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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Britain's role in the First World War has been portrayed through literature, films and plays with a marked un-historical, anti-war spirit. Deeply-rooted myths have thus become dominant and historians have either endorsed them, or have written narrowly for other specialists. As a result of the opening of official military archives and more objective study, these portrayals are now being challenged. This book traces the controversy from 1918 to the present, concluding that historians are finally permitting World War I to be placed in a more accurate perspective.

Excerpt

My thesis in this chapter is that at the end of the twentieth century popular notions of the First World War in general, and Britain's role in particular, were largely shaped in the 1960s, in part reflecting the very different concerns and political issues of that turbulent decade, but in part resurrecting 'anti-war' beliefs of the 1930s.

At the riskof over-simplification and distortion, these are some of the main events that provide the context in which a new generation was introduced to the history of the First World War. There was, first and foremost, a pervasive fear of all-out nuclear war which is hard to imagine now. the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and its annual Aldermaston march reached a peakof popularity and media attention in the late 1950s and early 1960s. the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 provided hard evidence that the world had teetered on the brinkof annihilation. National service was ended in 1960 so the last conscripts had left the armed forces by 1963. Thus ended a system of compulsory service, reintroduced in 1939, by which the majority of the male . . .

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