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For the Media: UC Experts on World War I

UC World War I experts share their perspectives on the Great War.

Date: 6/9/2014 9:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823

UC ingot   Martin Francis, Henry R. Winkler Professor of Modern History – Francis is an expert in the history of the relationship between gender (especially masculinity), emotion and modern warfare in the 20th century.

His primary interest is in Britain during World War II. He also teaches a number of courses on World War I, and emphasizes the critical long-term global consequences of the Great War. “The apparent descent of Europe into an orgy of violent self-destruction shattered forever the conceit of cultural and racial superiority that Europe had adopted towards the non-white peoples of the world, and which had provided legitimation for their overseas empires,” says Francis. “The advanced technology that Europeans had used as justification for their rule over Africa and Asia could no longer be universally celebrated, now that it had (in the form of the tank, the air bomber, poison gas or the submarine) helped Europe sink to an unprecedented level of savage barbarism and depravity.  If it took another half century for the implications of this shift to become fully apparent, as early as 1918, men such as Mohandas Gandhi in India and W.E.B. DuBois in the U.S. appreciated that the First World War had been a massive blow to an old imperial-racial order, which would subsequently be living on borrowed time.”

More background on Martin Francis

Elizabeth Frierson, associate professor of history – Frierson is the faculty director of the NEH-funded World War I summer institute at UC, “WWI and the Arts: Sound, Vision, Psyche.” She has published several articles on late-Ottoman politics and society. She has lived in the Middle East and is a published researcher on the history of politics, censorship, women and cities in the Middle East. Frierson has been an invited speaker and workshop participant around the world on topics regarding events in that region. “World War I led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and as a result, the Middle East was laid open to be ruled by Westerners. The war brought down three great, land-based empires: Austro-Hungarian, the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire – all were broken by this war. In terms of U.S. involvement, what is also remarkable is the numbers in which African-American soldiers volunteered to serve in this war. In Cincinnati, pro-German rallies were being held in parts of the city until 1917. As the U.S. entered the war against Germany and its allies, it broke the German community here, because of anti-German sentiment. Physical violence was extreme, and a lot of the old Gothic writing and other German signs in Cincinnati were boarded over and wiped out.” In addition to serving as faculty director for the 2014 NEH Summer Institute on World War I and the Arts: Sound, Vision, Psyche, Frierson is completing a book on refugee management during the war, focusing on civilian dislocations, famine, disease and humanitarian relief.

More background on Elizabeth Frierson

Jay Johannigman, MD, director of the UC Division of Trauma and Critical Care and UC Health trauma surgeon – Johannigman is an expert in military medicine and a colonel in the United States Air Force (USAF) Reserve. He is also a USAF flight surgeon, and has been deployed on six separate tours to southern Iraq and Afghanistan. He says there were four key differences in military medicine between the start of World War I and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan: the medical understanding of shock after traumatic injury, the technology for blood transfusion, the use of the tourniquet and the process of evacuating injured troops from the battlefield. During WWI, Johannigman says clearing the battlefield was “painfully slow—unmercifully slow,” sometimes taking 12 hours for injured men just to be moved out of the trenches. Notably, he said the use of the tourniquet, widespread during the WWI, was largely abandoned until recently. “In 2003, we identified hemorrhagic exsanguination from the extremities as the number one leading cause of preventable deaths in our war fighters—but we had lost the tourniquet. It had been abandoned, largely regulated to military warehouse and condemned by the civilian world. We simply didn’t recognize what our predecessors had the wisdom to understand.” He adds, “An unfortunate but true observation is that the prosecution of war creates a very intense exposure of those in medicine to the practice of caring for wounded soldiers. Many advances in the care for the injured can be traced to the battlefield. The challenge for those of us in medicine lies in remembering the lessons learned by those who came before us.”


Ethan Katz, assistant professor of history — Katz is a historian of modern Europe and the modern Jewish experience. His specialties lie in the lived history of citizenship, nationhood and identity in France and French colonial North Africa, the history of relations between Jews and Muslims and the Jewish encounter with various facets of modernity (especially secularism and colonialism). He teaches courses in modern French, European, Mediterranean and Jewish history that deal in various ways with the First World War and its enormous consequences. “A professor of mine used to say that ‘the First World War is the original sin of the 20th century, from which all other evils derive.’ While that may be a slight exaggeration, it’s not off by much. Through its horrific and unprecedented violence and politically destabilizing impact, the First World War produced the precise conditions for the emergence of two fundamentally violent and totalitarian ideologies — fascism and Bolshevism — that did much to define the European and global struggles of the 20th century. The war brought an end to three great empires that had lasted for centuries — the Habsburg (Austrian), the Ottoman and the Russian.  Their collapse enabled the Allied powers to redraw the borders of much of Europe and the Middle East, but in a fundamentally self-interested and unstable way that has continued to haunt the world to the present. The war’s brutality, furthermore, undermined dramatically the claims of European civilizational superiority that had bolstered so much of colonial ideology and rhetoric. Finally, the participation of hundreds of thousands of colonial subjects in World War I within the Allied armies entailed a political education, and threw up the tension between these subjects' lack of rights and their duties to military service. In the years following the war, these developments together gave birth to the anti-colonial movements that would eventually overthrow the global empires of Britain and France in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s." 


More background on Ethan Katz

Willard Sunderland, associate professor and head of the UC Department of History – Sunderland’s research interests are in the history of the Russian Empire in the modern period. He has lived and traveled extensively in the Russian Federation and the other states of the former Soviet Union. His latest book, “The Baron’s Cloak: A History of the Russian Empire in War and Revolution,” was recently published with Cornell University Press. The book tells the story of Russia’s engagement in World War I through the life of a tsarist army officer who fought on all the Russian fronts of the conflict. Following the war this way, Sunderland gives readers a vivid view of the complexities and horrors of the eastern front, the other side of the war that most American readers know little about and that was both similar to and strikingly different from the war where US doughboys fought in Western Europe. See the book on


More background on Willard Sunderland

UC Joins Citywide Events Observing the 100th Anniversary of World War I