Category Archives: History

The prevention of war books?

In her 1937 autobiography, Three Ways Home, Sheila Kaye-Smith considers the commercial failure of her wartime novel Little England: The explanation [...] does not lie entirely in the book itself, but also in the time of its appearance. that must share the responsibility for the small impression that it made. It was a war book, […]

Les Amis du Roman Populaire

In Amiens last week I attended a meeting of L’ Association des Amis du Roman Populaire. This is a group of academics and others interested mostly in French popular fiction of the last century, and the two-day conference was about the popular literature of the Great War. We met in the Logis du Roy in […]

Prison Libraries

I by and large keep contemporary politics out of this blog, but I’m utterly fuming at the Justice Secretary’s decision to prevent prisoners being sent books as presents. They must buy them from their meagre wages, he says, or rely on the prison library. I’m sure that prison libraries have improved since 1917, but I […]

Christopher Clark’s ‘The Sleepwalkers’

No wonder Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers has been a best-seller. It re-tells the origins of the Great War as a story for our time. Back in the Cold War sixties A.J.P. Taylor’s book on the War struck a chord with readers. He presented a picture of an arms race slipping out of control, leading to […]

Henry Williamson and Charles Carrington interviewed

Last week’s TV programme I Was There , featuring snippets from interviews made fifty years ago for the BBC Great War series, was gripping viewing (despite the bombastic music and the editorialising inter-titles). Even better is the internet resource which presents fourteen of the interviews in their entirety. In the past I have written here […]

Soldiers reading

In Fiction and the Reading Public (1932) Q.D.Leavis is very keen to prove that the contemporary novel is used mainly as a drug, as a substitute for living. Part of her evidence is that: men, coming from the trenches who had been deprived of reading matter for some short while would, however weary, seize on […]

Eleanor Farjeon, the Strike and the War

I heard a good talk at Sheffield Hallam yesterday, by Catherine Clay of Nottingham Trent University, on Eleanor Farjeon and the poems she wrote (as ‘Chimaera’) for the feminist weekly Time and Tide in the twenties. One thing I learned was that Farjeon also wrote verse for left-wing papers like the Herald, under the name […]

Frank Furedi’s sweeping statements

I’m currently nearly half way through Frank Furedi’s new book, First World War – Still no End in Sight, I’m partly impressed by it, and partly annoyed. It’s a wide-ranging study of how the War disoriented Europe, and indeed the world, in ways that are still having repercussions. Parts are very good, such as the […]

Welsh newspapers

Here’s a very useful resource that I hadn’t come across before. It’s an archive of Welsh newspapers published between 1804 and 1919, which has recently been enlarged by the addition of 27 new publications. I’ve taken a look through some papers of the War years, to see indications of feelings of dissent. I put the […]

Truby King

In 1915, the year of Second Ypres and Loos, there were fewer British soldiers killed on the battlefields than there were British children who died in infancy. This resonant statistic is at the heart of Trudi Tate’s essay on Truby King and postwar childcare in the recent essay collection The Silent Morning. Truby King was […]

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