In 2017, the centennial of our nation’s military entry into World War I provided the perfect opportunity to bring the war’s historical lessons to a wider American and Texan audience. Working in tandem with national and grassroots organizations such as the United States World War One Centennial Commission and Texas World War I Centennial Commemoration Association, the Texas Historical Commission was tasked by the governor with coordinating the state’s response to the centennial. This placed the agency in the unique position of being able to document fresh perspectives on the state’s role in the conflict and its memorialization.
In the United States, public memory of World War I remains weak, especially compared to other conflicts. A YouGov poll from 2014 revealed that while three quarters of Americans believed the history of World War I to be relevant today, only half could correctly name the year hostilities began and only a little more than a third knew when the United States entered the war. This lack of cultural memory is in stark contrast to the war’s historical significance: empires fell and new nations were born, instability brought about yet another world war and ongoing conflict in the Middle East, and accelerated social reforms saw traditional conventions rejected and minority violence increase.
The First World War is easily one of the most transformative and important events of world history. A Centennial Perspective on Texas in the Great War provides a record of the memorialization of World War I in Texas in 2017 as well as offering critical background on the importance of the conflict in the United States and Texas today.
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Published by Texas A&M University Press