The 2020 Guernsey Literary Festival has been cancelled. Full story


Apr 30, 2019

We can learn from wars of the 20th century

Guernsey Literary Festival speaker and military historian Dr Matthias Strohn believes that we can all learn from the terrible world wars which afflicted the world during the 20th century. 

‘ Even though the cataclysmic events of the 20th century seem a clear thing of the past, they have influenced our current lives and this in itself makes them relevant and worthy of study,’ he says. ‘If nothing else, they teach us a lot about human suffering and also human behaviour -- the good and the bad.’

Dr Strohn, who is Head of Historical Analysis at the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research and a Reader in Modern War Studies at Buckingham University, gives what he calls a standard historian’s response to the question of whether the world is a more dangerous place now that it was 20 or 30 years ago.

‘It all depends,’ he says. ‘If we look at war and warfare, it is clear that war has become possible again and, indeed, in the last 20 years a number of conventional conflicts have been fought in which we, as the West, have been involved. Terrorism and insurgency are also growing threats. However, while these pose threats to individuals and some groups, the survival of the human race does, at present, not seem to be threatened as it used to during the Cold War.’

Armies will be different. ‘There is a clear drive towards autonomous weapon system that and, of course, the general technical developments in all areas are reflected in how armies organise and structure themselves.

‘Having said this, I do not believe that the human factor in war will be totally eradicated. This links to the understanding of the nature and the character of war as defined by the great philosopher of  war, Carl von Clausewitz. The forms of war and warfare change (the character), but the underlying reasons why we go to war in the first place and what influences these decisions and the way we intend to fight the war do not change (the nature)’ 

How did his interest in history begin?

‘My father is a hobby historian and when I was growing up I used to read all the history books in his library.’

Dr Strohn’s talk at the Guernsey Literary Festival will centre on his book 1918: Winning the War, Losing the War, whixch was chosen by the British Army as core reading for Operation Reflect, its contribution to the centenary commemoration of the First World War.

The talk is on Friday 3 May at 2.30 pm in the Festival Hub in Market Square. ‘It is my first time [in Guernsey] and I am very excited! I have heard so many good things about it and I really want to see it!’ 


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