The Worst Year to be Alive? Answer: Most likely to be 536 CE

by fulltimestudent 19 Replies latest jw friends

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill

    One thing W. Schnell probably got right in his infamous 30 Years a Watchtower Slave was the opinion that Rutherford & Co took advantage of the upheaval in Europe that followed WWI.

    That allowed them to get away with making a big issue of 1914. Persons who had just lived through the first industrialised war in history, and seen the collapse of no fewer than four great empires, were easy enough to convince that the year 1914 was indeed something special.

  • steve2

    Subjectively, each generation believes its own time is the most momentous and unprecedented - and that the generation that follows has gone to the dogs. The times were bad enough, for example, in Chuck Russell’s day for him to pronounce the “last days” had already begun in 1799. So convincing was his writings that colporteurs (forerunners to JWs pioneers) devoted their lives to spreading his word well before the 1800s ended. Every colporteur back then is now long dead.

    It is easy for us to look back and say how quaint were his predictions - yet here we are well into the 2000s where groups such as JWs breathlessly feed the old, old notion that “the end is near”.

    To be fair, if your life is suddenly and profoundly changed for the worse, that is your “Great Tribulation” and it is a nonsense to talk about ‘the worst is yet to come.’

  • Vidiot

    Any time an uber-Dub says something like "this is the worst time in all of human history"...

    ...counter with: "So you'd rather live in the Old West? The Middle Ages? The Roman Empire?"

  • fulltimestudent

    Quote: "That allowed them to get away with making a big issue of 1914. Persons who had just lived through the first industrialised war in history,"

    Yes, the 1914-1918 war was 'industrialised.' But, I think that an examination of the American civil war, and some of the 19th century European wars (before the Great War) will show that these wars can also be considered 'industrialised.' Perhaps the use of flying machines and tanks in the 1914-1918 could be considered as marking WW1* as a more 'industrialised.' war..

    The deadly affect of machine guns may be first seen in the American Civil War, and were certainly used by the British Army in the 1904 invasion of China's Tibet, when a nervous CO ordered their use against Tibetan irregulars who had just surrendered. Slaying some 300 Tibetans. (The Tibetan irregulars did not have state issued guns, but brought with them yheir personally owned guns, most of which were little better than flintlocks, and that was why they would not surrender their guns.)

    * If you do some searching you could find a number of historians who see WW1, not as a genuine first world war, but as the last of the purely European struggles for World supremacy. Other areas of the world that were affected by WWI were affected because of the European notion of colonisation, And, in some ways WW2 was also a continuation of those 19th C European struggles for world domination. The determination of Hitler's Germany to 'win' was certainly based on the harsh treatment of Germany in the Versailles Peace Treaty.

    What made WW2 a truly world war, was Japan*, and from that viewpoint, WW2 can be seen as starting in July 1937, with Japan's invasion of a still disorganised China. Japan went on to steam-roller the European Military in S.E. Asia. A victory that should not have shocked the European military establishment, because the newly industrialised Japan had defeated Russia in the 1904 war, not just on land, but also at sea, the Japanese Navy sinking two Russian fleets. That should have been a warning to the West, that a re-organised Asia would have to be treated with caution and respect.



    • "Any time an uber-Dub says something like "this is the worst time in all of human history"... ...counter with: "So you'd rather live in the Old West? The Middle Ages? The Roman Empire?"

      Quite right! Daily problems fade into insignificance when we are faced with life or death medical issues. So many diseases, once incurable, can now be fixed through advances in medical science.

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill


    We could get into considerable debate on this one, in which firearms buffs (such as myself) would be in their element!

    Between the American Civil War and the outbreak of WWI, weapons technology took a quantum leap. During the Civil War, the standard weapon on both sides was still the muzzle-loading percussion rifle (although the Confederacy entered the conflict armed with the even older flintlock muskets). Machine guns were not used in the Civil War. Gatling developed his hand-cranked gun during that war, but it never saw service until afterwards. Even then, the world's first truly automatic machine gun was still 20 years away (Hiram Maxim's invention). The problem with the Gatling, Gardner, Nordenfelt, Mitrailluese and other hand cranked weapons was that in the heat of battle, the operator often panicked and started cranking the weapon too quickly. This resulted in its jamming. Another issue was the propellant used in the cartridges - still the charcoal / sulphur / saltpetre blend of gunpowder. That added to the jamming issues, and obscured the battle field in a great fog of gunsmoke. This same problem delayed the world's armies from adopting magazine fed rifles until the 1890s, when smokeless powders were developed.

    Artillery, also, took quantum leaps during the latter part of the 19th Century, thanks to the arms race initiated by the German manufacturer, Krupp.

    Likewise for naval development. Naval warfare was revolutionised in 1906 by the launching of HMS Dreadnought, which rendered all other battle ships obsolete. That set going a massive arms race - principally between Germany and Britain - which was in full swing by 1914.

    Add to the list aircraft (invented 1903), poison gas, submarines, torpedoes and mines (both of which changed the balance of naval warfare), depth charges, sonar, sound-ranging equipment, tanks, armoured cars etc, and you come up with a lot of things never used previously in an all out conflict between major powers. It is true that a number of these weapons (but by no means all) had been experimented with previously in small scale Colonial wars. However, in those days before Satellite TV and the like, it would have been a case of "out of site, out of mind". World War One brought home the horrors of a modern, industrialised war to the heartland of Europe.

  • fulltimestudent

    Thank you Bill for correcting my misunderstanding re the use of machine guns in the American Civil War. However, it still seems (to me) that the ACW was the event that started the world on a faster path of weapon development.

    I appreciate your arguments and viewpoint, but still feel inclined to view the ACW as the commencement of industrialised warfare. It could be said, that the fact that American industry was (generally) located in the north was the deciding factor in that war. The south could hardly appreciate what that meant, as they attempted to fight with 18th C tactics and weapons, Of course, whatever view we take of the ACW, considerable progress is seen by WW1, and even more in the 100 odd years since then, until now the nation with the most destructive power in history is the USA.

    What do you think of the viewpoint expressed on this "History' site ?:

    Some historians refer to the ACW as the first 'modern' war. A page owned by the Virginia Museum of History and Culture makes the points:

    The First Modern War?

    The technology of the industrial revolution applied to the science of killing made the Civil War a turning point between the limited combat of professional armies of the 1700s and the "total" mobilization of World Wars I and II. This device creates a record of incoming messages by embossing a series of short and long marks on a moving strip of paper.

    Muzzle-loading firearms and communication by drum, flag, and bugle were holdovers from the past, but rifled weapons increased the range of firearms, and telegraphy allowed distant armies to communicate and coordinate. Railroads moved armies faster than before, and iron ships, land mines, hand grenades, and torpedoes made their debut. As reconnaissance balloons took war to the skies, many of the essential elements of modern warfare were in place by 1865.


    And, this feature story in the Scientific American. Refernce: )

    How Technology Shaped the Civil War,

    Secession not only spurred rapid improvements in warships and weapons, but also led to advances in communications and medicine


  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill

    Hi FTS,

    I could readily understand the American Civil War being a turning-point in warfare.

    However, World War One was he first time in which modern industrialised countries went to war with one another.

    Although the North had some industry, the USA of 1861 was still largely an agricultural country. (That all changed rapidly during the following decades, of course. For example, by 1890, the USA was producing more steel than anybody else).

    Likewise during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. While Prussian technology largely won the day at the decisive Battle of Sedan, Germany's industrialisation took place after its unification. (e.g. regarding Bismarck's famous "Blut und Eisen" speech, many commentators have remarked that it should have been more accurately rendered "Coal and Iron"!).

    Even during the South African War of 1899-1902, the two Boer republics were agricultural countries, even bordering on frontier societies (albeit financed by the gold mines of the Witwatersrand).

    By 1914, though, at least three of the belligerents - Britain, France and Germany - were industrial countries. To that extent, WWI was the first time industrialised countries fought each other in all out warfare (rather than by selling their weapons to another party to fight on their behalf!)

  • fulltimestudent

    Bill, i could not argue with your comments on WW1, at least regarding the technological advances that became evident in that war. I was mistaken in my comment that machine guns were used in the ACW, but the quotes I ioffered above indicate that there is an opinion held by some historians that 'modern' warfare was initiated during the ACW.

    My initial comments focused on the terminology of this statement, "the first industrialised war in history" I proposed that that honor (or dishonor) belonged to the ACW,

    You now want to change ths topic of discussion ever so slightly by saying, "However, World War One was the first time in which modern industrialised countries went to war with one another."

    The ACW as the term implies was a civil war, though I guess one could construct an argument that the South's secession meant that it had become a separate nation. Of course, the North did not recognise the South's right to secede.

    But the initial discussion was about the first industrialised war in history, not the first time that 'modern industrialised countries went to war with one another.'

    This discussion could also focus on the precise meaning of a term like 'industrialised.'

    There is evidence that there were industrial complexes in China built adjacent to coal mines, producing steel at least as early as the Song dynasty. (See John M. Hobson's, The Eastern Origin of Western Civilisation, Ch 3 and Ch 9,)

    He also pffers a list of some remarkable weapons developed in Chinese history, which include Flame Throwers (circa 900 CE) Fire arrows (949) CE. Bombs, grenades and rockets (by 1231). Land and sea mines (by 1231) rocket launchers that could launch 329 rockets at a time. And Korea used a armored boat in a war with Japan in the 16th century.

    My point is simple. what is progress? And what does industrialisation really mean? In this context, we are discussing an incremental change in the way things are done or made, and from that perspective, the ACW was a turning point as the historians cited in a previous post argued. Of course your welcome to hold a contrary viewpoint.

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill

    Hi FTS.

    When it comes to technology, Western Civilisation's supremacy has only come about in recent times. For sure!

    I didn't think, though, that I was changing the conversation in any way when I mentioned war between industrialised countries. My understanding has always been that the definition of "Industrialised Warfare" is "an all out armed conflict between two or more countries whose economies are industrialised ":

    - with an "Industrialised Economy" being one that is based largely on manufacturing, rather than on agriculture.

    what does industrialisation really mean?

    Usually understood to mean "the process by which an economy progresses from one based on agriculture to one based on manufacturing."

    However, I am happy to be corrected!

    what is progress?

    Bloody good point!

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill

    Hi again, FTS.

    This evening (Australian Eastern Standard Time), I have had opportunity to look at those links you posted. I do miss having access to History Channel, which I used to watch with great interest during the years I worked as a Fly-In / Fly-Out worker (and where the camp had a Satellite TV system, which included History Channel).

    One thing I notice in these discussions is that a number of the innovations talked about actually predated the American Civil War.

    For example, the Minie bullet was used by the British Army in the Crimean War (1853-1856), and also during the Indian Mutiny (1857). During those wars, the British standard infantry weapon was the model 1851 rifled musket ( 24 guage, or .577 inch calibre), which fired the Minie bullet and which was already well blooded by the time the Civil War broke out. The Prussian Army went one better than that, introducing the Dreyse needle rifle in 1841. This was a bolt action, breech loading rifle that got its name from the firing pin, which resembled a needle. The Dreyse rifle played a decisive role in the Prussian victories over Denmark in 1864, and Austria in 1866. As to the use of observation balloons, the French easily beat everybody else with those. They used hydrogen-filled observation balloons as early as 1794, when these played a role in the defeat of the Dutch - Austrian armies at Mauberge.

    Photography, also, was used to effect in the Crimean War, when correspondents of The Times brought home to the British public both the horrors of war and the incompetence of its army commanders. That war, too, saw extensive use of military railways, which saved the British army from starvation. (These were built by civilian contractors, which is the main reason the railway system was successful!).

    Another feature of the Crimean War was the extensive use of earthworks, which again predated the Civil War by almost ten years.

    Of the other Civil War innovations, these were either not used extensively (e.g. repeating rifles), and/or were of very limited success. An example of the latter is the so-called "torpedo" that the first submarine used. This was what today would be called a "Pole Charge" - a quantity of explosive on the end of a piece of timber, whose length is presumably long enough that the person detonating the device is not endangered. Except in the case of the Confederate submarine that sank a Federal warship with one of these devices, that length was not long enough - and it, too went down with its target!

    Similarly, too, with the iron-hulled warship. It was many decades after the Civil War before these became commonplace. (Most British warships of the 1880s were still wooden-hulled, with both sails and steam propulsion).

    While you share the point of view of some historians who consider the American Civil War to be the first Modern War, I have my doubts!

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