Bits and Bobs Wednesday

Seine, Paris 1999

Above: The Seine near Notre Dame Cathedral (Schmidley, 1999).

A month ago, I set myself the task of reading a half dozen books on WWI before July 2014 which will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.  During February, I am reading Margaret MacMillan’s, The War that Ended the Peace: The Road to 1914. MacMillan is an Oxford University history professor, whose specialty is WWI, and she is also the author of Paris 1919 about the creation of the Versailles Treaty.

 MacMillan won many awards for her groundbreaking book on the Versailles Treaty that ended WWI, and I plan to read this book in July.  Meanwhile, I am captivated by her latest work which pulls together material covered in at least six of my graduate history classes, including the course I took one summer on Twentieth Century Britain which began with the Boer War.

I understand from an article in our morning Post, that folks in Britain are divided on how to memorialize this terrible war which cost the lives over 1 million British military, including the dead at Gallipoli.

Black Adder Cast

Black Adder Cast

According to the Post article, the cast of Black Adder has become part of the discussion. Black Adder fans may recall that Rowan Atkins character finds himself a Captain in the trenches During WWI along with idiot officers played by Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry of Jeeves and Wooster fame.  Some Brits think this series trivialized The Great War.  Indeed, the series spoofs all British history.


As calls come in left and right canceling this and moving that while Washington awaits, The Great Storm of 2014, I got online and ordered plants for my pots next spring.  We gardeners never give up.  Well almost never.  I am late getting my order out this year having grown weary of Mother Nature’s vicissitudes. As the cold crept down from the Arctic Circle this winter, I thought about all those others in history who must have wondered what the heck was happening.

Some historians think the wasteland depicted in Nennius’ account of the last days of the King Arthur was the result of the explosion of Mount Karkatoa or some other Indonesian volcano. And what could those early modern humans have thought as ice crept closer and closer during the great ice age?

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire,

I hold with those who favor fire.

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice is also great
And would suffice.

(apologies to Robert Frost for the punctuation.  I memorized the poem in high school, and copied it here from memory.) 

16 thoughts on “Bits and Bobs Wednesday

  1. I like your bits and bobs posts .. it’s like having coffee with a friend and roaming about from topic to topic … and one would never get bored visiting …you have such a wide range of interests and experiences. I find it silly when people get upset about a comedy program like ‘Black Adder’ . Some people never developed a sense of irony. (I have to admit that sometimes the only way I can handle listening to today’s news is through programs like Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert. My irony bone may be over-developed.)


  2. I have to admit I know very little about WWI. Can you recommend one or two books that someone with casual interest should read? (I remember reading Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by Gina Kolata a cpl of years ago — fascinating). Now, as for those seasons. What else do we have besides winter? I can’t remember!


    • I enjoyed the book by Kolata. Very interesting. Try this book by Macmillan, also, I am going to read her book on the Versailles Treaty. She isa great historian, who writes in a way that is easy for me to follow. However, I may like enormous amounts of detail that would bore many non-historians.

      Did you finish the Tuchman book? I think macMillan writes a it like BT.


      • Actually, I did read The Zimmerman Telegram a cpl of years ago; and that led me to read A Distant Mirror. I guess I ought to read The Guns of August. (As you can see, I’m not very focused in my reading.) I’ll put MacMillan on my list, too, but it’ll probably be a while before I get to it. Thanks for your advice!


  3. There was so little published about WWI when I was a kid. Since most of my reading was self guided, I was influence by the famous cartoon book from WWI. Ditto WWII and Mauldin. No depth to me at all.

    Yes, that big storm is supposed to drop a foot of the white stuff on you. I’m following the weather and thinking of you. Both of you.


  4. War of any sort leaves me cold – credit to you for reading and trying to understand WW1 and the consequences it had on the world afterwards.
    I thought I’d be alright going to see The Railway Man (based on a true story by Eric Lomax) today with The Golfer – I walked out. Just couldn’t take the brutality.
    Spring will arrive sometime – I think you will have deserved it when it does!


    • Thanks Cathy. I almost never watch war movies, anymore, so I wouldn’t dream of going to see the film you almost saw. Far to brutal for me.

      Mostly I read books about politics of the times, trying to understand the big why! Sometimes war has been necessary, sometimes not. Simply protesting solves nothing. All wars have protesters.

      Don’t read any thing much on the American Civil War any more, although it is all over the place here in Washington DC.


  5. All of a sudden reading your post I realize I have not begun to look through catalogs and order seeds, etc. for the spring. But then again, will spring ever get here?


  6. Sorry, I am really not into war of any kind. I was even an anti-war activist back in the day. Anyway, I love that photo of the Seine but can’t remember what the interior of Notre Dame looked like when I visited it in Nov 1969. As for plants, return to Hawaii, where it is always green.


    • MacMillan writes about the years before the war and analyzes how it started. Very important to understand these times I think.

      As for Hawaii, thanks, but no thanks. Not my thing, I like the changes in the seasons. Waiting for spring now.


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