I’d woried about the snow, but the fields got greener as I headed north to Birmingham, and after all there were no transport problems.
I gave a paper about fiction magazines during the war, making the case that if these carried propaganda, it was not because some government propaganda machine demanded it (There was no such machine at the start of the war, and even when Northcliffe started producing propagandist material for Home consumption, his offerings were only a tine fraction of the literary material produced in support of the war.) The contents of the fiction magazines were there because that is what their paying customers demanded. I also tried to show how the wartime stories were usually twists on established genres, and used the war to spice up the genre as much as they were using the genre to propagandise for the war.
The talk went down well (intelligent questions, and some nice comments afterwards) but I wondered if I was maybe preaching to the already converted. The Birmingham Centre for war studies is a stronghold of the revisionist historians, and to some extent what I was doing was to try to apply the practices that they used to illuminate the military history of the war, and apply them to the literary history. I wonder how the talk would go down with those less predisposed to hear about a “culture of consent” and a public enthusiasm for the war that outran that of government.
It was a good turn-out, even though mine was probably not the Birmingham group’s favourite sort of paper. They really prefer strategy, tactics, and above all, logistics, I think.
The three next seminars in the series look wellworth attending. They are:
3 March 2009
Dr Nick Lloyd
(King’s College London)
‘The Amritsar Massacre: Myth & Reality’
10 March 2009
THE JOHN TERRAINE LECTURE
Professor Richard Holmes CBE TD
‘Marlborough: Britain’s Greatest General?’
17 March 2009
Professor Brian Bond
(Centres for First and Second World War Studies)
‘British Memoirs of the First World War’