Putting the World Back Into World War I

Indian_bicycle_troops_Somme_1916_IWM_Q_3983

History is never as straightforward as we might like it to be. Take something as straightforward as the dates of the First World War: 1914-1918. We all know that. Except that the peace treaties that officially ended the war were signed in 1919. And labourers continued to die while doing battlefield clearance until 1920.

And where was the war? We often speak as if it were fought exclusively in Belgium and France, but the first shot of the war may well have been fired in Togo (or Togoland as it was then). What’s more, there were battles across the globe from Qingdao to Gallipoli, as can be seen in this map.

battles

Burial sites are particularly useful in helping us rebalance our accounts of the war. There were 51,442 burials in Iraq, 18,841 in India, 14,851 in Egypt, 3,001 in Australia, 2,467 in Nigeria, 1,936 in Malta, and 1,118 in China.

And 1 in Togo.

History is never as straightforward as we take it to be.