I will admit that I am liable to overstate things in these History posts: calling the Hyksos the inventors of war, hypothesizing that Sweden was a Charles XII compromise away from becoming the secondary European power of the 18th century, and outright stating that November 9, 1989 was the best day of David Hasselhoff’s life.
Here’s another one for you: November 11, 1918—the date of ceasefire in World War I—was the best day of the 20th century.*
This requires a bit of anachronism. You see, on 11/11/18 (at 11:00 a.m.)* when the ceasefire (between the Allies and Germany; there were still some skirmishes over in the East) took effect, we didn’t know about the consequences down the line. We didn’t know that the vengeance demanded by David Lloyd George and Georges Clemanceau on Germany would leave their enemy ripe for an even greater stab at imperialist conquest. We didn’t know that the aims of by far our most idealistic president would be shot down in Congress because of his own unwillingness to compromise. We didn’t know that his intransigence would more or less kill him in office. We didn’t know that our internal unrest regarding this upheaval in Russia would survive another 73 years at least.
Above all, we didn’t know that “The Great War” would be a misnomer in 25 short years. We didn’t know that World War I would seem more like a historical prologue decades later, overwhelmed by the imposing shadow cast by a spectacular sequel that had more heroes, more villains, and more explosions.
We didn’t know any of this on Armistice Day—the day we could imagine that the worst was behind us and the best yet to come, a day we could naively celebrate about a victory with no thought of the next battle.
So more hyperbole: November 11, 1918 is perhaps the last day of global innocence. And it’s not even a real holiday anymore.