The Great Crusade and after, 1914-1928

The Great Crusade and after, 1914-1928

The Great Crusade and after, 1914-1928

The Great Crusade and after, 1914-1928

Excerpt

It was once maintained by respectable critics that "contemporary history" was a contradiction in terms, that no one could estimate events without knowing what they led to. In this plausible reasoning it was overlooked that many, hailed as great historians from Thucydides down, have written of their own times. Professor Slosson's chapters will illustrate how a historian can write of such events with just detachment, handling the abundant source material and written comment with the same technique that he would use in chronicling the life and way of any previous generation. Attempting by imagination to divine the verdict of the future, he strictly keeps the past tense in writing of transactions whose echoes are still ringing. In the same historical spirit he seeks the wide and balanced view that one would get in such perspective. Since within these limits come nearly all the varied interests of Americans, the readers of this volume, for the most part, will have the engaging opportunity to see themselves as the data of history. The author in presenting the case for this generation expects, it appears, a sympathetic judgment from posterity. Fully aware of foibles and follies and, here and there, deep injustice, nevertheless his buoyant narrative is a wholesome antidote to much that has been written of these years, accounts conceived in irritation, hopelessness and shame.

The year 1914 revealed the community of mankind in the modern world. A shot was fired in a Balkan province and its reverberations broke the peace of shepherds on the hills of Colorado. Many years before, a European crisis had been profoundly felt by our young nation, but in 1789 there was at the same time a new constitution, with attendant problems of domestic policy, and a new transAlleghany West beckoning to adventure; one cannot isolate the factors. In 1914, for the first time since the Revolution, an epoch opened in American history almost entirely through causes in the world without. With surprise and some vexation many learned that it was but one world and that we were part of it.

Then began those difficult years for thoughtful Americans, trying to choose a wise and honorable course while beset on all sides by organized persuasion. Having led the reader through the valley of decision, Professor Slosson reviews the war that followed, the lift of common resolution, the incidence of tragedy, and sudden, swift efficiency streaked with bungling. But it is a war seen from the private's bunk, the housewife's kitchen, the business man's desk. The entire population being mustered into service, war, more than ever before, became social history; the armies at the front were but the cutting edge of a weapon wielded by a nation. It was a great crusade in which those who worked at home played a part as well as those who were sent.

War is so abnormal an experience of civilization that it gets back but slowly to old ideals of peace. The title of the book The Great Crusade and After suggests sardonically the moral slump which followed when the tumult and the shouting died -- the blunted conscience, the overwrought nerves, the growth of intolerance, standards unsettled by the recent prodigality, just as in the days of reconstruction after the Civil War. While tracing the sad results in many quarters, Professor Slosson also points out the artificial and illusory nature of economic prosperity under war conditions. As far as the . . .

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