Britain’s Great War episode 4 – At the Eleventh Hour: Jeremy Paxman describes how the country came to the very brink of defeat in the last year of the war. Grieving parents held seances to contact their dead sons, surgeons battled to rebuild the faces of the wounded, and a maverick MP tried to pin the blame for the crisis on a conspiracy of sexual deviants in government.
And then, dramatically, the tide of battle turned, and exhausted Britons found themselves weeping for joy as the armistice was signed. The nation began to count the cost of four years of war, revealing some surprising winners as well as losers.
Britain’s Great War episode 4 – At the Eleventh Hour
World War I was a significant turning point in the political, cultural, economic, and social climate of the world. The war and its immediate aftermath sparked numerous revolutions and uprisings. The Big Four (Britain, France, the United States, and Italy) imposed their terms on the defeated powers in a series of treaties agreed at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the most well known being the German peace treaty: the Treaty of Versailles.
Ultimately, as a result of the war the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian Empires ceased to exist, with numerous new states created from their remains. However, despite the conclusive Allied victory (and the creation of the League of Nations during the Peace Conference, intended to prevent future wars), a second world war followed just over twenty years later.
The term “world war” was first used in September 1914 by German biologist and philosopher Ernst Haeckel, who claimed that “there is no doubt that the course and character of the feared ‘European War‘ … will become the first world war in the full sense of the word,” citing a wire service report in The Indianapolis Star on 20 September 1914.
Prior to World War II, the events of 1914–1918 were generally known as the Great War or simply the World War. In October 1914, the Canadian magazine Maclean’s wrote, “Some wars name themselves. This is the Great War.” Contemporary Europeans also referred to it as “the war to end war” or “the war to end all wars” due to their perception of its then-unparalleled scale and devastation. After World War II began in 1939, the terms became more standard, with British Empire historians, including Canadians, favouring “The First World War” and Americans “World War I”.