The Christmas Truce: Myth, Memory, and the First World War

The Christmas Truce: Myth, Memory, and the First World War

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Overview

In late December 1914, German and British soldiers on the western front initiated a series of impromptu, unofficial ceasefires. Enlisted men across No Man's Land abandoned their trenches and crossed enemy lines to sing carols, share food and cigarettes, and even play a little soccer. Collectively known as the Christmas Truce, these fleeting moments of peace occupy a mythical place in remembrances of World War I. Yet new accounts suggest that the heartwarming tale ingrained in the popular imagination bears little resemblance to the truth.

In this detailed study, Terri Blom Crocker provides the first comprehensive analysis of both scholarly and popular portrayals of the Christmas Truce from 1914 to present. From books by influential historians to the Oscar-nominated French film Joyeux Noel (2006), this new examination shows how a variety of works have both explored and enshrined this outbreak of peace amid overwhelming violence. The vast majority of these accounts depict the soldiers as acting in defiance of their superiors. Crocker, however, analyzes official accounts as well as private letters that reveal widespread support among officers for the détentes. Furthermore, she finds that truce participants describe the temporary ceasefires not as rebellions by disaffected troops but as acts of humanity and survival by professional soldiers deeply committed to their respective causes.

The Christmas Truce studies these ceasefires within the wider war, demonstrating how generations of scholars have promoted interpretations that ignored the nuanced perspectives of the many soldiers who fought. Crocker's groundbreaking, meticulously researched work challenges conventional analyses and sheds new light on the history and popular mythology of the War to End All Wars.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813174020
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 06/23/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 310
Sales rank: 1,222,182
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Terri Blom Crocker has a PhD from the University of Kentucky, where she is an instructor. She is also a senior paralegal for investigations in the university's Office of Legal Counsel. She lives in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations x

Foreword xi

1 "A Candle Lit in the Darkness": The Christmas Trace and the First World War 1

2 "Absolute Hell": The Western Front in 1914 21

3 "A Great Day with Our Enemies": The Christmas Truce 43

4 "No War Today": The Christmas Truce as Reported in Official War Diaries and Regimental Histories 63

5 "One Day of Peace at the Front": The Christmas Truce and the British Press 89

6 "That Unique and Weird Christmas": The Christmas Truce during the War 111

7 "The Curious Christmas Truce": The First World War and the Christmas Truce, 1920-1959 133

8 "The Famous Christmas Truce": The First World War and the Christmas Truce, 1960-1969 153

9 "The Legendary Christmas Truce": The First World War, the Christmas Truce, and Social History, 1970-1989 175

10 "Memories of Christmas 1914 Persist": Orthodoxy, Revisionism, and the Christmas Truce, 1990-2014 197

11 "It Was Peace That Won": The Christmas Truce and the Narrative of the First World War 215

Acknowledgments 227

Notes 229

Bibliography 267

Permissions 283

Index 287

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Crocker's book will become essential reading for anyone who wishes to know how the First World War came to be understood as that 'exercise in futility' we have come to accept without question today. It is a sober corrective and a judicious revelation of how and why the myths surrounding this war have become so hard to dislodge." — Nicoletta F. Gullace, author of The Blood of Our Sons: Men, Women, and the Renegotiation of British Citizenship during the Great War


"In this book Terri Crocker carefully and forensically investigates perhaps the most mythologised of all First World War events. The book makes a major, revisionist contribution to our understanding of the war and its popular memory, and is essential reading for anyone interested in the real history of Christmas 1914." — Keith Jeffery, author of Ireland and the Great War


"Crocker's scholarship reveals the multiple meanings of the Christmas Truce, one of the most iconic moments in the memory of the First World War: did it offer temporary respite from the job, a fraternal bonding opportunity, or was it an anti-war rebellion? This fascinating microhistory has much to tell us about the experience of war, the way it was reported, and the shifting way in which it has been remembered." — Jenny Macleod, University of Hull

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