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Introduction and exploration of historical artefacts

Professor Jay Winter explores historical artefacts related to the topic of War Wounds: An Officer’s sword and pieces of artillery.
REBECCA WHEATLEY: Welcome back to The 100 Stories. Today’s guest is Jay Winter, the Charles J. Stille Professor of History at Yale University and a visiting Professor here at Monash. Jay is one of the most eminent historians of the Great War. He has authored and co-authored more than a dozen books, including the landmark publication “Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning” and “Remembering War.” Jay is the general editor of the “Cambridge History of the First World War,” a multi-volume collection and a truly transnational project, so transnational that it was launched in Paris, London, and here in Melbourne, too.
LAURA JAMES: Aside from his publications, Jay is one of the founders of the Historial de la Grande Guerre, the international Museum of the Great War in Peronne. And he’s received an Emmy award for his part in the making of the documentary “The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century.” Jay is also an adviser to an Australian project Interpreting the Great War on the Somme and working with the International Collaboration of Scholars exploring the meaning and significance of Anzac Day.
REBECCA WHEATLEY: Jay, perhaps we could begin by asking you to comment on some of the artefacts we have in front of us today. We’ve got a very intricate, detailed officer’s sword and some shards of shrapnel. And perhaps you could tell us how these embody the move from the wars of the 19th century to a very new, different type of conflict.
JAY WINTER: Well, these objects are fascinating examples of the industrialisation of violence. A sword like this one, a cavalryman’s sword, could have been found in medieval, late medieval Japan. It signified a social position as much as military action. And it fundamentally said that war is horse-drawn. And that metal is the metal of a cavalryman waiting for the moment when the opening in the enemy line appears and he can charge through to victory, battle, therefore, being something with a relatively short period between the beginning and the middle and the end. And then we just turn to the right a little bit and see those objects. These are industrialised warfare in the 20th century.
They are pieces of shrapnel from artillery shells that dominated war and thereby made it almost impossible for any cavalry officer to draw his sword or to use the whistle to tell his men to go through the lines, because artillery made breakthrough impossible. The other fascinating thing about these remains of artillery shrapnel is that they were the decisive weapons of war in 1914-18 80% of the men who died in the First World War died from wounds inflicted by artillery. The cavalryman’s war was over. It was a horse-drawn war for other purposes, namely dragging up the guns that fired the shells that produced this kind of explosive metal that could tear a man’s face off in a split second.
So what you have here is the 19th century on the left, the 20th century on the right. And 1914-18 drives right through the middle.
LAURA JAMES: It’s a huge change.

Watch Rebecca Wheatley and Laura James introduce Professor Jay Winter and ask him to explore historical artefacts related to the topic of War Wounds: An Officer’s sword and pieces of artillery.

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World War 1: A History in 100 Stories

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