Advocating Peace, Debating War: Disagreement and Division in Europe, China, and Brazil, c. 1900–17

AHA Session 185
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Diplomat Ballroom (Omni Shoreham)
Ian C. Fletcher, Georgia State University
European Peace Advocates Struggle to Prevent War, 1900–14
Sandi E. Cooper, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Solving the Nation’s Ills through War: Italy, the Great War, and Nation-Building
Ernest Ialongo, Hostos Community College, City University of New York
Chinese Intellectuals on the Outbreak of the First World War
Sungshin Kim, University of North Georgia
The Wartime Turn to Flemish Activism
Kurt Guldentops, University of California, Los Angeles

Session Abstract

The 2014-2018 centenary of the First World War is upon us, and the AHA’s 2014 annual meeting theme of “Disagreement, Debate, Discussion” invites us to think about the divisions that opened up around questions of peace and war in the early twentieth century.  A century later, the quick succession of events in the summer of 1914, the scenes of popular enthusiasm that greeted the declarations of war and the mobilization of armies, and the tragic splintering of the international movements of labor, socialism, and women’s suffrage still shape our sense of the outbreak of the war.  But it did not come as a bolt out of the blue.  A series of diplomatic crises and armed conflicts had punctuated the world situation since the turn of the twentieth century and added urgency to calls for international arbitration and conciliation.  And when hostilities began, the world was not jolted from peace to war all at once.  The war expanded over the course of several years, drawing more states and peoples into the vortex.  Indeed, some societies had already become convulsed with wartime unrest by the time others were entering the war.

Our proposed roundtable will explore the ways in which a variety of protagonists in different locations around the world engaged with questions of peace and war before and after 1914.  Sandi Cooper will set the stage by tracking peace advocacy across Europe before the war.  Ernest Ialongo will examine the case of Italy, where interventionists linked the war to the unfinished project of nation building and tried to draw a line separating opponents of war and expansion from supporters of the cause of the Italian people.  Sungshin Kim will compare the divergent responses of Chinese intellectuals and reformers to the implications of the war in Europe for the future of East Asia.  Highlighting the activism of a progressive woman teacher, Elaine P. Rocha will consider the feminist bid to raise the issue of women’s citizenship in the controversy over Brazil’s entry into the war.  Finally, Kurt Guldentops will use the example of a Flemish poet to show how the war divided Belgium not just by occupation but also by the exacerbation of differences among the Belgians.  We think this mix of perspectives and protagonists will yield some significant comparisons and connections.

The five brief presentations will be based on 5-6 page papers and take about 10-12 minutes each to read.  Our main goal is to stimulate a wide-ranging discussion, with the audience contributing their own ideas and insights.  We hope that everyone will leave with a sharper sense of the complexity of questions of peace and war, the discrepant perspectives on the spreading world war and the dilemmas and opportunities it posed for governments and movements around the choices of peace, war, neutrality, alliance, preparation, and intervention, and, in general, the high stakes of disagreement as the war’s fateful consequences became apparent on all sides.

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