Blood, Blunder and Valour: Canada and the world go to war

Allied soldiers manning an antiaircraft gun during World War I while in action near Frezenberg. (Photo by Mansell/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

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A century after war burst out across Europe, we're looking back at the origins of World War One and the legacies we still live with today.

The Night Cometh

Cometh the night. The wind falls low,

The trees swing slowly to and fro:

Around the church the headstones grey

Cluster, like children strayed away

But found again, and folded so.

No chiding look doth she bestow:

If she is glad, they cannot know;

If ill or well they spend their day,

Cometh the night.

Singing or sad, intent they go;

They do not see the shadows grow;

"There yet is time," they lightly say,

"Before our work aside we lay";

Their task is but half-done, and lo!

Cometh the night.

The Night Cometh by John McCrae

Despite what the calendar indicates, the 20th century started 100 years ago tomorrow with a quickly improvised assassination on a Sarajevo street.

Europe's giant militaries had jostled one another for decades, but diplomacy, sabre-rattling and occasional good sense kept them apart. However, the night began to fall after those shots in Sarajevo.

"It's important to remember, alliance systems work...until they don't. "

Historian Jennifer Jenkins

The trenches gave birth to many poets like John McCrae, who struggled to find meaning in the chaos. But even a century later, we still struggle with the war and its terrible and lasting consequences.

"This was one of those critical turning points, where Canada was never the same after."

Historian Tim Cook

To talk about the legacy of WWI, we were joined by a panel of three historians:

  • Thomas Otte is a Professor of History at the University of East Anglia. His book The July Crisis: The World's Descent into War is about to be released in Canada. We reached him in the village of Great Snoring, England.
  • Tim Cook is a historian with the Canadian War Museum. His books include At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916, and Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918.
  • Jennifer Jenkins is an Associate Professor of German and European History and a historian of German foreign policy at the University of Toronto. She holds a Canada Research Chair for Modern German History.

Do you have your own connection to the Great War?

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And here, you can find more WWI stories from CBC Radio.

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal.

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