Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wars we know   posted by Razib @ 8/16/2009 11:28:00 AM

I've decided to read up on the World Wars recently. I don't know much about World War I & II aside from what I've seen on The History Channel and some books I read in elementary school. I've read The Pity Of War: Explaining World War I and The First World War, and am almost finished with A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. I'm struck by the fact though I've learned many details of interest about World War I, almost everything I've read about World War II so far in A World at Arms (which is ~1,000 pages) is totally unsurprising. To me that emphasizes how much World War II still looms in our popular culture, while the Great War is an ignored prologue. Some of this is surely time, there are fewer than 10 World War I veterans alive today. But another factor is that you couldn't invent evil on the scale of the German regime plausibly. The banal barbarity of the Second Reich pales in comparison. If one could find someone totally unfamiliar with World War II and lay out the course of events and the nature of the insane dictators (Hitler and Stalin), I suspect their initial response would be that it was implausible science fiction or alternative history, and you need to go to a writer's workshop to brush up on the craft. In contrast the First World War I exhibited a human-scaled level of folly and hubris.