A doctoral candidate and senior paralegal debuts with a sharp look at the so-called “Christmas truce” of 1914, discovering that distortion has colored many accounts of it—and of World War I itself.
In a text adapted from her master’s thesis, Crocker displays some things clearly. First, she did an enormous amount of work for that degree, reading countless books, newspaper accounts, diaries, and letters of those involved (almost entirely those of the English military) and watching films (documentary and otherwise) that involve the celebrated truce. Second, she did sufficiently transform the organization and tone from a graduate school exercise. She retains the well-used format of introduction-body-conclusion; she provides far more examples for each of her points than is necessary; she repeats and summarizes too much; her attitude remains generally detached and scholarly. Still, Crocker has created a work perhaps powerful enough to alter the conventional narrative of the incident. She destroys a number of misconceptions. Discovering considerable newspaper coverage from late 1914 and even into 1915, she demonstrates with great clarity that the soldiers involved were generally not dissuaded from socializing with the enemy by their commanding officers (and there were no punishments in the aftermath), proving with ample evidence that the combatants involved (on the English side) were not using the informal truces up and down the trenches to engage in some sort of anti-war protest. The author also expands her scope to show that the current dominant story of World War I—that incompetent commanders sent waves of young men to the slaughterhouse and that the entire war was not only ill-fought, but was a principal cause of World War II—is based more on tradition and myth than on fact. A storm of debate will no doubt ensue.
The style is traditional, even stodgy, while the discoveries may be revolutionary in World War I historiography.