Just a century. In the grand scheme, not so long ago. In 1914 people saw or drove automobiles, worked on farms or in factories, went to movies, occasionally talked on the telephone. Perhaps they had seen an airplane fly overhead. The grandfathers of people you know were strapping young men in 1914, full of ambition and strength. The grandmothers of people you know were young women ready to rise to a new role in a new world. We knew them well. Much is shared in our collective memories.
This first working day of the year it may be worthwhile to consider the past. You read every year of centenaries, the 100th anniversary of this or that. It’s mostly stock stuff for journalists looking for something to do. But this year, 2014, you may be overwhelmed by the recounting of momentous events of a century ago, when began the great cataclysm of European civilization, the beginning of conflict that would last, with respite, until 1945. Or, 1991, if you consider the standoff between East and West and threatened annihilation to be the result of events that began in 1914. The dead, military and civilian, from the first and second world wars top 100 million.