Editor's Letter: 100 moments that capture the horror of the Great War

It’s the business of journalists to tell stories about the world as it was, is, and will be


Morning all. A subject as vast, horrifying and contentious as the Great War of 1914-18 is a rare and big challenge for journalists. How to bring the events of a century ago to life and make them relevant for a modern audience? Does relevance even matter? And how to deal with the huge issues that academics still dispute today, such as how many casualties there were, and whether or not the whole conflict was pointless or avoidable? This week, we began to give our answer.

In yesterday’s paper we launched “A History of the Great War in 100 Moments”, a unique centenary series. On consecutive days – and including our sister paper The Independent on Sunday – we are publishing articles of varying lengths on a hundred pinpricks in time that capture something of the tragedy that unfolded after Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. Sometimes, as in yesterday’s masterful essay by Boyd Tonkin, they will cover two pages; at other times they might be a much shorter article, or an excerpt from the archives, or perhaps a beautiful photograph.

The idea is that these moments each tell a tale, and together they form a narrative for the war as a whole. Of course such a narrative could never be complete. But it’s the business of journalists to tell stories about the world as it was, is, and will be; and I hope you find in these moments a story of the Great War that is compelling.

By the way, you’ll read acres of newsprint over coming months about parallels between 1914 and today (we’ll do a bit too). Some are indeed quite striking. China today, like Germany and to a lesser extent Russia in 1914, is an emerging power annoyed by the established hierarchy in world affairs, which uses nationalism to quell popular unrest and stifle true democracy.

Pax Americana, like the British Empire in 1914, is in retreat; the protectionism of a century ago has echoes in the response to a global financial crisis; and one particular region, the Middle East, is today a tinderbox of sectarian tensions, just as the Balkans were a century ago.

But to coin a phrase, a century is a long time in global affairs, and we should beware amateur historians – myself included! – using talk of parallels to flaunt academic knowledge they thought they had forgotten. The differences are infinitely starker, from the interconnectedness of the global economy today, to the fact that there are more big powers competing to be heard, like India, Brazil, and Indonesia. Nuclear weapons also make a new great war less likely.

Now there’s a cheering thought. Here’s another: a reliable mate at Paddy Power says back Prince de Beauchene at the National, at 20/1. Good luck with your bets, and have a great weekend.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam