Guns roared in August 1914 as 60 million soldiers across the European continent clashed in a conflagration that over the next four years would draw in another 10 million men and women, including 4.7 million Americans.
When firing ceased on Nov. 11, 1918, empires had fallen, kings were deposed, and maps were re-drawn. Nearly 10 million soldiers, including 116,700 Americans, and 7 million civilians were dead, according to historical records.
To commemorate the centenary of one of the largest military conflicts to engulf the world, Franklin & Marshall College this academic year offers a series of events, from lectures and reading groups to exhibits and music, reflecting on World War I and its aftermath.
"The programs will have multiple perspectives of the war," said Jennifer Redmann, associate professor of German and chair of German and Russian Studies and member of the College's World War I Steering Committee. "Nearly every part of the globe was affected by the war. Without question, the First World War set the course of the 20th century."
Harsh penalties imposed on Germany by World War I's victors, and formation of a weak international body in which to settle disputes, the League of Nations, helped sow the seeds of World War II, a conflict that cost an estimated 80 million lives, almost five times the so-called Great War that preceded it.
"The First World War shaped the motivations and thus set the stage for the Second World War," Redmann said.
Franklin & Marshall's centenary events begin in August, with first-year students reading and discussing short stories of World War I in their College Houses. This semester, faculty members are offering six courses centering on the war's effect on cultures and society, and its influences on literature, art and architecture.
Two exhibits open in early September at the Phillips Museum of Art: "Beyond Rosie the Riveter: Women and Work in World War I," a series of posters from the era depicting women's roles in the economy and the war effort (one section is focused on Pennsylvania women), and "Building Memory: Architecture and the Great War."
"Beyond Rosie," is the creation of Misty Bastian, the Lewis Audenreid Professor of History and Archaeology and professor of anthropology who also has related exhibits of photographs, postcards and books in display cases on the first floor of F&M's Shadek-Fackenthal Library. Two Hackman Scholars, Raechel Richardson and Brandon Cunningham, helped her research and set up the exhibits.
The "Architecture and the Great War" exhibit, curated by Assistant Professor of Art History Kostis Kourelis, features architects who fought and then returned to Europe after the war to help in the reconstruction of heavily shelled buildings and churches, some hundreds of years old.
"They were called to build memorials or to help restore destroyed towns in France and Belgium," said Kourelis, an architectural historian.
Also starting in September and continuing through the fall, the International Studies Program sponsors a monthly reading in the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House of the work of Vera Brittain, a British writer who lost her brother and fiancé in the war and whose 1933 memoir, "Testament of Youth," tells of her war experiences and subsequent embrace of pacifism.
A film series throughout the fall will present features produced in some of the major combatant nations after the war, including the 1930 German war film "Westfront 1918," the 1937 French war film "La Grande Illusion" and the 1941 American biographic "Sergeant York."
At 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 15, in the Holmberg-Eichmann Dance Studio (R-112) of the Roschel Performing Arts Center, Lori Belilove, artistic director of the Isadora Duncan Dance Company, will lecture on the life and work of Isadora Duncan in connection with World War I.
On Oct. 30, in the first of two World War I-themed Common Hours, Jay Winter, Yale University's Charles J. Stille Professor of History, will talk about the war's transnational perspective. Then, on Nov. 6, to commemorate Veterans Day (Nov. 11), F&M will offer a multimedia presentation in remembrance of the war.
Alumnus Scott Salmon '12, whose honors thesis examined the role of F&M and other colleges in the war, will make a presentation, F&M's Orchestra will perform a movement from Gustav Holst's "The Planets," and community members will read poetry.
At the Roschel Performing Arts Center from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, Associate Professor of Theatre Carol Davis will direct Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which she has set during World War I. On Dec. 4-6, the Franklin & Marshall Dance Company will perform Isadora Duncan's "Tchaikovsky Marche Heroique," a response to the cataclysmic events of the war.
Finally, on March 27-28, 2015, the College will lead a Central Pennsylvania Consortium Joint Symposium, "Legacies of the Great War: Remembering World War I after 100 Years." The event will feature several notable lecturers, including Jenny Waldman, creative producer for the 2012 London Olympics cultural festival and official director of Britain's commemorative program for World War I.
The symposium's other participants are Susan Grayzel, professor of history and director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi, Marsha Rozenblit, professor of modern Jewish history, and Chad Williams, professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University.