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Forgotten Victory: The First World War: Myths and Realities Paperback – 5 Jun 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Review; New Ed edition (5 Jun. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747264600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747264606
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 273,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Sheffield...sets out the arguments for an interpretation not based exclusively on the war poets, Alan Clark and Blackadder...One can only hope that his compassionate, clearly argued book will displace the [mythical] version (David Horspool, Guardian)

This is revisionist history at its best - thought provoking and original (Trevor Royle, Sunday Herald)

An important book that shatters many myths about the First World War (Richard Holmes)

Amongst the most important books to have been published on the Great War for some years. Very strongly recommended (Stand To!)

Book Description

'An important book that shatters many myths about the First World War' Richard Holmes

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 78 people found the following review helpful By oldhasbeen VINE VOICE on 28 Jan. 2005
Format: Paperback
Firstly, a word about what this book isn't - it is not intended to be narrative, year by year account of WW1. Many such books already exist, I found Huw Strachan's very good.
What this book does offer is a reappraisal of WW1, comparing the realities of the Great War with the tired stereotypes and myths that are served up regularly (and unquestioningly) in WW1 films, books and documentaries. Dr Sheffied does not flinch from asking the hard questions, and some readers will be shocked, or possibly angered, by some of his findings. But you don't have to agree with every word of it to find this an outstanding contribution to war history.
Apart from being an outstanding historian, the author is also an excellent writer who retains the reader's attention with stylist prose and wit. Unlike some other "revisionist" authors, he also writes with great compassion for those caught up in the war and resists the trap of rubbishing anyone who has written anything contrary to his thesis, except in cases where it is truly deserved (Alan Clark's dreadful "The Donkeys" being a case in point.)
In short, I wholly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in the Great War.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Simon Worrall on 17 Sept. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gary Sheffield is one of the more widely known of the so-called Revisionist historians, who seek to give an informed view of the Great War through an understanding of primary sources of evidence from the period, rather than the fallacious views which found their way into the popular perception of the War in the early-1960’s and which largely persist to this day. Forgotten Victory is one of the cornerstones of that school of thought. However, unlike so many works by academic historians this is no dry and dusty academic volume, written for an audience of a few dozens, at most, of his peers. It is a book for the interested amateur and the layman as well.

In a set of thematic chapters Sheffield first lays bare the skeleton of the public myth and then sets about methodically dismantling it, piece by piece, by showing the fault-lines that lie beneath it. One of the keys to its success was demonstrating sourcing to an academic standard and putting its evidence-base beyond reproach, whilst being written in a language accessible to many. When originally published it sold well and was generally well-reviewed and received. But, as will always be the case when someone contradicts deeply-held ideas, it caused some controversy from people unwilling to have lifelong concepts of a ‘futile’ war challenged so directly.

It was not an entirely original work, as the author acknowledges, being a synthesis of the best material available from the then-current thinking of others, all of which he acknowledges, with the addition of a measure of his own original research.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By HPCecil on 4 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
The First World War had such vast and tragic implications that as Samuel Hynes has said, its reality has been almost impossible for subsequent generations to grasp and has been replaced by myth. First this was a myth of hallowed victory, achieved by a noble army of martyrs, as evoked in the sombre verses of Sir John Arkwright's 'O Valiant Hearts.' Then, after a few years' interval, this was supplanted by an ever more popular myth, still dominant today, of fatuous leadership, semi-mutinous troops, and repetitive, futile, suicidal attacks. This myth drew its emotional force from works like the haunting poetry of Wilfred Owen.

Gary Sheffield's book tells how battles were fought, how decisions were made and how the nature of the war, so apparently unchanging, gradually altered. It gets away from myths and confronts reality, including all that was dreadful and badly managed; but in doing so it also demonstrates that the British High Command could and did learn by its mistakes and develop new tactics, and that the British troops , despite the fearful battering they took, preserved their unit morale. By the summer of 1918, the British Expeditionary Force had become a highly-trained, professional organisation of immense strength - no 'Joe Soap's Army'. The victories it gained during the 'hundred days', when it pushed back the still redoubtable German army, rank as the greatest by a British force in their country's history.
There is still a popular tendency today, outside historical circles, to mistrust revisionism of this kind as 'pro-war' and to prefer, as being supposedly more humane, depictions of the conflict based on the 'futile war' myth, such as Alan Bleasdale's 'Monocled Mutineer' and Joan Littlewood's 'O What a Lovely War'.
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68 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Matt M. on 7 Oct. 2003
Format: Paperback
So often thought of in the ideal of poets such as Owen and Sassoon, Gary Sheffield argues that this was hardly the typical view of the British soldier in the Great War. The old line of the British Army being an archaic institution of incompetant officers and disillusioned soldiers is refuted as a myth of post-war pacifist literature. In reality, the BEF experienced the greatest learning curve of all the armies in the war, and profited most from the hotbed of technological innovations and ideas (the tank, air reconaissance and the "creeping barrage"). The evetual reality of this great learning curve was the most impressive and coherant victory in the histoy of the British Army.
As well as the course of the war, Sheffield also seeks to re-examine the causes, with much emphasis placed on the post-Bismarck attitude of Wilhelmine Germany.
Whilst the author does not seek to deny the mistakes that were made, and the tragedies the befell the frontline soldiers, he argues that the "lions led by donkeys" mentality is one that has obscured our perceptions of the Great War even to this day.
The subject of possibly the most controversy, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, is also reappraised in a single chapter depicting the relationship between Haig and the men under his command, which by 1918, could be described as very coherant. Sheffield does not attempt to lionise Haig, but his excellent revision allows for a far more objective look into a very complex character.
An essential read for all who express an interest in the British Army, and the Great War.
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