History research paper: World War I and White House burning

Among the good research paper topics for your world history research paper this semester would be discussing some historical milestones. The year 2014 is the centennial of the start of World War I.

One event in history includes the burning of the White House, 1814 (Credit: White House Association)

One event in history includes the burning of the White House, 1814 (Credit: White House Association)

The June 28, 1914, assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo led a month later to the official start of the war. This year is also the 200th anniversary of the burning of the White House by the British.

Britain commemorates centennial

Glasgow, Scotland is hosting world leaders to commemorate the beginning of World War I. August 4, 1914, goes down in history as the date that Britain entered the conflict, which killed 900,000 British and Scottish soldiers. Over the year, leaders will pay their respects to the fallen and lay wreaths at the city’s cenotaph (an empty tomb to recognize a group of people in history whose remains are elsewhere).

In “World Leaders to Gather in Scotland to Honour First World War Dead” by Victoria Allen and Ian Drury, posted in London’s Daily Mail June 11, 2013, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond noted: “Every day of the conflict saw extraordinary acts of courage, ingenuity and valour, both on the battlefield and also on the Home Front.”

Four years of remembrances are planned. Westminster Abbey, where the first and last British soldiers killed in the war are buried, held a candlelight vigil on August 4, 2014. Centenary events are planned to remember the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign, 1916’s Battle of the Somme River in France and 1917’s Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. In November 2018, commemorations will end with the anniversary of Armistice Day.

Why commemorate wars?

Why is commemorating wars important for both historians and citizens? “Sometimes the First World War feels like distant history, wrote a contributor to the First World War Centenary global commemoration site. “The jumpy black and white films, the unfamiliar clothes and the horses pulling wagons, all look like something from a world long forgotten. … Only a few of the 1914–18 generation, who witnessed the war but were too young to take part, are still alive. The war is slipping inexorably beyond the fringes of living memory and, as the Centenary of 1914–18 approaches, we have to work harder to make sure we do not forget. If we want to understand today, we need to know and remember what happened yesterday.”

Lest we not forget, the war killed more than 9 million just from fighting; more died from food shortages. As for civilians, about 6 million died from starvation and disease and 1 million died from military operations. In total, more than 16 million people died as a result of World War I and more than 21 million were wounded.

History of the burning of Washington

In history, August 24, 2014, is the 200th anniversary of the British burning Washington during the War of 1812. After attacking an American force at Bladensburg, Maryland, British Major General Robert Ross set out next for Washington. According to Jesse Greenspan in “The British Burn Washington, D.C., 200 Years Ago” posted August 22, 2014, on the History Channel website: “On August 24, 1814, British troops recently arrived from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe easily overran the inexperienced U.S. militiamen tasked with defending Washington, D.C. They then set much of the city ablaze, thereby humiliating the administration of President James Madison. The British only occupied Washington for 24 hours, however, and soon after suffered major defeats of their own that helped bring the War of 1812 to a close.”

Although the British burned down the President’s Mansion (already some were calling it the White House), the Capitol with the Library of Congress and buildings housing the State, Treasury and War departments, it was calculated restraint on the part of the British not to burn down the entire city.

In “Why Americans Celebrate the Burning of Washington,” posted August 22, 2014, for Time, op ed writer Don Hickey explained, “This was undoubtedly the nadir for the United States in the War of 1812, a conflict largely forgotten today that America initiated to uphold neutral rights on the high seas. The young republic could hardly challenge the Mistress of the Seas on her own element.” The war ended five months later with a peace treaty to restore the status quo.

Check out Questia’s libraries on World War I and United States History for more information for your history research paper. 

What other historical anniversary would make a good research paper topic?

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