The Degeneration of War, 1914-24

This seminar examines the civilianization of war in the period 1914-24.  I argue that in that period the practice of war changed in such a way as to erode and then erase the boundaries between combatant and non-combatant populations in wartime.  There were atrocities against civilians in the 1914-18 period.  But in part because of the Russian Revolution and the counter-revolutionary tide which opposed it,  the floodgates of collective violence opened in such a way to constitute a new kind of warfare, marked by the hatred and cruelty of the wars of religion in an age of industrialized warfare.  This mutation in warfare and the ideological justifications behind it on left and right ensured that  its depredations would be more widespread and more long-lasting than those of previous conflicts.  This wave of collective violence in 1914-24 set the stage for worse to come. It is for this reason that I characterize these developments in the history of armed conflict as a radical degeneration of war.   

Jay Winter is the Charles J. Stille Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University.  He is a specialist on World War I and its impact on the 20th century.  Previously, Winter taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Warwick, the University of Cambridge, and Columbia University.  In 2001, he joined the faculty of Yale.  Winter is the author or co-author of 25 books, including Socialism and the Challenge of War; Ideas and Politics in Britain, 1912-18Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural HistoryThe Great War and the Shaping of the 20th CenturyRene Cassin and the rights of man, and most recently, War beyond words: Languages of remembrance from the Great War to the present.  In addition he has edited or co-edited 30 books and contributed 130 book chapters to edited volumes.  Winter was also co-producer, co-writer, and chief historian for the PBS/BBC seriesThe Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, which won an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award and a Producers Guild of America Award for best television documentary in 1997.  He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Graz, the University of Leuven, and the University of Paris.

Date & time

Tue 08 Oct 2019, 4.30–5.45pm


Humanities Research Centre, Sir Roland Wilson Building


Professor Jay Winter (Yale University)

Event series


Penny Brew
+61 2 6125 4357


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