In January, the Catholic University of America Press will release “Francois Mauriac on Race, War, Politics, and Religion: The Great War Through the 1960s,” edited by Nathan Bracher (Texas A&M University). The publisher’s description follows:
Nathan Bracher’s François Mauriac on Race, War, Politics, and Religion: The Great War Through the 1960s, consists of a selection of some ninety editorials penned by the Catholic novelist and intellectual François Mauriac, who received the Nobel Prize for literature and who was admitted to the Académie Française in 1933. As is ofen the case for prominent writers and intellectuals in France, Mauriac became active in political punditry early in his career, at the time of the First World War. Intensifying notably in the tumultuous years of the 1930s on, this activity continues to expand over the next five decades. Afer 1952, Mauriac’s editorials came to represent the most important dimension of his intellectual activity. He was, to cite the prominent journalist and intellectual Jean Daniel of Le Nouvel Observateur, France’s most distinguished and formidable editorialist of the twentieth century.
Bracher’s book provides for the first time an opportunity for English speaking readers to discover the incisive power, passionate humanity, and historical perspicacity that made his voice one of the most resonant in the French press. Mauriac’s public stances on events left nobody indifferent. He was the first to denounce torture in Algeria, and the most eloquent in appealing to the heritage of humanism lef by Montaigne and the Sermon on the Mount. The editorials collected here moreover provide a series of striking perspectives on the most dramatic events that France had to confront over the course of the twentieth century, from World War I, to the rise of Fascism and the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, to the various episodes of World War II, on to the Cold War, the strains of decolonization in the 1950s, and the reign of Charles de Gaulle that coexisted with the upheaval of the 1960s. Mauriac’s gripping editorials enable the reader to revisit these historical moments from within and through the eyes of a French Catholic intellectual and writer who approaches them with passion, commitment, and remarkable lucidity
Last month, Basic Books released The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, by Eugene Rogan (St. Antony’s College-Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:
In 1914 the Ottoman Empire was depleted of men and resources after years of war against Balkan nationalist and Italian forces. But in the aftermath of the assassination in Sarajevo, the powers of Europe were sliding inexorably toward war, and not even the Middle East could escape the vast and enduring consequences of one of the most destructive conflicts in human history. The Great War spelled the end of the Ottomans, unleashing powerful forces that would forever change the face of the Middle East.
In The Fall of the Ottomans, award-winning historian Eugene Rogan brings the First World War and its immediate aftermath in the Middle East to vivid life, uncovering the often ignored story of the region’s crucial role in the conflict. Bolstered by German money, arms, and military advisors, the Ottomans took on the Russian, British, and French forces, and tried to provoke Jihad against the Allies in their Muslim colonies. Unlike the static killing fields of the Western Front, the war in the Middle East was fast-moving and unpredictable, with the Turks inflicting decisive defeats on the Entente in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and Gaza before the tide of battle turned in the Allies’ favor. The great cities of Baghdad, Jerusalem, and, finally, Damascus fell to invading armies before the Ottomans agreed to an armistice in 1918.
The postwar settlement led to the partition of Ottoman lands between the victorious powers, and laid the groundwork for the ongoing conflicts that continue to plague the modern Arab world. A sweeping narrative of battles and political intrigue from Gallipoli to Arabia, The Fall of the Ottomans is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the Great War and the making of the modern Middle East.
In March, Cambridge University Press will release “Catholicism and the Great War: Religion and Everyday Life in Germany and Austria-Hungary, 1914–1922” by Patrick Houlihan (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:
This transnational comparative history of Catholic everyday religion in Germany and Austria-Hungary during the Great War transforms our understanding of the war’s cultural legacy. Challenging master narratives of secularization and modernism, Houlihan reveals that Catholics from the losing powers had personal and collective religious experiences that revise the decline-and-fall stories of church and state during wartime. Focusing on private theologies and lived religion, Houlihan explores how believers adjusted to industrial warfare. Giving voice to previously marginalized historical actors, including soldiers as well as women and children on the home front, he creates a family history of Catholic religion, supplementing studies of the clergy and bishops. His findings shed new light on the diversity of faith in this period and how specifically Catholic forms of belief and practice enabled people from the losing powers to cope with the war much more successfully than previous cultural histories have led us to believe.
Yesterday was the centenary anniversary of the beginning of World War I. On July 28, 1914, one month after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, the Austro-Hungarian empire made its first moves against Serbia. The Great War would end more than four years later.
This weekend, I visited the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which was hosting a very fine exhibit of American World War I posters. I was struck by the powerful imagery of civil religion in many of them. Here are two exhorting the purchase of war bonds that stood out to me as particularly representative of the genre:
And this afternoon, to remember the War, Mark and I visited the Flag Pole Green in Queens, New York, which has this lovely memorial to the men of Queens who died in the War:
Just a few fragments of civil religion–that perennial social coagulant–in memory of the war to end war.
Next month, HarperOne will publish The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade by Philip Jenkins (Baylor University). The publisher’s description follows.
The Great and Holy War offers the first look at how religion created and prolonged the First World War. At the one-hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the war, historian Philip Jenkins reveals the powerful religious dimensions of this modern-day crusade, a period that marked a traumatic crisis for Western civilization, with effects that echoed throughout the rest of the twentieth century.
The war was fought by the world’s leading Christian nations, who presented the conflict as a holy war. Thanks to the emergence of modern media, a steady stream of patriotic and militaristic rhetoric was given to an unprecedented audience, using language that spoke of holy war and crusade, of apocalypse and Armageddon. But this rhetoric was not mere state propaganda. Jenkins reveals how the widespread belief in angels and apparitions, visions and the supernatural was a driving force throughout the war and shaped all three of the major religions—Christianity, Judaism and Islam—paving the way for modern views of religion and violence. The disappointed hopes and moral compromises that followed the war also shaped the political climate of the rest of the century, giving rise to such phenomena as Nazism, totalitarianism, and communism.
Connecting numerous remarkable incidents and characters—from Karl Barth to Carl Jung, the Christmas Truce to the Armenian Genocide—Jenkins creates a powerful and persuasive narrative that brings together global politics, history, and spiritual crisis as never before and shows how religion informed and motivated circumstances on all sides of the war.
In November, John Hopkins University published Pacifists in Chains: The Persecution of Hutterites during the Great War, by Duane C. S. Stoltzfus (Goshen College, Indiana). The publisher’s description follows.
To Hutterites and members of other pacifist sects, serving the military in any way goes against the biblical commandment “thou shalt not kill” and Jesus’s admonition to turn the other cheek when confronted with violence. Pacifists in Chains tells the story of four young men—Joseph Hofer, Michael Hofer, David Hofer, and Jacob Wipf—who followed these beliefs and refused to perform military service in World War I. The men paid a steep price for their resistance, imprisoned in Alcatraz and Fort Leavenworth, where the two youngest died. The Hutterites buried the men as martyrs, citing mistreatment.
Using archival material, letters from the four men and others imprisoned during the war, and interviews with their descendants, Duane C. S. Stoltzfus explores the tension between a country preparing to enter into a world war and a people whose history of martyrdom for their pacifist beliefs goes back to their sixteenth-century Reformation beginnings.