The Not-So-Great "Great War"

OSH 654 / Non Credit
Course taught in: English
Locations: TBA
Instructors: Ed Harper, Lucy Harper

Course Description

 World War I has been described in many ways, such as "the great war," "the war to end all wars."  Our study of the First World War suggests some questions such as (1) Why was World War I not the war that ended all wars? (2) Was WWI the beginning of the 20th century’s 30-years war that ended in 1945? (3) How do the results of WWI reverberate in our world today? The causes and results of such a war deserve careful study in this 100th anniversary year of the end of the war.

Week 1 Purpose of the course.  What part did geopolitics, including the empires, at the outset of the war play? What role did royal blood relationships in the various empires play in starting the war?   How and why did alliances among the players form? Were these alliances among the causes of the war?  What were some conflicts leading up to WWI?
Week 2 What were the efforts to forestall the war, including deceptions and misconceptions? Did diplomacy accelerate or decelerate the rush towards War?  Did the existence of plans, timetables, and new technologies seduce world leaders to go to war?  What did religion have to do with the war?  Who declared war on whom? The war begins.
Week 3 Do the names Ypres, Gallipoli, Verdun, and Somme ring a bell? What were the results of these major battles? Who were the important players?  What were the strategies and methods of warfare used? What were the new technologies for war? How did naval actions impact the war?  What were important personnel changes in 1915 and 1916?
Week 4 What major changes in 1917 impacted the war? How did propaganda techniques adopted by governments drive popular opinion?  How was the war paid for? What about food? What changed President Wilson’s mind about coming into the war? What vigorous programs did Wilson put into place that restricted Americans’ rights?
Week 5 What was the only major offensive early in 1918?  What was new about it and did it succeed? What was the role of the British Commonwealth countries? How significant was the role of United States in the Allies’ WWI victory?  What was Wilson’s 14 points plan for future peace? What were impactful decisions from the peace conference?
Week 6 How were various empires affected? Did the treaties lead to peace or more war? What was the new world order? What were the changes in culture, civil rights, and political power? How had the global geopolitical landscape changed at the end of the War? What ideologies justified the war and resulted from the war?  How is the war relevant today?


Ed Harper, Ph.D., is an active OLLI member who earned a BA with Honors from Principia College in Government and Foreign Affairs and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He has held many high level executive positions, including vice president of Emerson Electric, executive vice president of the Campbell Soup Company, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, and chief operating officer of American Security Group and was Chairman of the Government Affairs Council for the Financial Services Roundtable composed of the 100 largest financial institutions in the US. In the public sector, he is a former special assistant to President Nixon and a former Assistant to President Reagan as well as Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Dr. Harper was on the faculty of the Political Science Department at Rutgers University where he lectured on American Government.

Mrs. Lucy Harper holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Agnes Scott College with an emphasis on religion and religious philosophy courses. She earned a Master of Arts in English literature from The University of Virginia. She is a CPA and has taught college English courses and done tax work in various accounting firms. Lucy chairs various nonprofit organizations and boards. She is the Chair of the OLLI at UM Advisory Council. She has traveled extensively, including trips to Israel and Egypt.

Enroll Now