28 August 2008

Slow Time

Apologies to those visiting here in the hope of finding some new content for the past two months. I've had all sorts of problems, worst of all the double mastectomy that my wife has suffered. Thankfully she is on the mend, and all the cancer was excised so will not require further cancer treatment. I've also been preparing to go to Canada, to begin an MA in History, with an intent on focusing on war memorials. I depart this weekend, I think. Owing to the illness, the family are to remain behind. So, though lonely, I ought to have plenty of stimulating ideas for this blog while I do research.

In the mean time, I've been doing a few days' work each week at History Today magazine. It's a great place to be, and I was very grateful to the staff here who have tolerated my unreasonable working hours during the illness. (Arriving late, leaving late.) Recently, I drew up a brief chronology for the last months of the First World War, and I noticed something that rarely gets a nod.

It takes a long time to achieve something like an armistice, or at least it did then. The German commanders, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff, decided to throw in their hand on 29 September 1918, yet the armistice did not occur until 11 November, forty-four days later. Furthermore, it took five days for the German government to act on their generals' request, in part because there was a change in chancellor during that time. Therefore, the request wasn't received by President Wilson until 4 October. He waited another four days before telling his colleagues David Lloyd George of Britain and Georges Clemenceau of France. (They knew already, though, having broken the German codes to Switzerland.)

Finally, no-one had actually prepared for this moment among the Allies, so they took more time drawing up some terms of the Armistice. The whole business is described in a 1997 book by Bullitt Lowry, Armistice 1918. Worth a look if you're interested in the processes of government.