Civilised or Barbarous

Two extracts from The Nation of August 15th, 1914 – which are two attempts to define the mood of the country at the start of the War:

  1. A near relation of mine, attached to a volunteer regiment, told me he had not heard from his comrades a single cruel or what one might call bloody-minded expression.
    – A Wayfarer, London Diary.
  2. Those who saw London crowds, during the nights leading up to the declaration of war, saw a whole population, hitherto peaceable and humane, precipitated in a few days down a steep slope to primitive barbarism, letting loose, in a moment, the instincts of hatred and blood-lust against which the whole fabric of society has been raised.
    Bertrand Russell, Letter to the Editor.

Dignified and decent volunteers, or a baying mob? Which is the truer picture of the country’s mood at that time? Or are both true?


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