or any decade.

The Lost History Of 1914: Russia & The Need For Peace

(One of a series of posts about Jack Beatty’s book, The Lost History Of 1914.)

LostHistory1914What’s most stunning about Russia’s decisions that led it into World War I is that the lessons of its 1905 war with Japan were less than a decade old.

“The war with Japan originated in a mercenary lunge of Russian imperialism initiated by Nicholas’ court favorites.  To secure a timber concession in Korea, they employed  a private army of Chinese bandits to extend Russia’s reach down the peninsula—this in defiance of a prior Russian agreement with Japan to respect its sphere of influence there.  —[snip]—

Again and again in 1905, the war flowed into the revolution catalyzed that January by Bloody Sunday—the massacre, in the shadow of the Winter Palace, of striking St. Petersburg workers petitioning the tsar for ‘justice and protection’ against their employers’ abuses and his bureaucrats’ indifference.  The mobilization of reservists called up to the fill the gaps in the ranks set off riots that fueled the revolution.  The war drained the treasury of funds to cope with the revolution and deprived the government, which had dispatched Russia’s one-million-man army to Manchuria, of the bayonets to end the storm of violence and criminality it unleashed.  In September, desperate for those bayonets to picket this throne, Nicholas reached a peace settlement with Japan The war had fed the revolution, and the revolution devoured the war.”  (pp. 47-49)

In the wake of the disastrous (for Russia) Russo-Japanese War, Russian statesmen like prime minister (2006-11) Pyotr Stolypin, foreign minister Alexander Izvolski, interior minister Pyotr Durnovo* and Stolypin’s successor, Vladimir Kokovstov, adopted—and urged upon Tsar Nicholas II—a foreign policy of cautious realism to allow for a period of peaceful economic growth so as to avert domestic revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy. Read more…


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