Discontinued posting

I have (sadly) discontinued posting to this blog. My department has decided that it does not believe in online learning, hence the rationale for devoting time to it no longer holds. I will post occasional cross-references from my Western Civ blog or updates regarding The Stab-in-the-Back Myth.

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The Stab-in-the-Back


This week I received my author’s copy of The Stab-in-the-Back Myth and the Fall of the Weimar Republic in the mail. Bloomsbury Press has done an excellent job. The documents are clearly set out within the text and the visual sources are beautiful. The book is now available for pre-order, with publication in August.

When we began the project, our goal was simple. The centenary of the end of the Great War would soon be upon us and countless students would decide to write term papers and theses on the question of the Stab-in-the-Back. While the Dolchstoß is a common trope in the English-language literature – and is widely seen as a major component in the Nationalist/Antisemitic critique of the Weimar Republic – there were few primary sources available in the English language. Our hope was to provide such material for both students and instructors.

Once we began to collect and translate our source documents, it became clear not only that there were a variety of anti-Republican myths, other Germans (particularly Communists and leftist Social Democrats) also felt that they had been stabbed-in-the-back. Unravelling these various strands of memory proved to be an exciting, if difficult task. I look forward to seeing how the book is received.

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German snipers training in Russia

Rob Schäfer has posted an interesting picture of German snipers training in the East.

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Remembering the Great War in Bonn

Since I first started travelling to Germany 35 years ago, I have always sought out monuments to the fallen in World War 1. One memorial in particular has always struck me: that in the entryway to the main university building in Bonn. On my last trip, I finally got a worthwhile photo.

It was eerie the year I attended there to go past every day and imagine all of those who died.

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The Diary of a Nursing Sister

I have learned of an incredible resource via Twitter:

Kate Luard was a British nurse serving on the Western Front. Her experiences are sure to be fascinating to my many students interested in health issues.

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Tracing the Great War in Berlin

I have just finished a productive trip to Berlin, where I dedicated myself to visiting the many museum exhibits dedicated to the topic.

First and foremost, I spent a long afternoon in the German History Museum. My last couple visits, I was more concerned with the Weimar and Nazi periods. The sections on the Great War and the Revolution were quite good. I read, snapped pictures, thought about how to integrate the material into class.

When I got back to my hotel that evening, I decided that I had failed to photograph a Dolchstoss-themed item. So it was back the next morning – musta been a false memory!

I have never been to the Museum of Photography. Went to an excellent exhibition on photography in the Great War. Not at all what I expected. I was surprised to learn how German land and air units used repeated, detailed photographic surveillance to reconnoiter the enemy’s positions.

I also visited an exhibition on the effects of the Great War on German fashion. About what you would expect. I neglected to pick up the exhibition guide, which I’m sure some students would have found useful for their Extension Projects. Darn!

One of the more interesting places in Berlin is the Museum of Things. They had an exhibit on the Cologne Werkbund Exposition of 1914. The Werkbund, akin to the Wiener Werkstatt arts and crafts tradition, was dedicated to making high-quality, exquisitely designed products. Consumer goods, furniture, houses. The Werkbund brought together designers and industry, bringing quality craftsmanship and high production standards to German products. There was an export incentive as well. Great Britain had drafted a new law that all Herman products (assumed to be shoddy) must be marked with the “Made in Germany” label. German export manufacturers decided to turn the table and make “Made in Germany” a quality mark by setting high production standards. The initiative was seen as so important that the Emperor opened the exposition. When War broke out in August, the exposition area was razed and became a staging area for troops and supplies moving West. Just another part of the Old World destroyed by the War.

The bookstores, new and used, got their usual working over, as well as the Sunday book flea market along the Spree. Too little time, not enough money, and no way enough space to bring back everything that I would like to have purchased.

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new from digital 1418

Otto Vervaart continues to provide excellent source materials for students of the First World War. He has recently posted four new resources that I have added this site:

Wartime Canada:

“an educational resource for teaching the history of Canada during both World Wars by using documents and artifacts to get closer to actual experiences. The resources at this portal are organized by ten category headings with a verb, such as Fighting, EatingRelaxingRemembering and Worshipping. The selection of themes under these headings is very wide and instructive. The section on education gives guidance to larger subjects such as the war effort, government and economy, identity and culture, historical inquiry and society.  For each theme you can set the selection of items to either the First or the Second World War by choosing this period from a dropdown box. The portal can be visited in English and French.”

The Virtual Gramophone: First World War Era:

“The virtual exhibition The Virtual Gramophone: First World War Era has been created by Library and Archives Canada at the portal Collections Canada as a part of the section The Virtual Gramophone concerning the history of music in Canada. The portal gives an overview of Canada’s musical history. The section about the First World War has four focuses:

Popular Songs, 1914-1918
Songs of the First World War
The Music on the Home Front: Sheet Music from Canada’s Past
The Music Scene in Quebec, 1915-1920

The section with popular songs gives lists of song arranged in chronological order by year. You can listen to a number of sound recordings of them. The section on songs of the First World War has songs arranged by a number of subjects. The section on sheet music is at present missing from the site. There are also biographies of musicians, and the reference list contains a succinct bibliography about First World War music. This virtual exhibition can be viewed in English and French.

At Sheet Music from Canada’s Past, another section of the portal Collections Canada, you can search for items created during the First World War era (select 1914-1920). Searching for the subject World War 1914-1918 brings you to nearly 200 items.”

World War I Postcards from the Bowman Gray Collection:

“The digital collection World War I Postcards from the Bowman Gray Collection has been created by the library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The collection contains some 6,400 postcards from the main belligerent countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Russia and Italy), but also from other countries. The sheer number of postcards in this collection is equivalent to the number of interesting subjects, for example cavalry or children. Some commercial series, too, are completely present. You can browse the collection in its entirety (530 records with often multiple items), choose among the subjects, names and places, or use the free text search. The general introduction to this collection gives also a succinct bibliography on the subject of First World War postcards.”

The Western European Theatre Political Pamphlet Collection:

“The digital collection Western European Theater Political Pamphlet Collection 1894-1918 has been created by Princeton University Library (collection MC 248). The collection contains in 77 boxes items from European countries collected since 1914.  Apart from pamphlets in English there are items in French, German, Russian, Italian and other languages.  The pamphlets do not only touch upon politics but on many aspects of the First World War and the period immediately before the war. The digitized pamphlets are accessible using an online finding aid. In the left side bar you can click on subjects and time periods which open either an item or a set of items within a record. You can use the general search field for a free text search. It is also possible to view the entire finding aid as a page or to download it as a PDF.”


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Reflections on teaching the Great War

Final essays and projects have been marked. Grades have been submitted. The whirl of Christmas is past. Time to reflect on teaching the Great War online.

I have taught the Great War F2F. Here are some preliminary thoughts.

How did the online experience differ?

Obviously I did not meet students F2F, but I had an enormous amount of communication with them. I really poo-pooed the “getting to know you” exercise at the beginning of the semester, but it gave me enormous insight into who the students were, their expectations, and their level of prior knowledge. The weekly essays and discussions deepened this sense, much more than I have ever had with a larger classes. The personal, almost tutorial, nature of teaching an advanced class completely surprised me.

I was also surprised by the shear amount of work involved! I had plans for recording more video lectures, recorded conversations with subject specialists, and more group activities that simply never came to pass as there was not enough time. I hope to be able to add some of these in the next iteration of the class, but the students surely didn’t lack for work!

What do I find preferable about the online experience and what aspects of the traditional classroom do I miss?

I miss the immediacy of the classroom. You can tell what is getting across, where you have to go slower or take a different tack. Online, you put it up and then wait. I had hoped to alleviate this on part by asking students after each module’s activities to post on “What you still have questions about.” Problem was, it was the last question in the Forum that I only got to after reading all the other posts and grading the weekly essays. Maybe it would have worked if this were the only class I was teaching, but I had three other online courses demanding my time.

What was positive about the experience?

I was very pleased both by the amount of work (thinking, reading, writing) I could require of each student and the level on weekly accountability. In the course of the semester more than a few students had things come up, but I could work with them on deadlines. Some found the weekly demands a difficult cultural shift and clearly preferred the far less demanding midterm-final-paper routine that prevails in many courses. My best courses decades ago were those that demanded the most of me and I feel like I achieved that for the students in this class,

What would I do differently?

Next time I offer the class, I want to structure and supervise their Extension and Veteran projects better. Most of the Extension projects were exemplary. I need to set an earlier deadline so that students share their work with their peers maybe two weeks before the course is completed. I still need to think out all of the details.

The Veteran projects were more uneven. Many students did the bare minimum; other did serious research as I had hoped all would. That is really my fault and I will do a better job next time.

How can I more effectively use my teaching blog?

I hope that this will improve with time as I am able to add more resources. I had planned for them to consult the blog each module, but I did not have sufficient links for each item. This will be a priority in the coming year.

I also found, as every blogger claims, that blogs are a lot of work and take constant time and attention. I was able to go great guns from January to April 2014. In April, I spoke with Rhodri Mogford, Acquisitions Editor for Bloomsbury Press at the European Social Science History Association conference in Vienna. Rhodri encouraged me to submit proposals for my monograph Peasants and Jews: Anti-Semitism and Rural Politics in Northwest Germany and for a reader on the Stab-in-the-Back Myth that I am writing along with my friend and colleague Mark Sadler. Long story short, both proposal were accepted, with the final manuscript for The Stab-in-the-Back Myth and the Fall of the Weimar Republic. A History in Documents and Visual Sources. due March 2015 and Anti-Semitism and Rural Politics in Northwest Germany due June 2016. Both projects will be complete when I teach this class next.

What did I learn about the War itself?

Too much to record here! I kept a list attached to each module. Just as this online course was different from my last traditional offering, I expect the next iteration will be a substantial improved product.

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You might find this interesting

The National Library of Scotland has posted a collection of British First World War Trench Maps. This is really fascinating stuff. I am adding a link in the right menu column under Maps. HT to Otto Vervaart and digital1418

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So it begins …

100 Years ago today, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The train of events set in motion at Sarajevo left the station.

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Top secret MI5 files of First World War go online


Complete with a very fetching picture of Mata Hari on the portal page. Other highlights include Edith Cavell and Sidney George Reilly, the “Ace of Spies”. If you are interested in British intelligence history, this is an amazing resource. Having watched the BBC’s “Ace of Spies” mini-series, I am tempted to download the Reilly file just for the hell of it.

Sadly, if you want to view the file off-site, you have to pay £3.30, but that seems pretty reasonable. It is so low in fact that I can’t imagine why they don’t just make it a free download.

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The SPD remembers the First World War

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Enough to make a historian dizzy!

I have spent many enjoyable hours at the Hoover Institution Library. I swear, when I saw this enormous stack of papers, I knew that I had to post the Tweet.

I can’t be sure, but I think that I remember calling up something similarly wrapped.

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Russian Military Historical Archives digitized

This is great news, but the site that I accessed is in Russian without an icon to select a language other than Russian. (Not that I’ve noticed Russian or German icons on the U.S. National Archives site!)

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Off to Vienna!

I am flying out tomorrow (Easter) for the European Social Science History Association conference in Vienna. I’ll be pretty busy conferencing, sitting in cafés or out in the evening for some culture, but I plan to get to the Military History Museum and see what they have on for the Centenary. Expect a raft of photos in the next week!

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New web resources

Otto Vervaart has posted a series of excellent resources on digital1418. I am reposting them here and will link to them through the right viewing pane. Thank you Otto for the continued work!


Vedere la Grande Guerra

The virtual exhibition Vedere la Grande Guerra: Immagini della prima guerra mondiale has been created by the Museo per la Storia del Risorgimento Italiano in Rome. This online exhibition offers image selections on many subjects (percorsi tematici):

You can also browse several image galleries (gallerie fotografiche) on a number of themes, or watch a small number of videos.

Vedere la Grande Guerra: Immagini della prima guerra mondiale


Australian Screen: First World War

Logo Australian ScreenThe digital collection Australian Screen: First World War is a selection at Australian Screen, the online portal of Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra. In this collection with nearly sixty items you will find newsreels from the Australasian Gazette collection, movies created during the First World War, and movies and TV series created afterwards concerning the First World War. The films have been made in various countries, mainly France, Egypt and Turkey. The Australasian Gazette items from the period 1914-1918 feature mainly cartoons.

At Australia Screen movies from the First World War are also presented in the collection Australian War Memorial Western Front and Gallipoli on Film, both of them with introductory essays by Paul Byrnes. The footage of the 1915 films about Gallipoli dominates the image of the Australian forces and Gallipoli, but these movies were not made at the Dardanelles front.

Australian Screen: First World War


Blue Cross War Horse Collection

Logo Blue Cross War Horse CollectionThe Blue Cross War Horse Collection is a digital collection created by the Blue Cross, an organization for animal warfare founded in 1897. The Blue Cross has digitized from its holdings photographs, poems, letters and books from the First World War. The collection contains a historic gallery with several documents,  slide shows and some interviews, images from the book The Blue Cross at War and written resources.

The digital collection has been prepared also for the exhibition War Horse: Fact & Fiction at the National Army Museum, London.

Blue Cross War Horse Collection


JM World War One Sketchbooks, 1917-1918

Logo JM SketchbooksThe digital collection JM World War One Sketchbooks, 1917-1918 has been created by the Special Collections Library of the University of Victoria, British Columbia. The collection consists of images of 130 water-colour and pen and ink sketches from two sketchbooks of an unidentified British soldier who served with the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery. He was stationed in France and Belgium, in particular near Ypres and Menin. A number of sketches show caricatures of British social life. You can browse the entire collection, choose Book 1 or 2, select title pages or paired images, or view images by choosing among pre-selected themes touching on people and the war.

JM World War One Sketchbooks, 1917-1918

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André Jeunet Collection – A French Soldier in World War 1 (via digital1418)

Header And're Jeunet Collection

The digital collection André Jeunet Collection – A French soldier in World War I has been created by the University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky. André Jeunet was a French soldier who fought at the front in France, in particular near the Somme and at Verdun, and later also on the Balkan, in particular in Macedonia and near Monastir (Albania). The collection consists of 210 photographs, some postcards, and transcripts of some letters translated into English. Some letters from 1917 contained strong pacifist views. The letters were intercepted by censors and brought Jeunet before a court-martial, which decided to transfer him to the Balkan. You can browse the entire collection, use the free text search mode or use the advanced search mode.

André Jeunet Collection – A French soldier in World War I

A HUGE thanks to Otto Vervaart for posting this link on his digital1418 blog!

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A Day Off

I have taken the day off from blogging, class prep, and research to celebrate my 60th birthday. Well, my wife and I did spend the day in Cinci visiting bookstores and having a nice German lunch. And I did pick up a few books for the Great War class, so perhaps a busman’s holiday. We did see Cate Blanchett, who was filming on-location at a downtown diner. So, a good day and here’s hoping for many more.

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A blogging update

This marks my 75th post on this site.

I continue to be amazed at all of the Great War resources that I have found online through social media. I have had to reorganize my right viewing pane numerous times as the links grow and grow. I do worry whether my students will be overwhelmed the first time they access the blog. We’ll just have to see.

My Great War course is now complete except for the recording of my short YouTube lectures. The scripts are written and I hope to complete them by April 4. Again, we’ll see. My goal is to go live with all the elements on June 26.

I am sure that the course will continue to evolve. Today I created a Wikispaces site that I think will serve as the public interface for the course. I have yet to create the proper interface so we can have synchronous/asynchronous webinars. My wife has considerable experience running scientific webinars in her work for Cure CMD – I just have to tie her down long enough so that she can show me how to set up the interface. Once that is in place, I will start pestering people for topics and dates.

None of this would have been possible without the many friends that I have made through Twitter. Thank you.

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How much do the British know about the Great War?

When abroad, I frequently meet non-Americans who are appalled by the latest report of American historical illiteracy. Sad, I mumble, so sad. I am not surprised, for instance, when I meet supposedly intelligent who can’t place the decade of WW1 or can’t remember if we fought the Nazis and the Russians in that one.

For that reason, this survey is comforting.

Truth be told, though, I don’t expect come 1917 that Americans will do much better. I imagine that they will do much worse.

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