Category Archives: politics

On War Memorials

For much of my life I was indifferent to war memorials. They stood there in the middle of every town and village, often useful as landmarks, but surely all more or less the same? It was only when I started seriously studying the Great War, and especially its cultural effects, that I began to realise […]

Kipling does not mince his words

Ever since the sentimental film My Boy Jack, a myth has grown that his son’s death at Loos made Rudyard Kipling less warlike, more pacific. The evidence mostly points the other way. Kipling was tremendously affected by John’s death, of course, but in ways that made him even more committed to the war effort, more […]

Carlyle’s Statue

The news last week, suddenly, was all about the toppling of statues. When it comes to the bronze representation of a slave-owner like Colston in Bristol, my only feeling is a mild surprise that it hasn’t been quietly got rid of long ago (which would have avoided its noisy elimination this week). But when I […]

General Kelly and Forester’s ‘The General’

Chief of Staff John Kelly has the reputation of being the most stable figure in President Trump’s chaotic White House. From what one can gather, he has brought a semblance of order and organisation to the place, and has engineered the removal of some of Mr Trump’s more erratic political associates. Earlier this year, he […]

Kipling the pacifist?

Poems often take on new lives and different identities once they get away from the poet, but Rudyard Kipling might have been rather interested, and maybe even amused, by the annexation of his work by pacifists. Here is an article from the Camden New Journal last week:

Strong and Stable

Today’s Guardian has a letter from Dr David Blazey of Newcastle pointing out that Teresa May’s slogan ‘strong and stable’ is a cliche referenced by Galsworthy in The Forsyte Saga. The Guardian website illustrates the letter with a pretty picture of late Victorian poshness, but the quotation is in fact from a later instalment of […]

Who is the politician?

I’m currently reading (and admiring) C.R. Benstead’s 1930 novel, Retreat, whose central figure is a chaplain attached to an artillery unit in the Fifth Army during the momentous  German assault of March-April 1918. The novel graphically describes the efforts of the over-extended unit to hold their position as the Germans relentlessly advanced. But a detail […]

‘The Statue’ by Eden Philpotts and Arnold Bennett

The Statue (1908) by Eden Philpotts and Arnold Bennett links in a way to the ‘Future War’ fiction of the pre-1914 era, since the plot is overshadowed by the possibility of crisis and conflict between France and Germany. Both countries are vying to provide a huge loan to the Sultan of Morocco, with a rivalry […]

‘Dawn’: Edith Cavell and the censors

On Saturday, at the splendid Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds, we had a rare chance to see the 1929 film Dawn, about Edith Cavell. It’s a remarkable film, and it was made more enjoyable by the four short talks that preceded it.

Billy Bunter versus the Suffragettes

This November I’ll be giving a talk on the wartime Magnet comics to the Being Young in World War One conference in Manchester. I’ll be arguing that the comics had a nuanced approach to the war, remaining firmly patriotic while suggesting that the demands of war should not make people forget the civilised decencies of […]