Previous Lectures

Lecture 10th December 2018

World War I, its causes re-evaluated
“The Great War was entirely England’s fault”?

Doves and Hawks - WWI Rouges Gallery
Doves and Hawks – WWI Rouges Gallery

The next GAHS talk commemorates the centenary of the end of World War I and will look at the series of events which led to its outbreak. The origins of the war lie far previous to the now traditional explanations which are mainly confined to the 37 days of the July Crisis in 1914. The centenary of the war and related events has attracted much scholarly attention of late which has brought to the public attention that the “official” explanations of the causes of the war bear little resemblance to what actually happened. Some scholars have been particularly brave in challenging the conventional view like British historian Prof Niall Ferguson. The publisher’s summary of his book states, “The Pity of War makes a simple and provocative argument: the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England’s fault.” Challenging convention is an endeavour fraught with danger as English historian Dan Snow can attest due to receiving hate mail after arguing that glorifying the “awfulness and tragedy” of WWI belittles the service of every British soldier. There are also serious gaps in the popular literature as the authors of most books on the subject of the World War I, pay little heed to the actual causes of the war beyond the July Crisis and are in a great hurry to jump into a trench and get stuck into battles, tactics and gore.

WWI remains important to this very day as we still live with its consequences and without understanding the past we cannot hope to understand the present. History is the only tool available to humanity to predict the future. It works by looking back at patterns of behaviour which are likely to repeat and history has been repeated many times over. We owe it to all the war victims to figure out what mistakes were made so that new generations can recognise and thus avoid iteration. While nobody knows the true figure, it is thought that in total about 35,000 Irishmen died while fighting in the First World War and of these 754 were born in Co. Galway.

The talk will present evidence from military planning, diplomatic communications and a look at the behaviour and actions of the doves, hawks and waverers which contributed to the outbreak of the war. It will also look at what evidence Prof Fergusson used to support his claims. Do you agree or disagree with him? Hear the evidence and judge for yourself.

It’s Christmas and there’s one for everyone in the audience! GAHS has a number of previous volumes of its journal issues which are surplus and will they be given away to audience members free of charge. There will also be journals and books on sale which will make excellent Christmas reading or gifts.

The talk will take place at the Harbour Hotel, Galway on Monday 10th December at 8pm.
Admission is free and all are welcome.