The Age of the Empire
In Chapter 13 of “The Age of the Empire,” Hobsbawm details how the norm in Europe shifted from peace to violence. Prior to 1914, peace was the norm and was expected by Europeans. Since 1914, however, Europe has been plagued with world war after world war. Hobsbawm notes that since 1914, most Europeans over the age of seventy have passed through at least two wars over the course of their lives, and most over fifty have experienced at least one. In great contrast to this, from the period of 1815 to 1914 there were no wars involving European powers, and it was most likely because of this that no one expected a world war to breakout, despite it being forseen.
Beginning around 1870, Europeans expressed the likelihood of a future war, and the chances of a world war were made apparent. The concerns about war were well heard, and in the 1890’s, the World Peace Congress was established.
In the 1900s, the likelihood of war was drawing nearer and in the 1910s, its nearness was taken for granted, as many statesmen still did not believe a world war would ensue. It did. There was an international crisis in July of 1914, where international leaders met to deter a world war. The leaders were troubled at the state of the world, but believed that a peaceful solution could be made and the crisis would deteriorate, ending the possibility of a world war.
The optimism of leaders was most likely due to the fact that war was utterly non-existent in Europe for over a century. Today, I cannot even fathom world leaders meeting to discuss the threat of an upcoming world war, and be so confident to believe that no war would ever ensue. I believe if our leaders took on this optimistic attitude, they would be criticized by citizens and actually seen as a threat themselves. Do you think that this shift in attitudes took place because of the shift in history from peace to war that took place during the 1800 and 1900s?