Academic journal article Military Review

The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War

Academic journal article Military Review

The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War

Article excerpt

THE LAST GREAT WAR: British Society and the First World War, Adrian Gregory, Cambridge University Press, New York, 354 pages, 2009, $81.00.

With the approach of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, a great many books have been published reevaluating the war. Much of this work has enhanced our understanding of the fighting, the experience of the Soldiers, and the literature of the war. Although there is a body of literature that has focused on attitudes towards the war looking back from the perspective of the 1920s and 1930s, there has been less of a focus on the attitude and response of society, as a whole, during the war itself. Adrian Gregory's new book brilliantly fills that gap and puts several common myths to bed along the way.

The main ideas are arranged thematically, which ties in well with the chronology of the war. The first theme is that of going to war. The British public often has been portrayed as overwhelmingly enthusiastic as well as uneducated about the violence of war. Using a well-researched mix of personal accounts, newspaper reports, and government records, Gregory clearly demonstrates that the reality was not so simple. For example, one of the reasons many people were out on the streets the day before Britain declared war (4 August 1914) was that it was a bank holiday, and there were many families and revelers in the parks in the center of London. Further, people were well aware of what going to war meant, having repeatedly heard about the horrors of war from their newspapers, politicians, and books. …

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