Category Archives: History

Jonathan Smith’s ‘Wilfred and Eileen’

When I was in Lamb’s Conduit Street the other week, I couldn’t pass the Persephone Bookshop without popping in. I came out with a copy of Wilfred and Eileen, first published in 1976, and reissued by Persphone last year. It’s a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. Jonathan Smith was a teacher […]

A. J. P. Taylor’s captions

A. J. P Taylor’s Penguin history book, The First World War: An Illustrated History, probably did as much as Oh What a Lovely War to imprint on those growing up in the the sixties and seventies the ironic view of the First World War as merely a futile waste, conducted by buffoons. Even those who […]

Arthur Calder-Marshall’s ‘Before the War’

  Arthur Calder-Marshall   The Short Story and the First World War by Ann-Marie Einhaus is worth reading for many reasons, but I’m especially grateful to it for pointing me towards some stories I didn’t know, and especially ‘Before the War’ by Arthur Calder-Marshall. I’ve just got hold of English Story (1st series), where it […]

21 years on

From Lettice Cooper’s novel, National Provincial (1938), set in 1935, when  Mussolini was about to invade Abyssinia: This time the threat of war seemed both more and less surprising. Less because confidence and easy security had been shattered, more because in the last twenty years the mind had come to think of war as a […]

‘Off the Shelf’ at Sheffield

The Sheffield Libraries Off the Shelf festival runs from 26th September to 27th October. (The programme can be found here.) To mark the centenary year, there are several sessions related to the First World War, including one on Wednesday 22nd October, when Professor Chris Hopkins, Dr Erica Brown and myself will be talking about the […]

Realism is Not Enough

The British Poetry of the First World War conference at Oxford gave me plenty to think about. One sentence from that has stuck in my mind as a theme I want to develop at some time in the future is from the presentation by Andrew Palmer. ‘Realism is not enough,’ he said. He was talking […]

Singing secretly

I’ll be giving a talk in a couple of weeks about myths of the War – the strange rumours that people whispered to each other at the time, and the equally strange things that some people believe about the War today. That’s why I’ve been looking again at a book I’m very fond of, Echoes […]

Arnold Bennett and a knighthood

There was an enjoyable programme about Arnold Bennett on Radio 4 yesterday (still available on iPlayer). Deborah Moggach and Giles Brandreth gave a lively account of his life and talked enthusiastically about his novels, agreeing that The Old Wives’ Tale was the best (which is fair enough, though I have an especial fondness for Riceyman […]

Mauvais Genre

At the Amiens conference earlier this month, one of the papers mentioned a French popular novel of the war years: La Fauvette des Tranchées, the story of a brave young woman who disguised herself as a man in order to fight. This year, a best-selling graphic novel has appeared in France – Mauvais Genre, that […]

Crimson Field: self-inflicted wounds

I quite enjoyed the first episode of The Crimson Field,   but by the third helping it was getting a bit ridiculous. So many issues – cowardice, Ireland, homosexuals, class conflicts… And most of the characters more interested in the issues (and their personal lives) than in healing the casualties… But the big topic yesterday evening […]


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