Friday, May 22, 2015

World War I scholar responds to the question: Was World War One inevitable?



Posted: Friday, April 10, 2015 12:00 pm


Posted on Apr 10, 2015

by Alyson Schreck

Harper Auditorium filled Thursday evening as students, faculty and people from the community waited to hear Margaret MacMillan’s take on the highly debated question: Was World War I inevitable?

MacMillan, a World War I scholar and author of “The War that Ended Peace,” examined the world and Europe prior to 1914 and the possible reasons that led to World War I. In doing so, MacMillan made it clear that, in her opinion, World War I was not inevitable.

Prior to the war, MacMillan explained, Europe was in a time of prosperity.

“It was a period where there was some hope for the future,” MacMillan said. “There was hope that the world was becoming a more peaceful place. There was hope that progress of the 19th century, particularly in Europe, was going to continue. And hope that prosperity was going to increase around the world, and of course, in Europe.”

For this reason people today still wonder: How could Europe throw this away? And According to MacMillan, it is something they still have not recovered from.

Nine million men died in World War I and the map of Europe changed forever. However, according to MacMillian, at the end of the war nothing was settled and the world was not a more peaceful place.

MacMillan went on to assess the possible reasons behind why the war happened. Perhaps it was the tensions between the different alliances, or maybe there was competition for colonies. Some believe it was the responsibility of a single country, or the fault of ideas or honor. Perchance, some will argue it was no one’s fault and it simply just happened. After evaluating the motives which people think caused the war, MacMillan shared her own explanation.

“There is not one cause, and not one factor, and not one person, and not one country. I think it was, if I can think of an analogy, a perfect storm,” MacMillan said.

MacMillan discussed how the people of Europe thought that the war in some way would be a solution to many problems. It would clear the air. She expressed that this was a common metaphor used in Europe at the time: that when a thunderstorm is coming, and the air is very hot and sultry, sometimes people wish for the storm to come just to clear the air.

Arts & Sciences senior Rachel Thompson is writing a paper on World War I and the Sinking of the Lusitania for the culmination of her history degree. Thompson attended the event to hear whether or not MacMillan thought the war was inevitable.

“A lot of people say that with the climate of Europe at the brink of the war there was no chance that a war could not happen, but I would disagree with my research,” Thompson said. “I wanted to see what a highly praised professor had to say about that.”

The lecture ended with MacMillan responding to questions from audience members. Afterward, MacMillan was available to sign copies of her book.

The Department of History at Creighton hosted the lecture as part of the Ross Horning Lecture Series. Horning began teaching history at Creighton in 1964 and passed away in 2005. Since 2006, the department has hosted lectures such as this one in his memory.


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