Skip to Content

University Libraries - News, Events & Exhibits

"The World in 1914"

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
Aug 7, 2014 - Dec 12, 2014

Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Gallery

In the spring of 1914, the possibility of a global war centered on the European
continent was practically nonexistent. Each major European power had domestic issues
to contend with that were far more pressing.

Great Britain was on the verge of civil war. A growing insurrection of Protestants in
Northern Ireland rebelled against the government’s proposed adoption of Irish Home
Rule from Dublin. In London and other major English cities, numerous incidents of
direct action (or domestic terrorism) by militant suffragists had police and government
officials on edge. Activists entered the National Gallery and Royal Academy on multiple
occasions to slash paintings in protest against the treatment of their fellow suffragists in
prison. Later that spring, bombs were placed in Westminster Abbey, in railway stations,
piers, sports pavilions, and churches.

In France, Jean Juarès, the most prominent anti-war socialist in Europe, narrowly
missed being appointed foreign minister in July. Had this happened, later that summer
France may have delayed war by leading a group of nations to appease Germany,
preventing its invasion of Belgium and attack on France.

In North America, Mexico was in the midst of revolution. The United States
government had, at first, armed Mexican peasants coalescing under Pancho Villa, the
only time the United States actively supported a popular revolution in Latin America.
But in a headline from the summer of 1914, an American magazine bluntly asked, in
language that echoes contemporary foreign policy, “What Are We Doing in Mexico?”
This exhibition looks at these events, and more, in an attempt to understand the
world situation one hundred years ago. With advances in technology, the arts, and more
progressive social mores, the year 1914 is “modern” in many aspects, and can seem
quite similar to today. Yet the globe of 1914 was also dominated by a small number of
imperial powers whose empires had been built up over centuries, and irretrievably bound
by soon-to-be-obsolete nineteenth-century traditions. The exhibition also looks at the
mixed feelings of nationalistic excitement and global hesitation that arose out of the
declarations of war in August. It documents some of the first mobilizations and traces
the first months of the war, culminating with the “Christmas Truce” and the end-of year
realization in December 1914 that the troops would not be coming home anytime

For more information, contact Jeffrey Makala, 803-777-0296, or