British Society in the Era of the Great War

By Gerard J. De Groot
June 1996
Pearson Education
ISBN: 0582061377
376 pages
$52.50 Paper Original


An analytical survey of Britain in the era of the Great War (focusing particularly on the period 1907-1922), which questions the common assumption that, because the war had a devastating impact on the British people, its social consequences must therefore have been equally apocalyptic and lasting. Dr. De Groot argues that prewar social structures and attitudes proved surprisingly resilient, and the innate conservatism of all classes in Britain ensured that postwar Britain was as little changed as new economic and technological circumstances allowed.

There is more to the book, however, than its impressively argued thesis: rich with detail of life and culture from all levels of British society, this is a powerful and moving portrait of a nation under stress.

Preface Introduction I. "Clad in Glittering White" II. Virtuous Inferiority III. "To Die Young" IV. Business as Usual V. War by Improvisation: Money, Manpower, Munitions and Food VI. Working for the War VII. Aliens, Outlaws and Dissenters VIII. Lions and Donkeys IX. Mobilizing Minds X. Houses, Homes and Health XI. "Are You Forgetting There's a War On?" XII. Denouement, 1918 XIII. Coming Home XIV. The Dead, the Living and the Living Dead XV. The Social Legacy of the War: Three Steps Forward, Two Back XVI. Politics and the People: The Triumph of the Hard-Faced Men Bibliography Index.

Features * exceptionally well-written, an engrossing and often painfully vivid book, as well as an important contribution to an ongoing academic debate * though British-based for many years, Gerard De Groot is an American, with an outsider's dispassionate and sardonic eye for British assumptions and self-delusions * challenges many of the myths about the war: that it broke down class barriers, that there were major power shifts between classes, that it freed women from domestic chains, that crime rates slumped for the duration, etc * nevertheless this is not a revisionist hatchet-job - it pays moving tribute to British endurance, despite its uncomfortable conclusion that in the long term Britain's "stability and social harmony were expensive luxuries bought at the cost of growth and prosperity"

Reviews 'well worth reading'. The Times 'well written and very readable...can be highly recommended' African History 'an important contribution to our knowledge of the background to British policy-making in 1918 and 1919' English Historical Review "The author's skill in blending social history with a narrative of the main political developments makes Blighty well-suited for student use. In many respects it provides a model of what this genre should be like." Albion

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