Echoes of 1914: Does History Rhyme?

Date: 05 November 2014
Speaker: Prof. Loren W. Crabtree


As the centennial of the outbreak of World War I approached this year, numerous scholars and pundits drew ominous parallels between 1914 and 2014.  In contrast to the euphoria of the early 21st century, when it seemed that the rule of law had overcome perennial geopolitical conflict among nations and peoples, it appeared that the tensions that gave rise to the catastrophe of the "Great War" were once again driving international relations.  The similarities between 1914 and 2014 include the resurgence of feverish nationalism; disputes over seemingly insignificant places such as the Diaoyu (Senkaku) islands; ethnic and religious conflict within nations and regions; and an intensifying arms race, especially naval competition between the U.S. and China.  Underlying the emerging tension is the rivalry between rising and declining powers, particularly China and the U.S.

As in 1914, so in 2014, the world appears chaotic, with no governing authority or institutions that can contain the conflicts that might result in a general war. Although such an outcome seems unthinkable, an old-fashioned geopolitical struggle is already underway in which balance of power and alliances are critical. In this context, maintaining peace is uniquely the responsibility of China and the U.S.  What should these powers do to reduce tensions in East Asia and around the globe?  What responsibility do universities have in preventing a replay of the emergence of global conflict in1914?  Will history repeat itself?  Does history rhyme?

Speaker Bio

Prof. Loren W. Crabtree

Emeritus Chancellor and Distinguished Professor of History
University of Tennessee

Professor Loren W. Crabtree is Emeritus Chancellor and Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, and Emeritus Provost/Academic President at Colorado State University. He has also served as Interim President of the Institute for Shipboard Education, located at the University of Virginia. In 2014, he was the recipient of Colorado State University's Charles A.Lory Distinguished Public Service Award. His academic career began with his Ph.D. in History and Asian Studies from the University of Minnesota. His research has focused on U.S. relations with China, particularly in the 20th century, and includes approximately 100 publications on that topic. His administrative career is highlighted by initiatives in undergraduate education, internationalization, and interdisciplinary graduate programs. At the University of Tennessee he initiated a ten-year program designed to prepare students to be "Ready for the World." He is currently at work on a book dealing with the role Americans played in China during the tumultuous era 1919-1949.