Armistice Day

by John Quiggin on November 11, 2020

102 years ago today, the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was then (optimistically as it turned out) called The Great War or (even more optimistically) The War to End War. I’ve written many times about this disaster, but only once about the influenza pandemic that began in the last year of the war and ended up killing millions more people than died on the battlefields. It’s hard to think about anything else today, even as the existential threats of climate change, nuclear war and the collapse of democracy loom large in the shadow of the pandemic.

As on the day of the original armistice, we can hope that better days may lie ahead, but can only hope and do our best to bring them about.



bad Jim 11.11.20 at 8:45 am

Please forgive me for quoting a chunk of text from Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions”:

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.
So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And all music is.


J-D 11.11.20 at 9:36 am

102 years ago today, the guns fell silent, marking the end of what was then (optimistically as it turned out) called The Great War …

A couple of years ago I listened to a historical novel set in Germany in the second half of the seventeenth century. The characters mentioned ‘the Great War’: they meant what is now usually called the Thirty Years War. I wonder how many wars were referred to in their own times as ‘the Great War’. Was the Peloponnesian War, for example, known as the Great War?


notGoodenough 11.11.20 at 3:33 pm

John Quiggin @ OP

A thoughtful sentiment for a thought-provoking day – hope is sometimes all we have to sustain us as we continue working towards a better future.

Un salud,


notGoodenough 11.11.20 at 3:54 pm

J-D @ 2

I suspect many wars have been referred to as such, possibly out of hope. I am, by no means well versed, but I believe the Paraguayan War, the Uruguayan Civil War (Guerra Grande), and the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War have all had that title bestowed upon them.

For myself, I am tempted to defer to Flanders and Swann on the issue (The War of 14–18) :

‘No doubt Mars among his chattels has got some really splendid war
Full of bigger and bloodier battles than we’ve ever enjoyed before
But until the time occurs, sir, when that greater war comes on the scene
The one that I on the whole prefer, sir, is the War of 14-18’

But, setting aside sarcastic satire for a moment, let us hope the future gives us little opportunity to revise this assesment.


Priest 11.11.20 at 8:21 pm

When I got out of bed for the last time this morning and looked at the clock it was 11:11, which I did not think about in the context of today.


Kenny Easwaran 11.11.20 at 9:01 pm

Re J-D at 2 – the historian Ada Palmer mentioned a talk she was once at in which the speaker referred to the two world wars together (as well as conflicts in between, like the Russian Revolution and Spanish Civil War) as “the second thirty years war”. Given that the original had its periods of relative quiet as well as its periods of greater action, the comparison seems quite appropriate.


J-D 11.11.20 at 11:56 pm

For myself, I am tempted to defer to Flanders and Swann on the issue (The War of 14–18) :

Credit where credit is due: they were adapting a French song by Georges Brassens:
Du fond de son sac à malices,
Mars va sans doute, à l’occasion,
En sortir une – un vrai délice ! –
Qui me fera grosse impression…
En attendant, je persévère
A dire que ma guerre favorite
Celle, mon colon, que j’ voudrais faire,
C’est la guerre de quatorze-dix-huit !
A translation (as opposed to an adaptation) can be found here:


dilbert dogbert 11.12.20 at 12:58 am

Here I am strangling on my desire to yell shout throw things through the computer monitor at all the comments about protecting our “Freedoms”. Protecting our “Interests” as defined by the powers that be. I have had it with “Veteran’s Day”


John Quiggin 11.13.20 at 10:57 pm

@6 Agreed. I avoid the terms WW1 and WW2 for that reason.


J-D 11.14.20 at 12:10 am

What if I said it was really just one war from 1667 to 1991? We could call it the Three Hundred Years War, perhaps.

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