The following guest post was submitted by Kim Gilmore, Sr. Historian, A+E Networks. HISTORY® won a 2015 Beacon Award for Educational Materials.
2014 marked the onset of a five-year commemoration of World War I, also known as “The Great War.” By the war’s end, some 9 million soldiers lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands of civilians were forever changed by the conflict. The war laid the groundwork for today’s interconnected geopolitics, and had a tremendous influence on the technology and medicine. Yet even though there are many dedicated WWI scholars and aficionados, many Americans probably draw a blank when someone asks them what happened during World War I and why it matters today. At HISTORY® we took this as a challenge: how can we inspire people of all ages, particularly students, to learn and care about the impact of WWI and how it shaped our contemporary world?
Throughout Europe, the 100-year anniversary of the war kicked off with major fanfare. Many people probably saw images of the stunning art installation at the Tower of London, which featured hundreds of thousands of ceramic poppies. (Poppies, as many readers probably know, became a way to memorialize the fallen soldiers of WWI after Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” made its mark as a popular WWI poem.) The United States World War One Centennial Commission has started its own major effort to observe the anniversary of the Great War in the U.S. At HISTORY, we felt that it was important to introduce more Americans to the contours of this important world event at the start of the commemoration period.