The Battles of the Somme, 1916: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography

The Battles of the Somme, 1916: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography

The Battles of the Somme, 1916: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography

The Battles of the Somme, 1916: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography

Synopsis

The 1916 Anglo-French offensive comprising the battles of the Somme marked a change in the Allies' relationships, with the British beginning to play a more important role. From contemporaries to the present the Somme has also produced a number of controversies. This book shows the current state of historians' interpretations of the Somme. The initial section presents the historical background of the offensive, lays out the major interpretative disputes, and identifies the scholars and works in each school of thought. The second section provides a bibliography of more than 700 entries.

Excerpt

In the eighty years since World War I, the outpouring of books about the conflict has been prodigious, and it continues. Scholarly conflicts concerning various interpretations of the origins, conduct, and outcomes of the war are also common. Interestingly enough, it is not only scholars who have long-lasting interests in the war. In the 1960s the success of the movie Lawrence of Arabia (1962), the twenty-six part B.B.C. series The Great War (1964), and the stage and movie versions of Oh! What a Lovely War (1963 and 1969) indicated that fifty years had not dimmed public interest. More recently films such as the remake of All Quiet on the Western Front (1979) and Gallipoli (1981) show continued popular interest. Indeed, Martin Gilbert's The First World War (1994) was a selection of general interest book clubs and successfully sold in popular book stores in the United States. Such ongoing interest--scholarly and popular--makes clear the importance of historiographical and bibliographical studies such as this one to sort out the volume of material and provide a summary of the current state of interpretation.

The Somme Offensive, July-November, 1916, is one of the events in the war that has generated much controversy. The Somme proved to be a turning point in the war in several senses. Chronologically the Somme was, roughly, the mid-point, and for the Entente Powers, it marked an increasing shift to British dominance. At the Somme new technologies, especially airplanes and tanks, proved their potential for future combat. Although there is some dispute about its results, many scholars, including Germans, believe that the Somme also saw the transference of the initiative from the Germans to the Entente. Casualties for both sides were enormous (there were almost 20,000 British deaths on July 1, alone), and the British, who planned and conducted the largest part of the struggle, have not yet escaped the sense of devastation--the loss of a generation.

Revisionist scholars [See for instance Nos. 119, 381, 610] argue that despite the terrible losses of the first day, overall the Somme was not unusually bloody by comparison with other major modern battles. Nonetheless, the British sense of virtual . . .

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