The Edinburgh Companion to the First World War and the Arts


Of all the research I’ve done over the past few years, the job I’ve most enjoyed has been finding out about the songs that British soldiers sang songs. This was for my contribution to the Edinburgh Companion to the First World War and the Arts.

Big thanks to editors Anne-Marie Einhaus and Katherine Baxter for setting me the task.

I’m glad to hear that the Companion is now on sale. Here is the list of chapters:

Introduction, Ann-Marie Einhaus and Katherine Isobel Baxter

Part I: Literature
1. The Uncertain War a Century on: The First World War in British and Irish Fiction, Marie Stern-Peltz
2. Poetry of the First World War in Britain, Clara Dawson
3. First World War Short Fiction, Ann-Marie Einhaus
4. Theatre: 1914 and After, Andrew Maunder
5. Words from Home: Wartime Correspondences, Alice Kelly
6. Transnational Lives: Colonial Life Writing and the First World War, Anna Maguire

Section II: Visual Arts
7. The ‘Abysmal inexcusable middle class’, Painting, Commemoration, and the First World War, Matthew Potter
8. ‘Varied to Infinity’: The First World War and Sculpture, Laura Brandon
9. Memorials: Embodiment and Unconventional Mourning, Laura Wittman
10. Posters, Advertising and the First World War in Britain, James Thompson

Section III: Music
11. ‘We think you ought to go’: Music Hall and Recruitment in the First World War, Robert Dean
12. British Soldiers’ Songs, George Simmers
13. The First World War in Popular Music since 1958, Peter Grant
14. Requiems and Memorial Music, Kate Kennedy

Section IV: Periodicals and Journalism
15. Popular Periodicals: Wartime Newspapers, Magazines and Journals, Kate Macdonald
16. Evolving Wartime Print Cultures of the Anglo-American Modern Literary Renaissance, Christopher J. La Casse
17. Pamphlets and Political Writing, Matthew Shaw
18. ‘The whole of war is an atrocity’: Morgan Philips Price and First World War Reporting in the Ottoman/Russian Borderlands, Jo Laycock

Section V: Film and Broadcasting
19. Official War Films in Britain: The Battle of the Somme 1916, Its Impact Then and Its Meaning Today, Toby Haggith
20. Too Colossal to be Dramatic: The Cinema of the Great War, Michael Paris
21. Representations of the First World War in Contemporary British Television Drama, Emma Hanna
22. The Sound of War: Audio, Radio and the First World War, Richard J. Hand

Section VI: Publishing and Material Culture
23. The British Publishing Industry and the First World War, Jane Potter
24. Photography and the First World War, J. J. Long
25. The Imperial War Museum and the material culture of the First World War, 1917–2014, Alys Cundy
26. The Evolution of First World War Computer Games, Chris Kempshall.

Some of those I am very eager to read. When my copy arrives, this blog will doubtless be commenting on some of the chapters.  Maybe disagreeing with one or two. We shall see.

The drawback of the book is that, as usual for academic volumes, it is horribly expensive. Maybe libraries can be bullied into ordering copies? If it is successful, there should eventually be a more reasonably priced paperback. Here’s hoping.


  1. Ian Buchan
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I had looked at this book on the Edinburgh University Press website, but baulked at the £150 price tag irrespective of it being purchased
    as a hardback, ebook or even a humble pdf. Sadly, this one will sail on by.

    • Posted August 27, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      I agree. the price of academic books is scandalous. It is particularly annoying to authors, who realise that their work will reach only a small audience.
      In these days of print-on-demand publishing, there must be better solutions.
      Ian –
      if is my chapter on British Soldiers’ Songs that you want to read, drop me an email and I’ll send you a copy.

      • Ian Buchan
        Posted September 2, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        Thank you very much George, your offer is greatly appreciated.

        I am researching family members who fought in WW1 (and their families at home)and while I have a wealth of information gleaned from war diaries, casualty lists, newspapers etc. something is missing. That “something” looks like it could be found within this book, there is so much in there that I just can’t find or access. Sadly I can’t justify spending £150 on a single book, no matter how interesting it may be.

  2. Alan Allport
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    To be fair to the publisher, however, if the price point hadn’t been set so high then the book would likely not have been commercially viable, and so probably never would have been commissioned in the first place. No-one is making money out of this.

    • Posted August 30, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Alan –
      I think your argument is good for monographs on very obscure subjects that only a handful of people will want to buy. But this is a collection with potentially quite a wide appeal. Priced at £25 and with some marketing behind it, I’d say it could have reached a good audience. As it is no human will buy it, only institutions (and just the richer ones at that).
      Maybe the solution would be to have individual chapters downloadable for a small fee, so that someone who wanted to read Kate McD on magazine publishing or Toby Haggith on the Battle of the Somme film ( a particularly good chapter) could do so without forking out £150.

      • Alan Allport
        Posted August 30, 2017 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        But this is a collection with potentially quite a wide appeal. Priced at £25 and with some marketing behind it, I’d say it could have reached a good audience.

        It would certainly be nice to think this. But with a university press title now costing (by one estimate) $26,000 to produce, and even low-priced, well-written books on subjects of broad interest completing total sales in the hundreds rather than the thousands of copies, I’m not sure the numbers work out.

        I agree that disaggregating collections like this for electronic download is probably the only viable way to go in the future.

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