The Great War: Myth and Memory
The First World War, with its mud and the slaughter of the trenches, is often taken as the ultimate example of the futility of war. Generals, safe in their headquarters behind the lines, sent millions of men to their deaths to gain a few hundred yards of ground. Writers, notably Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, provided unforgettable images of the idiocy and tragedy of the war. Yet this vision of the war is at best a partial one, the war only achieving its status as the worst of wars in the last thirty years. At the time, the war aroused emotions of pride and patriotism. Not everyone involved remembered the war only for its miseries. The generals were often highly professional and indeed won the war in 1918. In this original and challenging book, Dan Todman shows views of the war have changed over the last ninety years and how a distorted image of it emerged and became dominant.
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A valuable and thought-provoking addition to the canon of First World War historical analysis. Todman explores how myth and memory are re-shaped by successive decades, reflecting the prejudices, concerns and pre-occupations of each, e.g. the 'Oh, What a Lovely War!' of the 1960s. The shift, from national sorrow and 'lost generational' mourning of the 1920s, to the 'Never again' of the 30s and cynicism mixed with outrage of the 60s and beyond, are carefully considered. The book is well-researched and well-written, appealing to both specialist and non-specialist. I would highly recommend reading it.