Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religions Crusade

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religions Crusade

Article excerpt

The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religions Crusade. By Philip Jenkins. (New York: Harper One, 2014, Pp. x, 438. $15.99, paper.)

The First World War continues to generate a vast literature. Its causes hold an enduring fascination for both specialists and the educated public. Recently two eminent historians, Christopher Clark and Margaret MacMillan, have produced massive studies about the road to war. When it comes to the contentious question of responsibility for the conflict, neither Clark's The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (New York: Harper, 2012) nor MacMillan's The War That Ended Peace (New York: Random House, 2014) attempt an answer.

Philip Jenkins has a different view. Following the lead of the German scholar Fritz Fischer, he is forthright in blaming Germany. Jenkins points to Germany's pre-war military plans, her treatment of Belgium in 1914 and the treaty imposed upon Russia at Brest-Litovsk in 1918 as evidence of the Second Reich's aggressive tendencies. Based on the more nuanced examinations of Clark and MacMillan, this conclusion is perhaps oversimplified. For example, Germany's conduct in Belgium, deplorable as it was, can hardly be relevant to the developments that brought the war into being. Jenkins discusses how the war deeply affected the various branches of Christianity. The persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church at the hands of the Bolsheviks was perhaps the most dramatic ecclesiastical consequence of the conflict. In Jenkins' words, "The Russian Church neither died nor faded away gently, but was violently killed" (200).

The Great and Holy War is a wide-ranging book. Jenkins explores the emergence of Zionism: "Long before the Holocaust, the experience of the Great War created an intimate mystical link between apocalyptic violence, the return to Zion, and the hope for messianic liberation" (252-53). He devotes a chapter to the suffering of the Armenians at the hands of the Turks, which he does not hesitate to label a "genocide" (287). …

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