Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Commemorating the Great War

I saw in yesterday's Sunday Times a report about discussions in Whitehall about events overthe coming years to commemorate the Great War. The planning committee were reported as anxious to avoid opening old wounds and to play down any note of triumphalism. That seems right to me. Given that the centenary is approaching and given the number of lives lost and blighted by the War it is, of course, appropriate to recall those terrible losses. I do rather worry that some may try to appropriate such solemn anniversaries to a modern agenda regarding Europe.

What worries me more is that commemoration here will begin with the British entry into the War on August 4th. That was not the beginningof the conflict, nor even the Austrian shelling of Belgrade on July 28th. The crisis began with the Sarajevo assassinations on June 28th. Now whatever the blindness of politicians, the influence and impact of the military industrial complex, and the draft plans of military men it should be remembered that the whole crisis was triggered off by an attack on the traditional order by the forces of violence and revolution in the person of Princip. War may well have been a real danger in 1914, but it was not inevitable. Even after the deaths of the Archduke and his wife it might have been possible to prevent or contain the conflict. The tragedy of 1914 is that it was not - and that fact is what really needs commemorating next year.


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