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By Stanley Bowling

On the eve of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, Kaiser Wilhelm II was already playing at war by insisting that courtiers be in military style uniforms. Going so far as to call the U.S. Ambassador an "undertaker" for being in his normal evening attire was somewhat precognizant of the carnage to come.*

So, on the eve of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the events that triggered the Great War 100 years ago this month, Wilhelm II, was annoyed with the United States’ ambassador because he refused to wear military dress.  The Kaiser was such a militarist that he insisted on those at his court wearing brilliant military style uniforms.  President Woodrow Wilson had ordered U.S. diplomats to askew the wearing of uniforms, and the Kaiser saw that as “ridiculous prejudice.”  But, as the Kaiser termed Ambassador James Gerard the “undertaker” in his “funeral suit” was he, perhaps, thinking about the possibility of a world war and the carnage it would cause?  

Having insight into the politics of the time of significant events gives researchers of all kinds - from students working on reports, to teachers preparing detailed study guides - a chance to see and understand *why* something happened.  The war cost 37 million people their lives; what led up to it?  Was it because a ruler was playing at being a great military leader, by surrounding himself with people dressed in military uniform?  How about the Germans mocking the manhood of the British, because of their stance on women's suffrage?

This little-known historical fact is available for consideration because of the extensive, first-hand resources made possible by the ProQuest teams dedicated to the preservation of history.  From the sourcing of original material, to the scanning and digitization, to the conversion for web access, research into the nuances of history are made accessible to everyone.  The Ypsilanti, Michigan, production facility annually captures over 30 million pages of content, saving content like the above for posterity.  

The best way to know the present is to understand the past. Having this sort of deep knowledge readily available makes history more exciting and vibrant, and can help us better sympathize with similar attitudes and actions of people today. Explore more tidbits to get a better understanding of the war and its origins, in ProQuest Historical Newspapers, or History Vault.

Go, and enjoy history.

*See this obscure fact by searching the ProQuest Historical Newspaper database for June 28, 1914 in the Chicago Daily Tribune.

14 Jul 2014

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