Blighty: British Society in the Era of the Great War
Because we assume momentous events must have momentous consequences, we too easily accept the conventional wisdom that the Great War of 1914-18 shook British society to its foundations, leaving nothing of the prewar world intact. We take it for granted that, along with a generation of its finest young men, the nation's old ways of life and thought perished in the mud of Flanders. Recent historiography, however, has shown a new sensitivity to the power of tradition in British society, and its ability to contain and neutralise radical social change. Now, in this impressive study - the first major treatment of the theme - Gerard DeGroot examines every aspect of society in the period (c. 1907-22) to understand what actually happened to the people of Britain during and after the trial by fire.
As well as incorporating the latest scholarship, he makes rich, and often very moving, use of primary sources - newspapers, poetry (both high and low), literature, memoirs and letters - to illuminate the attitudes of society at all its levels, not merely the elite and the articulate. He reveals the extent to which the dominant social force in Britain during the war was not change but continuity. The most urgent wish of most people for the postwar world was, poignantly, that life should return to the way it had been - and to a quite astonishing extent it did, despite the tide of technological change flowing towards a different world. It was the vacuum cleaner and the internal combustion engine that transformed Britain in the early twentieth century, not the sorrows, sacrifices and opportunities of the Great War.
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