We are studying WW1 in US History and are trying to take some of the lessons of the past. It has been 100 years since the Great War (1914-17, 17-18 for the US) and for many it could just as well be the Greeks and Romans.
However, much of our modern world, can be traced to the events that transpired during and after WW1, including the map of modern Europe, the seeds of communism is Russian, the roots of WW2, the basis for the modern Middle East, etc.
It is more than a few degrees of separation, our modern world own its birth and definition to the things that WW1 set in motion. Yes, those chain of events had been going for a while (age of discovery, enlightenment, democracy, etc.) but WW1 was a coming of age of our modern world; a time when many of our assumptions were put to test and many of our technologies came to fruition on the battle fields of Europe.
It is hard to give the students context o a point of comparison. I can only ask them to think of the past, the world of the elders, and to imagine the forces that cause change. Young people do understand change and they see the complex nature of the world, so they have the ability to make connections with WW1.
It is a challenge for all of us to take in the lessons of the past. We need to give history its place in our lives and in our world. It should not be a stale academic discipline confined to the classroom, rather history should inform us, serve us, and be a guiding beacon of sorts.
That may be the eternal challenge for all of us..........to find a way to give meaning to our lives; to have our memories, experiences, and stories serve us in ways that allow us to be healthier and happier human beings.