The 100 Years War

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 5 (September/October 2013), Letters, Volume 21

Sir,—It appears that we are to be bombarded with anniversaries: 1913 and the Lockout; 1914 and the Great War; 1916 and the Rising, Verdun and the Somme. But we may have missed the first significant anniversary. Surely the First Balkan War in the autumn of 1912 was the first violent convulsion of a disastrous century. If historians as different as Winston Churchill and Eric Hobsbawm can refer to the period 1914–1945 as a new Thirty Years War, might there not be something in it? Newer commentators (including Hobsbawm) have referred to the Long War from 1912 to 1989; looking at events in Syria at the moment, it looks as if the Long War may be longer than we thought. It is increasingly difficult to argue that the First Balkan War, the co-incidental Chinese Revolution, the First World War, the Smyrna disaster, the Japanese invasion of China, the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the subsequent colonial wars were unrelated, each with its own unique cause. If an alien historian from the 22nd century were looking back on Earth’s calamitous twentieth century, he or she (or it, possibly) would surely say that we experienced another 100 Years War. Events here—dreadful, inspiring, fascinating and revealing as they may be—are just way-markers on the hideous journey from 1912 to 2012 and could (or should?) be viewed in this way. And since I am not a historian I can be a-historical and suggest that the dreadful journey is not over yet.—Yours etc.,

BRENDAN Mac CONVILLE

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