Month: July 2014

World War I Began 100 Years ago Yesterday

If you pay attention to such things, you’ll know that yesterday, June 28, 2014, was widely remembered as the 100th anniversary of World War I’s outbreak. Technically, of course, World War I did not start on June 28, 1914. Rather, on that day, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Such a war was properly a Balkan conflict, and some historians have referred to the outbreak of war between the two countries as the Third Balkan War (to distinguish it from the first two–in 1912-1913 and 1913). The Austro-Hungarian government would have preferred a small war against Serbia instead of a big war involving all of Europe, but as almost all historians agree, Austria-Hungary was willing to risk that big war to obtain what it wanted. Of course, as we all know, that risk became a reality. Germany declared war on Russia on August 1, France on August 3, and Belgium on August 4. Britain declared war on Germany on August 4. Since most of the great European powers were also global powers as well, their participation in the conflict made it truly a world war.

This war was of great importance to the world because at that point, Europe was the center of the globe in a way that it was not before and would never be again. On the eve of the conflict, 25% of the world’s population was European (the corresponding figure today is 12%). Europe accounted for 60% of the world’s iron and steel production, 56% of the world’s coal, and 62% of the world’s exports. Europe was also the source of 83% of the world’s foreign investment. If Europe was the most important part of the global economy, London was its financial and commercial capital. At the same time, cities like Paris and Vienna were the culture capitals of the world. During a period that witnessed the high tide of European imperialism, decisions reached in London, Paris, Berlin, and Moscow reverberated across the globe; these were the capitals of the international political system. Any conflict involving the world’s political, economic, and cultural center (especially since the belligerents were evenly matched and the war dragged on for four years) was bound to have an enormous impact on the rest of the world.

Hundreds of web sites commemorating the war’s outbreak have been erected on the web, many with excellent photos, video, and documentation. It seems unfair to single out one, but One Thing after Another very much enjoyed the The Wall Street Journal‘s tribute to the war’s legacy. Although it’s not perfect, and sometimes it’s a little buggy, it does capture the multiplicity of ways in which World War I changed the world and the lives of the people who lived in it:

If the war’s outbreak has exercised historians, its conduct has also sparked a great deal of argument. Again, it seems unfair to zero in on a couple of essays that capture the essence of this debate, but One Thing after Another noticed these two:

Adam Hochschild is the co-founder of Mother Jones and author of several popular histories, including To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918. David Silbey is a military historian who teaches at Cornell University. If One Thing after Another could indulge in a little reductionism, it would describe the debate between these two essays in the following terms. Hochschild presents the old lions-led-by-donkeys argument (first articulated fully by Alan Clark in The Donkeys) that sees the war as a tragedy attributable to the incompetence of military and political leadership. This thesis has exercised a strong hold on the public imagination. Silbey contemptuously refers to it as Blackadder history, after the British sitcom that had Rowan Atkinson traveling through time; the series of episodes on World War I draws heavily on this argument.

Silbey argues that those who led European forces on the Western Front during World War I were faced with difficult, almost unprecedented, military problems. That millions of men died in Northern France between 1914 and 1918–something that seems almost unthinkable to the West today–does not indicate that the military leadership was incompetent. Rather, it indicates that armies found circumstances incredibly difficult, especially since the most recent European wars (particularly the Wars of German Unification and the Russo-Japanese War) provided very little in the way of useful or relevant precedents.

One Thing after Another is bound to say that scholars of World War I tend to side with Silbey on this matter rather than Hochschild. This debate between the two is important, because it points to the discrepancy that often persists between what professional historians write about the past and what the public remembers. But that’s a discussion for another day. For now, it suffices to contemplate World War I’s enormous impact on both nations and individuals. The blog master will pause to remember two great-great uncles who died during the war, one, a newlywed killed in action during the Battle of the Marne (1914), and the other, an adjutant chef (equivalent of a staff sergeant), who threw himself on a grenade to save his comrades during a training accident (1916).

Professor Moore Studies “The Lived History of Vatican II”

Our Lady of Lourdes Atlanta GA

One Thing After Another’s recent ruminations on anniversaries pointed to many milestones and turning points. In addition to the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and the brutal murders of Cheney, Schwerner, and Goodman, 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s electoral whipping of Barry Goldwater. Johnson’s victory opened the door to his Great Society programs (in addition to the Civil Rights Act, think Medicare, Medicaid, and the War on Poverty). This year is also  the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the British Invasion. Both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones toured the United States for the first time in 1964.

Some events (like the British Invasion, frankly) cannot be pinned down to one year, but their anniversaries are just as important to recognize. In this category—especially important for Catholics—is the Second Vatican Council. Pope John XXIII (SAINT John XXIII as of Sunday April 27), announced the Council in 1959; its first session convened in Fall 1962. John XXIII’s call for “aggiornamento”—or bringing the church up to date—would fundamentally alter the Church. Between 1962 and 1965, Catholic bishops met in Rome for four sessions. By the time they were finished, they had, among other things, changed the Catholic Mass from Latin to the vernacular, opened up the possibility of ecumenical cooperation between Catholics and Protestants, and encouraged a re-thinking of the Church as the “people of God” rather than a hierarchical institution.

As historians know, however, what those in authority (like bishops or the pope) tell people (like the world’s Catholics) to do and what actually gets done are two very different things. Now, fifty years on, historians are taking up the question of how “regular” Catholics actually lived the reforms of Vatican II. Since 2012 Professor Andrew Moore has worked on a research project sponsored by the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame called “The Lived History of Vatican II.” Fifteen scholars have been examining dioceses around the world, conducting close-grained studies of how Catholics experienced the reforms of Vatican II. Some weeks ago that project culminated in a conference, in which those fifteen scholars joined more than twenty others to present their research about Vatican II.

The conference program can be found here.

In short, these historians found that Vatican II often fell victim to the law of unintended consequences. What the bishops intended was not always what happened. That was true for Professor Moore’s case study, the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He focused his research on one parish, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, which is in the “Sweet Auburn” neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. For most of the twentieth century, this neighborhood was the heart of black Atlanta. Ebenezer Baptist Church (home church of Martin Luther King, Jr.) is down the street, for example. Our Lady of Lourdes was an all-black parish founded in 1912. When the civil rights movement rolled around, its members participated in demonstrations in Atlanta. After Vatican II, the archbishop and other archdiocesan leaders believed that the central message of the Council was that they had to close black parishes and force integration between black and white Catholics. This was not easy, however, and many whites moved to the suburbs to avoid “urban” problems like integration. For their part, black Catholics felt like they were being treated as problems to be solved. It would not be until the early 1980s when black Catholics finally felt like they were truly a part of the local Catholic Church and that their contributions were taken seriously. That was a good result of Vatican II, but the route they took to get there was longer and more circuitous than anyone expected.

After this conference, the plan is for the papers from the project to be collected into a book. The gears of academic publishing grind slowly, but all the authors hope that the book will appear next year, in time to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council.

World History and the World Cup

One Thing after Another is a huge soccer fan, so this blog cannot allow the 2014 World Cup to pass without remark. One Thing after Another roots for an eclectic collection of teams, something that is by no means unusual (a number of this blog’s friends and acquaintances do the same thing). This phenomenon calls to mind several important points with which historians constantly wrestle.

For one thing, identity is a malleable thing that often depends on context. When it comes to Major League Soccer (MLS) in the United States, this blog feels the tug of the local community, supports the New England Revolution, attends a number of home games, and really likes the way Lee Nguyen plays. Yet, so far as “real” soccer is concerned, One Thing after Another sees nothing better than the Barclay’s Premier League, roots for Tottenham Hotspur (COYS!), and still has a hole in its heart from when Gareth Bale left in 2013. When the World Cup rolls around, however, the blogmaster is compelled by his ethnic heritage to cheer on “les bleus” and thinks Zinadine Zidane (“Zizou”) was all that. At times, these allegiances overlap and reinforce one another, as when the blog feels a special loyalty to Hugo Lloris who happens to be the keeper for the Spurs—as well as for the French national team. As historians have long understood, identity is like that; we can be different things under different circumstances. Identities can reinforce or undermine one another. Depending on the situation, one’s gender, class, ethnicity, family, party, religion, community (and one can form part of several), and nation—to name just a few factors—compete with one another, determining our ideas as well as our behavior.

This interplay between identities leads to another, related point well illustrated by soccer: the interaction between the local and global may ebb and flow, but that ebb and flow is a constant presence in people’s lives. As C. A. Bayly, one of the leading students of global history, has pointed out, “all local, national, or regional histories must, in important ways . . . be global histories.” Any history of the world during the modern period, he argues, must “chart the interdependence of world events, while allowing for the brute fact of Western domination.” “At the same time,” he continues, “over large parts of the world, this European domination was only partial and temporary” because non-European peoples received and remolded Western ideas in such a fashion that they limited the nature and extent of that domination.

Royal Engineers 1872

In 1872, Royal Engineers AFC, pictured here, played in the first FA Cup final against Wanderers FC, a squad consisting mainly of alums from elite public schools. Royal Engineers AFC was known for pioneering the “combination game,” that is, passing the ball instead of solely dribbling (which is what teams had done up to that point). Despite helping develop the modern form of the sport, Royal Engineers AFC went down to defeat that year, 1-0.

Soccer reflected these dynamics. Professional association football, as we know it, was a creation of the Midlands, the industrial heartland of the England. From this small corner of the world, the sport was spread by British workers who migrated throughout the globe in the late 19th century. Soccer did not take particularly well in the formal empire (e.g. India) or in what became the dominions (e.g. Australia), but it did put down roots in areas where British commercial influence was great. A number of teams on the European continent were created by British expatriates. Italians say “Milano,” so why is the famous soccer team there referred to as “AC Milan”? Because it was founded by English businessmen who originally named it the Milan Cricket and Foot-Ball Club. The same was true in South America, where British business interests were particularly strong. Brazilian, Argentine, and Uruguayan elites who lived in the great port cities of South America embraced the sport because they felt the cultural pull of England and sought to emulate a people whom they admired. Having embraced football, however, they made it their own.

The most famous case, of course, is Brazil, which developed a very distinct style of play. As David Goldblatt, perhaps the leading historian of soccer has put it, Brazilian football sought to resolve “two competing rationalities: the instrumental and the aesthetic; the efficient and the beautiful; to play to win but to play for pleasure, and in so doing to reconcile, if only for a moment, a central dilemma of not merely Latin American football but of all modern societies.”  This was the “jogo bonito,” the beautiful game.


Exeter City FC, a middling Southern League team, toured South America in 1914 and played a number of games with local sides. Most famously, it took on an all-star squad of players from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilians won, 2-0. This photo was taken during the tour. City is in the striped jerseys. 

Where did this game come from? Gilberto Freyre, one of Brazil’s leading public intellectuals, was in no doubt. After Brazil first made its mark on global soccer with a third-place finish in the 1938 World Cup (with two black stars, Domingos da Guia and Leônidas  da Silva—the latter often credited with being the inventor of the bicycle kick), Freyre wrote:

Our style of playing football seems to contrast to the European style because of a set of characteristics such as surprise, craftiness, shrewdness, readiness, and I shall even say individual brilliance and spontaneity, all of which express our ‘mulattoism’ . . . Our passes . . . our tricks . . . that is something which is related to dance, to capoeira, mark the Brazilian style of football, which round and sweetens the game the British invented, the game which they and other Europeans play in such an acute and angular way—all this seems to express—the flamboyant and at the same time shrewd mulattoism, which can today be detected in every true affirmation of Brazil.

In other words, the English game had been filtered by a culture that combined Portuguese, African, and American features. The Brazilian style of play proved dominant starting in the late 1950s, with Pelé leading the charge. Of four successive World Cups, Brazil won three of them (1958, 1962, and 1970).

And what of England, the inventor of football, during this period? England suffered from the complacency and insularity of the long-dominant. In some ways, England’s decline as a football power in the post-World War II era mirrored its decline as an industrial one. It stuck with outmoded ideas that had appeared to work for a long time in much the same way that it relied on obsolete plant. As Goldblatt puts it, Britain continued to count on character, instinct, and grit, unlike other Europeans who increasingly employed advanced training methods and coaching. The bell began to toll in 1950 when England first deigned to play in the World Cup. After beating Chile, the team lost to the United States and Spain. England would stage a brief resurgence in the 1960s, with a World Cup victory at home in 1966, but a strong English team in 1970 was eliminated in a controversial quarter-final by West Germany in extra time (the first time a German team had beaten England).

 At the 1970 World Cup, England faced Brazil in group play. Brazil won 1-0, but the English could console themselves with the fact that Gordon Banks, their keeper, made what is widely regarded as the save of the century against, appropriately enough, Pelé.

Yet, as Bayly points out, one of the hallmarks of modern global history is a uniformity in which “forms of human action adjusted to each other and came to resemble each other across the globe.” Football has undeniably become more global in the last 20 years. There are limits, of course, to this globalization. The two countries with the largest populations in the world, India and China, are miserable football weaklings (although the latter are huge football fans). And as one recent article in The Atlantic has suggested, the World Cup is not truly global: a better title would be “’The West European/South American Cup’ since the eight countries who have won the World Cup have been from those two continents.”

That being said, coaches, players, management, and capital freely circulate throughout the soccer world just as they do in every other business. As football has become more global, it has, in many ways, become more uniform. Cultural differences remain—football is not homogeneous—but teams play more like each other than ever before. England plays less like old England and more like South America (even if the English still value mental toughness and physicality). And while English fans lament that their team has underperformed in not reaching a final since 1966, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski have found in Soccernomics that given its size, wealth, and soccer experience, England actually does better than it should. At the same time, Brazil, particularly the 2014 squad, now plays less in the old Brazilian tradition of the jogo bonito and more like European teams (which is a problem according to most Brazilian fans). This development clearly has something to do with the globalization of soccer. Of Brazil’s World Cup roster of 23 this year, 19 players belonged to European professional teams, with more, ironically enough, in Barclay’s Premier League clubs (five) than any other league (only four members of the Brazilian national team play in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A).

On the one hand, we could say that the uniformity that goes hand in hand with globalization might very well be reflected in the close scores that we have just witnessed in the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals. With the exception of Brazil’s catastrophic meltdown against Germany (7-1), every game was decided by one goal in 90 minutes, ended in overtime, or went to penalty kicks. On the other hand (and this is the position of Kuper and Szymanski), all things being equal, the future might lie with bigger, wealthier, more experienced countries. Since football know-how freely circulates throughout the world, the nations that can tap the largest pools of athletic talent and afford the best facilities will eventually emerge on top. Of course, football knowledge is not easy to multiply, but such an argument bodes well for the United States. One Thing after Another, however, recommends that you don’t hold your breath waiting for the United States to hoist that World Cup trophy.

Fahy Studies Roots and Trees at the NEHGS

Katrina Fahy

Katrina Fahy ’13 only graduated a year ago, but she’s already found a way to put her history background to good use: she is now working for the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. One Thing after Another recently asked her about her job.

Q: What is your job title?

A: I am a Researcher in the Research Services at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. Our staff consists of nine individuals, a secretary, and a department head. I conduct research on peoples’ ancestry and family trees.

Q: On an “average” day, what exactly do you do?

A: My department fields research requests from clients from all over the US. If an individual has a research request, they contact either my manager or our secretary, describe what they would like us to do, explain how many hours they would like to pay for, and submit any information they already have. That information is placed into a case file, and these cases are then distributed to each of the researchers by our boss based on our interests/areas of expertise. Our caseload is kept in our individual logs. We are expected to do 100 billable hours of research a month, which basically means that even though we are given time to read cases, attend meetings, etc., we are expected to bring in 100 hours of revenue to NEHGS each month.

My department has weekly meetings every Monday in which we go over our logs to discuss which cases we have finished and which cases we plan on completing within the week. After that, I work through my log.

My particular specialty is lineage applications, but I also get to work on general research requests. When I open a new case, I look through the information that the client has provided to me, to ensure that I do not duplicate the research that the client already has. I then search through our library for books and publications that may aid a clients’ research, for there are often books and collections of vital records that are not available on search engines such as I also search through various NEHGS databases, as well as our manuscript and microfilm collection in order to answer a clients’ research question. While conducting research, I also compile a research report, which documents the various sources I searched and what I uncovered about my client’s ancestry. When I reach the maximum authorized research hours, I write up a conclusion, photocopy all documents I have found, and make suggestions for further research, which may include tapping into additional NEHGS resources or ordering microfilms and records from other historical societies. More often than not, clients will come back with a continued research request, and I can pick up where I left off with the client.

I really do not have an “average day,” as every case brings new challenges and research. For example, I recently worked with a client to determine which Mary Rickard married a man named Timothy Morton (there were two women by that name living in Plymouth, MA during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, one of whom was a descendant of Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke, and another who was not) so the client could apply to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. For this case, I used various land and probate records to determine that a previously accepted application to the Mayflower Society was incorrect, and was able to determine which Mary Rickard actually married Timothy Morton in 1712, and which was married to a man named Jabez Eddy. I am also currently working with a client who would like to take his family back to its immigrant ancestor in order to eventually write a genealogy for his family. In this case, we have traced his ancestry back to Ireland and are currently using Irish church records to continue following his ancestry backwards.

Q: Do you have a sense of what skills, experiences, or personal traits were most important in getting you the job, or what would you look for if you had to hire your replacement?

A: I honestly think a liberal arts background provides one with the best skills and education to conduct genealogical research. New England is the region in the United States with the most complete account of birth, marriage, and death records since its founding; in other regions, you will more often than not have to use more secondary sources, such as land and probate records, in order to prove a lineage. You are often required to think outside of the box and use the information provided to make genealogical connections, which I think a liberal arts education really helps you to do.

Strong writing skills are definitely required, as you have to provide detailed research reports describing where you looked, why you looked there, and what you found. You also must be able to clearly state and explain your findings, because clients may not completely understand why something is or is not important unless you explicitly state it.

I think that my internship with the New Hampshire Historical Society helped me secure this position. At the NH Historical Society, I conducted basic genealogical work on the quilt makers in the Society’s collection, which gave me an idea of what kind of records New Hampshire held and how to access these records from various databases, which gave me an understanding of genealogy.

Q: Do you have a sense of what kinds of professional development you would need to move up in your organization or a similar one?

At NEHGS, an advanced degree is not always required to move up or change departments, but it really depends on your personal career goals and where you would like to see yourself in the future. Moving from Research Services to the Membership Services Department really does not require additional education, but graduate work would be preferred for a move from Research Services up to Archives or a Staff Genealogist position. My company does offer to pay for a portion of your education, so they do encourage continuing your studies. Personally, I plan on continuing my education in order to move up both at NEHGS and any other opportunities that may require an MA or some graduate work.