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The Great War (#AtoZChallenge 2021) Theme Reveal

Isn’t it a lucky coincidence that one of the pivotal yearly events on my blog (the AtoZ Challenge Theme Reveal) falls this year on my 7th blogversary?
I hardly believe it, but it’s been seven years since I started my blog. Seven years since that March 8 2014, when I finally talked myself into creating my own blog, no matter how crazy that idea sounded to me. 
I’ve come a long way, I can see it, and nobody is more surprised than myself!
The AtoZ Challnge has become a tradition of this blog. In April, the challenge takes over, a theme is chosen, and every day is dedicated to that theme. 

AtoZ Challenge 2021- Theme Reveal Day - 8 March

If you are unfamiliar with it, the AtoZ Challenge is a blogging challenge created by Arlee Bird in 2009, when he challenged bloggers worldwide to post every day except Sundays throughout April, following the alphabet’s letters. So, on April 1, a post devoted to a subject starting with A would go up. On April 2, it’s the turn of a post dedicated to a topic starting with B. And so on. 
In the beginning, that was it, but soon bloggers started to choose a theme that linked all their posts. Today most bloggers taking part in the challenge choose a theme that will inspire all of their posts. 
So, after a few years, a tradition started to announce one’s theme on a specific day. 

That’s what we are doing today. 

We are announcing that we are taking part in the AtoZ Challenge and what theme will inspire us through the month. 

Go here to see a complete list of the Theme Reveals. 

I have chosen a theme ever since the first time I took part in the challenge. 

Here are my themes from past years:

2015 – The Roaring Twenties
2016 – Jazz Age Jazz (1920s Jazz as a Social Phenomenon)
2017 – Film Noir
2018 – Weimar Germany
2019 – Berliner Cabaret
2020 – Living the Twenties (1920s Global Change)

And here’s my theme for 2021. It’s a subject I’ve contemplated covering for the past couple of years and always set aside, feeling I wasn’t ready to write about it. But this year, the time has come!

The Great War was a social upheaval that changed life as people in Europe and worldwide had known it for a century. That's where the 1900s start.

The Great War

Honestly, I never imagined becoming fascinated with war. 

I love history. This doesn’t mean that I love learning the pivotal events and their dates. What I love about history is its social side. How people lived and what they thought and felt. The way they behaved and why. The manners in which people from the past are unlike us, and especially why and how they are like us. 
I never thought this would apply with a war, which I saw mostly as a sequence of dates and events. Quite naively, I thought there must be very little to say about the social side of a war. 

When I wrote my Film Noir challenge, though, I had a first taste that war is actually a very social-relevant event. Many of that challenge’s entries were about how people reacted to the war (WWII in that case) and the change it brought about. 
Then, in 2018, after researching the American Roaring 1920s for some seven years, I moved my interest to Europe and fell in love with the history of the Weimar Republic
Now, it is perfectly possible to research the American Roaring Twenties and keep WWI out of it. Sure, the Great War did influence a few aspects of American life (for example, it had a bearing on the passing of the Prohibition laws), but it was something on the margins of all the change happening on that continent. The dramatic social changes that wash over American society in the 1920s mostly came from a different direction.
But when I came to 1920s Europe – man, it was impossible to ignore the Great War. I soon realised there was no way to research and understand 1920s European society without first understanding the Great War because everything was permeated with it. Every change, every aspect of life, every feeling and every thought in the inter-war years (a term I had never come across while researching 1920s America) where closely bonded to the Great War. 
So I finally cave in and acknowledge I should at least have a look at the major aspects of the war. 

I never expected to fall in love with it. 

But the fact, as I research it, I discovered the Great War was, above all, a social event. Far from being just dates of battles and movements of armies, it was an event that caused social earthquakes across Europe (and beyond) and changes that still influence our lives today. 

The more I dived into it, the more I understood the importance of this five-years event in the history and life of people across the globe, and especially of my continent, Europe. 

Keep in touch with The Old Shelter - A blog dedicated to 1920s social history

The Great War as a Social Event

AtoZ Challenge 2021 - Badge

It was called The Great War because no war had ever been so totally involving on a global scale. It could have been a local war. Everyone expected it to be. A war to settle local (although on a European scale) matters that would be over in a few months. 

It was not destined to be. 

The war gradually engulfed nations from inside and outside Europe and resources from all sectors of a nation’s society and economy. In terms of production and manpower involved, the war effort soon escalated to the point of changing everything that had been normal before. As the battlefields situation staled, all nations put more energy into producing the new armament. They thought this would positively turn the war for them – but eventually, it only transformed the conflict in the first ‘industrial war’. The Great War was the first where death and wounds and destruction happened not on a human but on an industrial level. People became just cogs in the wheels of a conflict that dehumanised everyone involved. 

Statistics differ, but they are always on a scale of millions of people affected by the war. 
Some of these statistics tell of 16 nations directly involved that mobilised 65 million soldiers. Of these, 8.5 million were killed, another 21,2 million were wounded, and 7,75 were captured or missing. To this, about 6 million civilian casualties have to be added.

It was a massive slaughter. No wonder the generation who fought it thought that must be the war that would put an end to all wars. Who would ever want to see another thing like that? 

The Great War (#AtoZChallenge 2021) Theme RevealThe Great War was a social upheaval that changed life as people in Europe and worldwide had known it for a century. That's where the 1900s start #WWI #history Share on X

The war started in July 1914 and ended in November 1918. During this period, it caused changes that affected the conflict but also spilt into peacetime life once the war was over. Social changes that the long peace of the 19th century had kept at bay suddenly took over. Men and women’s social roles were forever changed, no matter how hard all societies tried to bring it back to before the war. The changes produced by the industrial revolution – both positive and negative – that the Victorian society had kept under control were established after the war.

The Lost Generation, who had come of age in the years of the war and had been educated for a Victorian life, found themselves to face a world they knew nothing about and they barely recognised. 

Everything had to be rethought and reconstructed. People had to figure out what the future would look like, and very few had any idea. In the inter-war years, the young generation experimented wildly the unnumbered possibilities the war had opened up while trying to come to terms with the disillusionment brought about by the horrible, inexpressible experience of war. 

Some historians think that such epochal earthquake only found its closure with WWII.
They consider WWI and WWII as one 30-years long war that started in 1914 and ended in 1946. A long civil war that whipped away the 19th century and everything associated with it. 

When the war was over in 1946, the world had an entirely new face that no Victorian person would have recognised. 


A – Anti-Semitism
B – Battlefield Medicine
C – Civil War
D – Desertion
E – Environment
F – Field Nurses
G – Gas
H – Homoeroticism
I – Influenza
J – Journalism
K – Kaiser
L – Lost Generation
M – Masks
N – Neutrality
O – Occultism
P – Psychology
Q – Quest
R – Radio
S – Shell Shock
T – Trenches
U – Unexpected
V – Veterans
W – Women
X – X Hour
Y – Youth
Z – Zone

Living the Twenties by Sarah Zama - A short introduction to the 1920s, and its relation to the 2020s. Alphabetically arranged.


  • Iain Kelly
    Posted March 8, 2021 at 10:23

    Good to be back on the A-Z Challenge, and always look forward to reading your posts. Great theme this year, looking forward to it 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted March 8, 2021 at 22:50

      Nice to see you back, Iain!
      I can’t wait to read about you rtrilogy! It sounds a great story 🙂

  • Edward Hall
    Posted March 8, 2021 at 11:51

    Can’t wait to see your posts, love reading about history… and hoping there is one special post dedicated to the film propaganda during the period

    • Post Author
      Posted March 8, 2021 at 22:53

      LOL! I bet you can tell me a lot more than I could ever discover about propaganda films. One day, I might want to ask you 😉
      I totally love your theme centre around early films. I can’t wait to read it!

  • J Lenni Dorner
    Posted March 8, 2021 at 23:22

    This should be really interesting! I like that you didn’t just call it “World War I” like so many people (and books) do. I’m excited to see your posts.

    I’m getting ready for the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. And hoping to honor the wonderful women in my life on March 8 for International Women’s Day.

    J Lenni Dorner~ Co-host of the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference& Speculative Fiction Author

    • Post Author
      Posted March 8, 2021 at 23:30

      The more I learn about it, the more it feels like a Great War to me.
      Have you choosen the them for you challenge yet?

      • J Lenni Dorner
        Posted March 14, 2021 at 04:15

        My survey is still active. There’s a tie right now.

    • Anthony Littlefield
      Posted June 5, 2021 at 17:55

      What I find most interesting about WW1 was the introduction of new weapons that are still with us today. In particular, military aircraft. Legends of the day have become the “gold standard” of military tactics.

  • Kristin
    Posted March 8, 2021 at 23:24

    Looking forward to your posts! I spent all day trying to get here but I kept getting message that I couldn’t, until I responded to your comment on my blog. Such a well written intro!

    • Post Author
      Posted March 8, 2021 at 23:29

      Thanks for letting me know about the problem, Kristin. I have been having problem accessing my email. Mhm. Need to contact my provider tomorrow.
      Can’t wait to read your challenge. Your theme surprised me 🙂

  • Birgit
    Posted March 9, 2021 at 05:37

    Love to read your A to Z about the Great War. I bet you will mention that huge flu pandemic that started in the States at Barracks…I think in Kansas but could be wrong. Have you see the documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old?” I think you would like it.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 9, 2021 at 20:31

      Hi Birgit! So happy to see you here!
      Well, came along and youll see

  • Anne Young
    Posted March 10, 2021 at 23:08

    I am pleased to see I can read the whole post and comment 🙂 Look forward to following along

    • Post Author
      Posted March 10, 2021 at 23:09

      Ah! Thanks, Anne! It seems that every time I’m getting ready for the AtoZ, something technical with my blog goes wrong. LOL!

  • Carmel
    Posted March 11, 2021 at 00:11

    I look forward to reading your posts. Great introduction!

    • Post Author
      Posted March 12, 2021 at 21:13

      Thanks Carmel. I hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂

  • Allison Renner
    Posted March 11, 2021 at 15:20

    What a great theme! I love the ’20s, so I’m looking forward to this and reading backposts on your blog.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 12, 2021 at 21:18

      Be my guest! I hope you’ll find something interesting for you.
      Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

  • Keith's Ramblings
    Posted March 12, 2021 at 13:05

    Great to see you again, and well done on coming up with such a brilliant theme!

    • Post Author
      Posted March 12, 2021 at 21:19

      Thanks Keith 🙂
      Meeting AtoZers again from one year to the other is one of the things I love about this stallenge.

  • Stuart Nager
    Posted March 12, 2021 at 21:36

    This sounds way interesting. I agree with you about war, but so much went on during WW1, and the aftermath,

    I will be reading along

    • Post Author
      Posted March 13, 2021 at 18:10

      It’s such a complex, and kind of mysterious historical period. Since I became interested, it has surprised me that we don’t study it more. So much of what we are today started with the Great War.

  • Anne
    Posted March 12, 2021 at 21:43

    Never thought about war that way before. Sounds fascinating.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 13, 2021 at 18:11

      Yes, it was a discovery for me too. War is so much more tha just fight on the battlefgields.

  • Writing Sparkle
    Posted March 12, 2021 at 22:17

    I enjoyed reading your A to Z challenge history. You have tackled some great themes over the years and it sounds like this one will great as well.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 13, 2021 at 18:11

      I hope I’ll be able to do it justice. It’s such a learning curve.

  • Sascha Darlington
    Posted March 12, 2021 at 22:40

    Wow. This will be a fascinating topic. I’ve studied WWII but never WWI. What I know about it could fill a thimble. I can’t wait to read your posts!

    • Post Author
      Posted March 13, 2021 at 18:13

      Me too. We know WWII sometimes first hand from our granparents, but WWI is so far in the past. And still, it is such a momentous time in history.

  • Martha
    Posted March 12, 2021 at 22:56

    Fantastic theme! See you in April.

  • Frédérique
    Posted March 13, 2021 at 11:27

    Great theme! Looking forward to your posts!

  • Meena Chatty
    Posted March 13, 2021 at 14:16

    What a great theme to write about. It has been ages since I studied WWII in school. Looking forward to reading your posts this month.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 13, 2021 at 18:15

      Before I started researching WWI on my own, I knew next to nothing about it. Teachers always glissed over the Great War to get to WWII faster. But these are both extremely important events that we shoudl know a lot better than we normally do, I feel.

  • Writing Sparkle
    Posted March 13, 2021 at 16:03

    Your have had some great themes over the years and it looks like this years will be great too! Lots of luck; can’t wait to read your letter A post.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 13, 2021 at 18:16

      Thanks. I’ve meant to write about WWI for a few years now. I still have so much to learn, but let’s see. I hope I’ll do it justice.

  • Gina
    Posted March 14, 2021 at 03:34

    looking forward to your post!!!! very exciting

  • raesquiggles
    Posted March 14, 2021 at 18:57

    I’m looking forward to this theme. I’m researching medicine in WWI for a novel I want to write. Good luck!

    • Post Author
      Posted March 14, 2021 at 19:08

      Don’t you find WWI and medicine so very interesting? It’s such an ‘unexpected’ subject and yet so very poignant.

      Wha twill you book be about? I’m so curious!

      • raesquiggles
        Posted March 15, 2021 at 10:44

        It’s about an army nurse who treats a young soldier using ideas developed by Alexander Fleming, who worked in a hospital in France. She gets in trouble with the army. So it’s also about the role of women at the Front. The theme is basically how wars benefits breakthroughs in medicine. So far it’s a plan. I’ve lots of research to do. I think I’ll finish it in about 10 years!

        • Post Author
          Posted March 16, 2021 at 22:53

          It’s sounds so interesting! There are two of my favourite subjects about the war: the role of women and the advancement in medicine 🙂

  • Brett Minor
    Posted March 15, 2021 at 12:39

    Wow! Big topic. I will be back to check them out. I know almost nothing about the time period. I am only coming to appreciate the importance of history as I get older.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 18, 2021 at 09:19

      The Great War is indeed a very interesting and still little known historical event, which surprises me, because it is so relevant to us. I’m happy I’m finally coming to it.

  • Anne E.G. Nydam
    Posted March 15, 2021 at 16:14

    Wow, should be interesting — and intense!
    Black and White: Theme Reveal

    • Post Author
      Posted March 18, 2021 at 09:20

      It is intense. More than I expected. I’m writing the entries these das and some are so hard to write about. But this is teaching me so much, not only in terms of history, but also of humanity.

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted March 15, 2021 at 17:22

    What a great theme! Too many people know next to nothing about World War I, and it’s such an overlooked setting for historical books and films these days. Have you ever read Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? It’s one of the greatest books about those years, and the 1921 film based on it is incredible.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 18, 2021 at 09:22

      It is a very overlooked periode and I dont’ understand why. Even during the centennial there weren’t as many celebration and remembrances as I expected. And yet, the more I learn about it, the better I understand how relevat it is to us.

      I didn’t know it exist a book of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse! Now I want to read it!
      And then, I’ll watch the film 🙂

  • Lisa
    Posted March 16, 2021 at 04:02

    I look forward to your posts. I’m a historical fiction writer.

  • Dara McGivern
    Posted March 16, 2021 at 10:22

    Looking forward to following along Sarah, I love social history. (There must have been a glitch at the weekend when I tried to access your post – all working fine now).

    • Post Author
      Posted March 18, 2021 at 09:38

      Happy to have you here, Dara 🙂
      Yes, there was a problem with my blog last week, but fortunatly now all is good.
      How is it that never have problems with the blog but when the challenge is coming up? LOL!

  • Srivalli Rekha
    Posted March 18, 2021 at 12:54

    Kudos for choosing such an intense and vast theme. I’ll be learning quite a lot from your posts.

    P.S: There seems to be an issue with the link you dropped in the comments. I had to edit it, open the website, and then find the post. Must be some technical glitch.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 21, 2021 at 19:20

      Thanks for letting me know, Srivalli. I’ll look into it.

      WWI is indeed and intense theme. More than I thought. I’m realising it now that I’m drafting my entries.

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  • Yamini MacLean
    Posted March 21, 2021 at 19:45

    Hari Om
    Dear ‘JazzFeathers”, thank you so much for finding your way to my wee bloggy and linking yours… having combed the list of contributors of the AZ challenge I thought I had picked out all that would be worth my while following – I was mistaken!!! Yours is definitely now on my list. I have a particular interest in that part of history also so am keen to read your take on it. Here’s to April!!! YAM xx

    • Post Author
      Posted March 24, 2021 at 23:19

      Hi Yamini! So happy we’ve found each other 🙂
      Hope I’ll make this theme ineresting for you.
      Can’t wait for the challenge to start – not long, now!

  • Shari Elder
    Posted March 21, 2021 at 21:08

    Great topic. I love how you build on your expertise each year. Looking forward to seeing you on the A to Z Challenge.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 24, 2021 at 23:20

      Thanks Shari. I can’t wait to read your challenge, too 🙂

  • Alex
    Posted March 23, 2021 at 00:50

    This will be a very fruitful meme indeed. All the best with the challenge. I will be blogging about family history societies here

  • Susanna J. Sturgis
    Posted March 26, 2021 at 16:32

    Following! This sounds great. I know a lot about how WWI played out in the Middle East (and laid the groundwork for all the turmoil of the following century), a little about the events leading up to and following the Russian Revolution, but not much about what was happening in Europe.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 28, 2021 at 15:29

      Hi Susanna! Happy to see you here 🙂
      How is it that you know about WWI in the Middle East? I’m curious!

  • Andrew Wilson
    Posted March 28, 2021 at 09:39

    Thanks for visiting my blog – its good to see old friends from last year!
    I look forward to reading your blog – I have thought a lot about both world wars in terms of social revolutions. My grandfather wanted to go to America with his older brother before WW1 but being under 16 – his parents (dismayed at losing one bread-winner let alone two) forbade it. The brother told him, when war broke out, to lie about his age and that he would send money for his passage for when he was old enough to decide – which he did, but the family spent the money (they weren’t a nice family) and my grandfather, having survived the entire war, could not leave afterwards. He wanted, then, to be a schoolteacher but that profession was reserved for women since so many male breadwinners had died and women had to step up and support their families. So my grandfather was bitter and twisted at having to return to the world of his (farm based) childhood and be a game-keeper. The brother in America married a Southern belle and became a lecturer at a veterinary college and his descendants prospered…
    I wrote about the WW2 follow up last year
    I think that the social changes were in two stages pushed forward by the two wars. My mother’s family (of six siblings) had mixed fortunes – two stayed in an agricultural background, one emigrated to Australia and married into a grocery store family, and two married a school and university teacher respectively making it into the middle class…

    • Post Author
      Posted March 28, 2021 at 15:31

      Happy to see you again, Andrew 🙂
      And thanks so much for sharing this. I’m finding fascinating how peopel still rememebr episodes from the Great War, thanks fo family memory. I’ve written about the 1920s for seven years and I’ve never receved so many personal memories.

  • Gunilla
    Posted March 28, 2021 at 13:01

    What a fascinating theme, I really look forward to be following your posts! One would think that the more we know about and experience from wars, the less they should arise, but it seems (sadly) to be true that wars will always be present, in one form/place or another.

    • Post Author
      Posted March 28, 2021 at 15:32

      So very true, Gunilla.
      The Great War was thought to be the war that would end all wars, and reserching it, I can understand why. it was more terrible than we normally think.
      And still, war is all but ended in our time.

  • Jeanne Bryan Insalaco
    Posted March 31, 2021 at 22:07

    Looking forward to reading your A to Z. In doing family history I find reading about the war interesting. My father was on a ship at all three atomic bomb blasts at Bikini Atoll and I found the research fascinating. I blogged on that on my blog.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 1, 2021 at 08:55

      I love oral history. It’s always a gift when someone recount me of their family in a historic scenario.

      My workmate is married to a Frenchman. His grandfather was a young soldier in WWI. He kept a diary – for a time – and my workmate read it. She told me something about it, but what touched her the most is that, at a certain point, the young soldier simply couldn’t bear to write of his life in the trenches anymore.

  • Jennifer
    Posted April 1, 2021 at 00:01

    I was never a fan of history as a child. Classes in the U.S. just get it so wrong. However, I’m always a huge fan of reading informative and entertaining works about history. When someone can catch my interest I am ever grateful. Can’t wait to read your content! I feel like I have been catching up my whole life. Good luck on A-Z!

    • Post Author
      Posted April 1, 2021 at 08:57

      Oh, I’ve always loved history, ever since I started studying it in elementary school. LOL!

      But I see what you mean. History is school has something wrong about it. I’ve seen it so many times in my own personal research. At the very least, what they teach in school is years bahind the actual hsitorical discoveries.

  • Unishta
    Posted April 1, 2021 at 05:32

    Wow ! A theme after my heart. I love history and am fascinated by the Great war. It truly changed the way the world used to be and literally dragged it into the modern age. Even in far off Mumbai, we have felt the ripples of this event. Many Indian soldiers were conscripted into the army and sent overseas to fight a battle in which they had no interest and for people they didn’t really care about.

    I have chosen a theme that is life-changing too – Life in the Times of Corona.
    Each one of us has experienced this in a different way yet with some commonalities. I do hope you have a look at it.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 1, 2021 at 09:02

      So happy to meet somone else interested in this historic event!

      You know, the more I research the Great War, the more I’m suprised that some people – including some historians, I should had – still consiered the Great War not really a ‘world war’.
      Sure, maybe battles were only on the soil of Europe and nearby lands (though this is debateble too) and not all over the world as in WWII, but the ripples of the war touched all corners of the earth.
      I don’t see how this cannot be consider a ‘world war’.

      Heading over to you blog! 🙂

  • AJ Blythe
    Posted April 1, 2021 at 13:18

    I enjoyed your posts last year so looking forward to this one.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 1, 2021 at 16:03

      Happy to see you back, AJ. Hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂

  • Raesquiggles
    Posted April 15, 2021 at 23:11

    My daughter is studying WW1 medicine for her history exams. She visited the battlefield sites in France on a school trip in 2019.

  • Hamza
    Posted September 23, 2021 at 01:42

    Thanks for Sharing This Article Aswell I Love this so much

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