Texas Tech University

Jay Winter

Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University 

"The Second Great War, 1917-1923"

In this talk, Dr. Jay Winter will present a bifurcated interpretation of the history of the Great War, dividing it into two parts: the first lasting from 1914 to 1917, the second from 1918 to 1923. In this way, Dr. Winter will outline two major changes in historiography which have occurred in recent years, this first being a shift of the geographical epicenter of the war from Paris to Warsaw, and the second being a shift in the chronology of the war, one which recognizes its failure to end in 1918.

Dr. Winter's interpretation will suggest that there was a crisis in 1917 which separates the first three years of the conflict from the years that followed, and was largely the result of powerful economic and demographic pressures which destabilized all the combatants, though the Central powers more than the Allies. This crisis abated somewhat in the west in 1918 but continued in the east in an exacerbated form for the following five years. Hatred, hunger, and class conflict were radicalizing elements in the disorder of the post-Imperial world, set adrift by the collapse of the Romanoff, Hohenzollern, Habsburg, and Ottoman empires. Post-imperial violence was endemic in these regions, merging civil war, ethnic conflicts, and national conflicts which played out in what we might well call the Second Great War. Dr. Winter's claim is that the passage from wartime crisis to post-imperial violence was seamless, and part of one complex but distinctive phase of European history, starting in 1918 and terminating more or less in 1923.