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Historian to discuss how war changed worldview of Europeans

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

LAWRENCE – The First World War 100 years ago marked a turning point in the history of Europe. However, contrary to the idea that Europeans’ nationalist ideals fueled the conflict, such views didn’t become widespread until the aftermath of the deadly combat came into focus.

The University of Kansas has invited historian Michael Neiberg to explain how ordinary Europeans, unlike their political and military leaders, neither wanted nor expected war during the fateful summer of 1914.

Using letters, diaries and memoirs of citizens across Europe, Neiberg dispels the notion that ordinary Europeans were rabid nationalists intent on mass slaughter. Rather, civilians watched in shock and revulsion as their leaders turned a minor diplomatic crisis into a continental bloodbath.

Only after the fighting acquired its own horrible momentum, after wartime atrocities and intense propaganda took their toll, did European civilians descend into the intense nationalist hatreds that we think of as the essence of the Great War.

As a renowned historian and popular lecturer, Neiberg gives voice to a generation who found themselves compelled to participate in a ghastly, protracted orgy of violence they never imagined would come to pass.

Neiberg is professor of history in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. He is the author or editor of 19 books on war and society, including, most recently, “Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War One.”

Neiberg will deliver his talk from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 6, in 1001 Malott Hall. The talk is free and open to the public. Contact Ashley Durkee at 785-864-9438 or adurk@ku.edu for more information.

This talk is part of the KU Department of History’s “Pivotal Events in History” series, which features one public program each fall and each spring. Recent programs have involved the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination as well as the question of “victory” in the War of 1812.

The Department of History is in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which encourages learning without boundaries in its more than 50 departments, programs and centers. Through innovative research and teaching, the College emphasizes interdisciplinary education, global awareness and experiential learning. The College is KU's broadest, most diverse academic unit.


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