We are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I — known then as The Great War. It was the most cataclysmic conflict in human history up to that time, and it is almost inconceivable that it would be superseded in a mere 30 years by an even more horrific one.
Americans are not much interested in the First World War. Our involvement was late and brief, though arguably decisive. Our perception of the conflict is dominated by the four-year slog on the Western Front; the eternal siege that was trench warfare renders the military history of the era (shocking as it is to say of an event that took so many lives) “boring.”
In truth, though, the Great War is fascinating. An isolated act of a teenaged terrorist sparked the conflagration in 1914, and armies marched into the field in 19th Century uniforms, with 19th Century mindsets. By 1918, the 20th Century — the modern world — was on the scene and with a vengeance. The old world had been swept away on a tide of blood. Three empires that had stood for centuries were gone. A new state built on the ideology of Communism had arisen in Russia. The modern Middle East, newly strategically important because oil was newly strategically important, rose out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
The Great War made the world we live in.
It’s worth taking the time to study the era — and Dan Carlin has made it easy to do so. Carlin is a highly-successful podcaster, and his Hardcore History podcast gives plenty of evidence why.
The man is very, very good at what he does. And what he does is make extremely complex historical events make sense. Erudite yet accessible — and extraordinarily enthusiastic and entertaining — he’s the kind of history lecturer you wish you’d had in college. In fact, if history professors were all like Carlin, universities would be cranking out history majors at a higher volume than communications majors on the football team.
He’s a storyteller, a damned good one, and he understands in his bones that the best stories are those that are truly lived.
Carlin’s Blueprint For Armageddon is an outstanding course on the First World War — all you’ll ever need unless you decide to take a deep dive of your own. Over 20 hours of podcasts in six parts and your attention will never flag.