An English Governess in the Great War: The Secret Brussels Diary of Mary Thorp

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Oxford University Press, Apr 3, 2017 - History - 208 pages
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An Englishwoman of no particular fame living in World War I Brussels started a secret diary in September 1916. Aware that her thoughts could put her in danger with German authorities, she never wrote her name on the diary and ran to hide it every time the "Boches" came to inspect the house. The diary survived the war and ended up in a Belgian archive, forgotten for nearly a century until historians Sophie De Schaepdrijver and Tammy M. Proctor discovered it and the remarkable woman who wrote it: Mary Thorp, a middle-aged English governess working for a wealthy Belgian-Russian family in Brussels. As a foreigner and a woman, Mary Thorp offers a unique window into life under German occupation in Brussels (the largest occupied city of World War I) and in the uncertain early days of the peace. Her diary describes the roar of cannons in the middle of the night, queues for food and supplies in the shops, her work for a wartime charity, news from an interned godson in Germany, along with elegant dinners with powerful diplomats and the educational progress of her beloved charges. Mary Thorp's sharp and bittersweet reflections testify to the daily strains of living under enemy occupation, comment on the events of the war as they unfolded, and ultimately serve up a personal story of self-reliance and endurance. De Schaepdrijver and Proctor's in-depth commentary situate this extraordinary woman in her complex political, social, and cultural context, thus providing an unusual chance to engage with the Great War on an intimate and personal level.
 

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About the author (2017)

Sophie De Schaepdrijver is Walter L. and Helen P. Ferree Professor of Modern European History at Pennsylvania State University. She has written on First World War Europe, with a focus on military occupations. Her latest books are Bastion: Occupied Bruges in the First World War and Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War. She has co-written and presented a television documentary, Brave Little Belgium. Tammy M. Proctor is Professor of History at Utah State University. She is the author of several books on the history of gender, youth, and war in modern Europe, including Civilians in a World at War, Scouting for Girls: A Century of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts, and Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War.

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