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How the Great War Changed America

Evening Program with Book Signing

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1L0228
Poster by J. M. Flagg used by the U.S. government to recruit soldiers during World War I, 1917

The Great War of 1914 to 1918 was the most important conflict of the 20th century. It was the first continent-wide conflagration in a century, and it drew much of the world into its fire. By the end of the war, four global empires and their royal houses had fallen, communism was unleashed, the map of the Middle East was redrawn, and the United States emerged as a global power.

The United States was late to enter the conflict when President Woodrow Wilson ultimately decided Germany’s belligerence demanded a military response. The country declared war in April 1917 to protect itself from the threat of German submarines, but President Woodrow Wilson framed it as a high moral cause, saying, “The world must be made safe for democracy.” World War I was the most idealistic war the United States ever fought.

Drawing on his new book, The Great War in America: World War I and Its Aftermath Garrett Peck chronicles the American experience during the war and connects it to the changes that rocked the country in its wake—including women’s suffrage, Prohibition, the Red Scare, and race riots. The country assumed a global role for the first time and attempted to build the foundations for world peace, only to witness the efforts go badly awry as it retreated into isolationism. The failure to secure a just and fair peace set the stage for the war’s bloody sequel two decades later.

Peck is an author, historian and tour guide and frequently speaks and leads tours for Smithsonian Associates. The Great War in America: World War I and Its Aftermath (Pegasus) is available for purchase and signing.

Following the presentation, raise a glass with a storied cocktail from World War I: the French 75, named after the French 75mm field gun. Captain (and future president) Harry Truman commanded a battery of these artillery pieces in 1918. The gin is provided by New Columbia Distillers, maker of Green Hat Gin, named after Great War veteran and Congressional bootlegger George Cassiday, known as “the man in the green hat.” 

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)