History Conferences – The First World War and Vera Brittian

Well its back to the grind of school, and of course, as a history major I get to research and develop lots of papers.  This year is not going to be an exception, as I have a conference in Atlanta on November 4, and another one (hopefully) in February 2012 in North Georgia.  Last semester I did a paper on the Moroccan crisis preceding the Great War of 1914.  My thesis pertained to the fact that Germany was preparing for war even before 1914, and France was a big instigator in making them extremely paranoid.

I am very fascinated by this time period and all that went on during the early part of the 20th century concerning WWI.  It was an age when a whole generation of men suddenly died or became very disillusioned with life, as they witnessed mass killings on a daily basis, by new types of weaponry never before used in the battlefield.  Not familiar with the results, there were days, for example, the Battle of Verdun, in which tens of thousands were slaughtered.  I say slaughtered because crossing “no man’s land” while the other side plowed into you with large machine guns was suicide.  Trapped in trenches, these particular souls endured a new type of fighting that the world never experienced up until that moment.   We claimed this generation became “the lost generation” and rightly so.  They lost a lot.

During my special topics class last year we read Vera Brittian – Testament to Youth. This particular passage hit me directly and I have saved the quote.

“Let him who thinks War is a glorious, golden thing, who loves to roll forth stirring words of exhortation, invoking Honour and Praise and Valour and Love of Country, ….but look at a little pile of sodden grey rags that cover half a skull and a shin-bone and what might have been its ribs…and let him realise how grand and glorious a thing it is to have distilled all Youth and Joy and Life into a foetid heap of hideous putrescence!” excerpt from Vera Brittain’s book “Testament of Youth” WWI

Ms. Brittian does a wonderful job telling the story of her personal experience as a student, then nurse during the Great War.  She tells about her life as a young woman in college, and how the war affected her and her family, and gives an accurate account of the change in attitude which swept over the whole of Europe as the war progressed.  It’s a great read if you like to discover more about the Great War.


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