The Unquiet Western Front: Britain's Role in Literature and History

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Britain's oustanding military achievement in the First World War has been eclipsed by literary myths. Why has the Army's role on the Western Front been so seriously misrepresented? This book shows how myths have become deeply rooted, particularly in the inter-war period, in the 1960s when the war was rediscovered, and in the 1990s. The outstanding 'anti-war' influences have been 'war poets', subalterns' trench memoirs, the book and film of All Quiet on the Western Front, and the play Journey's End. For a new generation in the 1960s the play and film of Oh What a Lovely War had a dramatic effect, while more recently Blackadder has been dominant. Until recently historians had either reinforced the myths, or had failed to counter them. Now, thanks to the opening of the official archives and a more objective approach by a new generation, the myths are being challenged. This book follows the intense controversy from 1918 to the present, and concludes that historians are at last permitting the First World War to be placed in proper perspective.
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Editorial Reviews

The First World War has been described as "the prime example of war as horror and futility." Bond (emeritus, history, King's College London) counters this interpretation with the argument that Britain's decision to enter into the war against Germany should be characterized as judicious and that its prosecution of the war was, while "painful and costly," remarkably successful. He locates the most successful development of anti-war "myths" about the British involvement on the Western Front as having originated in the 1960s and surveys some of the perpetuation of the "war as horror" view in 1990s literature and television. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"The author's insightful views make worthwhile reading for anyone interested in this important subject." Historian

"Bond takes a moderate and judicious approach, dealing fairly and admirably with a wide range of literary, cultural, and historical issues. The book is written with style, and is strongly recommended to all those who would like to know how our views of the Great War have been shaped over the last eighty-five years." International History Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521036412
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 140
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Bond is Emeritus Professor of Military History, King's College London. One of Britain's leading military historians, he has been President of the British Commission for Military History since 1986.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
1 The Necessary War, 1914-1918 1
2 Goodbye to All That, 1919-1933 27
3 Donkeys and Flanders Mud: The War Rediscovered in the 1960s 51
4 Thinking the Unthinkable: The First World War as History 75
Sir Lees Knowles (1857-1928) 102
The Lees Knowles Lectures 105
Notes 109
Select Bibliography 122
Index 125
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