Prisoners, Diplomats, and the Great War: A Study in the Diplomacy of Captivity by Richard Speed
Military and civilian captivity practices by four major European powers and the United States during World War I are surveyed in this book. Speed argues that while the pressures of total war, as they emerged during the conflict, drove the belligerents to violate many of the norms of war, they attempted to behave in accordance with a liberal tradition of captivity which held that prisoners of war were merely men whom nobody had a right to harm. Aside from a few journal articles that deal with small aspects of the topic, there is no other scholarly work that focuses on captivity during the First World War. Speed makes extensive use of rarely cited American diplomatic records in order to offer a more objective view of camp conditions. A special feature is the depiction of American camps in France drawn from previously uncited War Department records.
The book explores the radical tradition of captivity that emerged in the Soviet Union. This tradition held that the prisoner was not merely a man for whom the war was over, but that he was a potential recruit in the class war whose national loyalty could be subverted in the interest of the ideological conflict. Thus, while the Western world entered the war with a single tradition of captivity, it emerged from the conflict with two antithetical traditions. While the United States and Western Europe in general have clung to the liberal tradition, third world revolutionary states like Vietnam and North Korea have embraced the radical tradition. This book is essential reading for all scholars and students of modern European/American diplomatic and military history. Government officials involved with hostages or prisoners of war will also find much of value here.