In the aftermath of the Great War, the Allied nations compiled both regimental and general histories of the conflict. In these narratives, the experiences of the soldiers and their commanders are filtered through the ultimate outcomes—and attendant sufferings—inflicted by the war. The errors of judgment and planning made by commanders are preserved in these records, and are particularly significant to our understanding today of battles whose brutality and massive death tolls are still shocking. The contribution of ANZAC (the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops to the campaigns at Gallipoli and the Dardanelles (April 1915–January 1916) against the Ottoman Turks is marked in the ANZAC countries as a solemn day of remembrance. In this excerpt from a multivolume narrative of the campaigns compiled by C. E. W. Bean, the casualty figures, and Bean’s reactions to the deployment of soldiers and the possible waste of war, are striking.
C. E. W. Bean, The Story of ANZAC from 4 May, 1915, to the Evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula, 11th ed. (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1941), 743–745, 761–762, available online at http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/first_world_war/AWMOHWW1/AIF/Vol2/.
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) was born in Cambridge, England, and attended King’s College, Cambridge, where he studied mathematics. While working in the British civil service he wrote his first book on economics, Indian Currency and Finance, an exploration of the Indian monetary system. After briefly lecturing at Cambridge, he returned to government service and worked his way up the bureaucracy at the Treasury. He was the British Treasury’s principal representative at the Versailles negotiations, but he resigned his position because he felt the treaty imposed such a financial burden on Germany as to make her politically unstable in the future. The Economic Consequences of the Peace laid out this case, and its publication in 1919 made Keynes a celebrity. In addition to his cogent and prophetic economic analysis, the book also provided a perceptive account of the motivations of the main negotiators, Britain’s David Lloyd George, France’s Clemenceau, and President Woodrow Wilson, all three of which had their own specific agendas at Versailles.
John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920, pp. 226, 234–5, 237–8, 250–1.
Friedrich Hayek (1899–1992) was born in Vienna, when it was still the vibrant capital of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. After the war, he studied economics and law at the University of Vienna. He published his first book, on monetary theory, in 1929, on the strength of which he was appointed to the post of Professor at the London School of Economics. Here he stayed until 1950. He also taught at the universities of Chicago and Freiburg. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he challenged the other prominent British economist, John Maynard Keynes, book for book and article for article. Hayek endorsed the pre-1848 vision of classical economic liberalism, emphasizing the importance of private property, individual liberty, personal responsibility, and the free market. In the Road to Serfdom (1944) he argues that government intrusion into a free economy is the first step toward totalitarianism.
From Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, pp. 93–4, 96–8, 100.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s four terms as President marked a turning point in American history, establishing the principle of the federal government’s responsibility for public welfare and creating the federal governmental system that continues to the present day. It also established Keynesian economics (named after the British economist John Maynard Keynes), which calls for greater governmental expenditures in times of economic recession to compensate for lower spending by the private sector. FDR would go on to be reelected three times. He led America through most of World War II but died in office in April 1945, just three months before the end of the war. In the selection that follows, FDR lays out the general lines of his vision for America.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vol. 2 (New York: Random House, 1938), 11–16.
Karl Marx (1818–1883), the German socialist philosopher, worked alongside Engels to shape the Communist Party, which Marx outlined in his seminal text The Communist Manifesto (1848). The German Ideology, also coauthored by Engels, explains Marx’s theory of history as defined by relationships based on material conditions. This work responds to contemporary philosophers—such as Hegel and Feuerbach—while leading the reader step by step through Marx’s materialist ideology.
From Karl Marx and Friederich Engels, The German Ideology. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1968, Vol I. ch. 1, section A.
Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile
Through a series of small demonstrations and gatherings in 1919, Benito Mussolini (1883–1945) created, at least in his own estimation, a completely new political ideology. He named this philosophy for a symbol used in the ancient Roman empire: the fasces, which was a bundle of rods together with an ax and carried by lictors as a representation of power. Mussolini was installed as Italy’s leader, or “Duce,” in October 1922. He published an explanation of what he had achieved as well as a statement of his political beliefs in the Enciclopedia Italiana in June 1932. Reflecting on a decade of a ruthless grab for and maintenance of “totalitarian” power (the word itself was coined by this regime, and specifically with the collaboration of Mussolini’s court philosopher, Giovanni Gentile), Mussolini justified the violence inflicted by his regime and emphasized its fundamentally “moral” basis.
Jeffrey T. Schnapp, ed., A Primer of Italian Fascism, trans. Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Olivia E. Sears, and Maria G. Stampino (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), 48–50.
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) was an India-born British writer best known for his many volumes of short stories and of poetry, as well as his novel Kim (1901). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. A champion of British imperialism, he ardently supported the entry in World War I – although his enthusiasm received a severe blow when news arrived of his son’s death in battle in September 1915. His book France at War, which was published in that year, was part of a series of stories commissioned by the British government in order to entertain the nation and promote support for the war effort by depicting the atrocities of the Germans, the heroism of the British men, and the steadfast courage of French and British women. Portions of the first chapter (“On the Frontier of Civilisation”) appear below.
From Rudyard Kipling, France at War. London. Macmillan, 1915.
Henry Ford (1863–1947) was the founder of the Ford Motor Company, which produced the world’s first affordable cars. While he was known as a pacifist in the First World War, in the second he made his anti-Semitic views widely known in publications such as the International Jew, which was printed as a four-volume series of booklets published by the Dearborn Publishing Company, which he owned. His Dearborn Independent newspaper also published a series of his anti-Semitic articles. In The International Jew, Ford recirculates many of the traditional anti-Semitic arguments, for instance, those concerning a Jewish conspiracy for global dominance via behind-the-scenes methods. In this excerpt he discusses the Jews in Germany and reiterates many widespread arguments concerning the extent of Jewish involvement in contemporary Germany’s financial and political woes.
From Henry Ford, The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem. 1920.
As a result of the failure of his Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in November 1923, Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was sent to a minimum security prison at Landsberg. However, he was paroled, four years before the completion of his sentence, in December 1924. Having met with the respect of his judges during his trial in February 1924 and with the approval of the Bavarian Supreme Court, although against the advice of state prosecutors, he had his sentence—after his conviction for a treasonable attempt to take over the state—commuted. Nevertheless, there were some restrictions, both in Bavaria and elsewhere in Germany, on Hitler’s speaking and freedom of movement. In spite of these restrictions, he emerged from prison with the manuscript of a new political statement of his life and philosophy, a document he entitled Mein Kampf (“My struggle”). As recently discovered documents reveal, Hitler hoped to use the proceeds from the sale of this book for a new car as well as to fund his political movement. The party growing out of this movement would be labeled the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and he would be installed as its unquestioned Führer (leader) by 1925. The following excerpt from Mein Kampf reveals what he had learned about rhetoric and political action in his nascent career.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Mannheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), 469–471.
Halidé Edib Adivar
Halidé Edib Adivar (1884–1964) was a Turkish feminist and writer, best known for novels focusing on the status of Turkish women. Born in Constantinople (Istanbul), she was connected by family to the court of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II and educated in a multilingual environment where she learned Arabic, English, and French. One of a new generation of women, her experiences spanned the old world of harems as well as the new world of professional women. Her early career involved writing articles on education for newspapers and work for the ministry of education. Her memoir is not particularly personal, focusing as it largely does on Turkey’s struggle for nationhood, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, and the Nationalist politics of its first “modern” leader, Kemal Ataturk.
From H. Edib, The Memoirs of Halidé Edib. London: John Murray, 1926, pp. 11–4, 85–8, 142–8. Halidé Edib, The Turkish Ordeal: Further Memoirs. London: John Murray, 1928, pp. 25–34 (excerpts).
Gilbert (1911–1977) was an American military officer and prison psychologist during the Nuremburg trials. On October 20, 1945, the International Military Tribunal received indictments of twenty-three Nazi war criminals, among them Herman Goering, senior Nazi leader and head of the Luftwaffe, and other top Nazis. It was Gilbert’s role to maintain close contact with the prisoners for the duration of the trial, monitoring their state of morale, and provide mental examinations with the prison psychologist. His Nuremburg Diary is a verbatim account of his conversations with the prisoners and a compilation of some of the essays he asked them to write. In doing so, Gilbert began to expose what had motivated these men to create the nightmarish Aryan dystopia that was the Third Reich.
From G. M. Gilbert, Nuremburg Diary. New York: Farrar, Straus and Company, 1947, pp. 205–11.
Chitta Ranjan Das
Chitta Ranjan Das was an Indian nationalist politician, and leader of the Swaraj (Independence) Party in Bengal, during British rule in India. Although educated in England, he returned to India to play a major role in the independence movement, including such episodes as the “Non-Cooperation” movement of 1919–1920. Like the better-known Gandhi, Das was a believer in nonviolence and was trained as a lawyer, perhaps influencing his constitutionalist approach to independence. Along with pacifism he also saw Muslim–Hindu cooperation as an essential element of Indian independence and national success. It was at the Gaya meeting in 1922 that he formed the Swaraj Party, having lost a motion to Gandhi’s faction. In this excerpt from his speech, Das discusses how Indian nationalism must not copy the aggressive, competitive nationalism of Europe, but must find its place in a greater Humanity of which it is a part.
From Presidential Address of Chitta Ranjan Das, Indian National Congress at
Gaya, December 1922. An appendix to P. C. Ray, Life and Times of C. R. Das/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1927, pp. 261–74 (extracts).
George Orwell is the pen name of Eric Blair (1903–1950), one of the most important writers in the English language during the twentieth century. Orwell is famous for two widely read novels, Animal Farm (1946) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), in which he pilloried modern totalitarian governments whose suave claims to act in the name of “the people” could not disguise their unprecedented intrusion into the private lives of citizens. But Orwell deserves to be well known for his investigative reporting and prose essays of the interwar period as well. After World War I he worked as a police officer in Burma (modern Myanmar), lived the life of homeless and subsistence workers in Paris and London, explored the hardships of Welsh coal miners, and fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1938). His writing about these experiences, along with criticism and political commentary, is distinctive for its clarity and vivid detail and for the unsentimental decency with which he addressed the realities of life for ordinary people.
ii Orwell was educated, not very happily, at boarding schools in England. Rather than go to university he joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma for five years in the 1920s. The experience produced his novel Burmese Days (1934) and the essay reprinted here. Britain fought three wars in the Victorian era (1824–1826, 1852, 1885) to bring the ancient Burmese kingdoms under its control. Even after annexation to the Raj, village resistance and jungle insurgency taxed the authorities’ ability to police the countryside. Very few Europeans wished to settle in Burma for long. Those who did tended to be employees of distant firms attempting to establish rubber plantations in the drier zones of upper Burma. As Burmese Days reveals, British soldiers, police, minor civil servants, and businessmen, with a handful of family members, secluded themselves as much as possible from native life. Those any distance from the cultural life of the capital city experienced long periods of discomfort, tedium, and frustration, unalleviated by much sense that they were bringing progress or prosperity to those they ruled.
George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays, 3–12. Copyright © 1950 by Harcourt, Inc.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
During his first inaugural address as the president of the United States in March 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt had warned his fellow Americans, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Through a series of radio broadcasts called “fireside chats,” the president continued to reassure the American public during the darkest days of the Depression. He would go on, in January 1941, to enumerate the “four freedoms” to which every American, and perhaps every person around the globe, was entitled. Among these were freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and, perhaps most importantly, freedom from fear.
Suffering from debilitating illness in the final years of the war, Roosevelt persisted in envisioning a world in which those four freedoms could be guaranteed—and in which the unprecedented and horrific suffering of World War II could be transformed into a new period of human development. As Thomas Paine had argued about the American Revolution, there was now a chance “to begin the world over again.” Roosevelt prepared an oration on the subject to be delivered on the occasion of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. The war was drawing to its close in Europe, and would end several months later in Asia—but Roosevelt did not live to see the achievement of peace. Although he died on April 12, 1945, the day before he was to deliver this address, the prepared speech demonstrates the tenor of Roosevelt’s thought at this point in his life.
Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, the American Presidency Project, http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=16602.