THE OTHER BATTLEFIELD: The Home Fronts Britain, France and Germany 1914-1918 by John Williams

THE OTHER BATTLEFIELD: The Home Fronts Britain, France and Germany 1914-1918

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The impact of the Great War on the domestic and civilian life of the three European belligerents chronicled year-by-year, country-by-country. From the jubilation of 1914 when crowds sang and cheered in the streets of London and Berlin to the grim resignation of lengthening bread lines in 1917, Williams gauges the shifting moods of each country in a smoothly homogenized, undemanding fashion. The occasionally vivid journalistic detail -- in May 1915 when Italy joined the Allies menus in Berlin restaurants changed ""Italian salad"" to ""Traitor's salad"" -- projects the swell of the propaganda machinery to vulgar street level. The xenophobic spy-mania, the atrocity stories, and the censorship which contaminated the press is noted with a neutral matter-of-factness characteristic of the book's apolitical style. On the other hand, Williams is good at evoking the food and fuel deprivations (including the adulterated government ""War Bread"") which comprised the economic aspects of the slow erosion of morale. And drawing on some of the best memoirs of the War experience -- including Robert Graves' classic Goodbye to All That -- he points to some of the more unexpected psychological reactions: ""civilians were beginning to show a belligerence toward the enemy fiercer than that of the soldiers."" The comparative approach is valuable for assessing the war's impact on different national traditions -- with England's venerable history of no conscription and economic laissez-faireism being among the principal casualties. Good reportorial coverage of a relatively neglected aspect of the (otherwise overwritten) history of World War I.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1972
Publisher: Regnery