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The Last Great War: British Society And The First World War Paperback – 16 Oct 2008

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (16 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521728835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521728836
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 387,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

'Adrian Gregory has provided the best brief account we have of the history of the Great War. Using an astonishing array of sources uncovering wartime life at the front and at home, Gregory tells the story of the war in a manner which is engaging, combative, and authoritative. Here is an original, tough-minded and thoughtful book, written by an historian unafraid of exploding the myths which still surround the 1914–18 conflict.' Jay Winter, Yale University

'In a series of brilliant, well-argued and powerfully humane thematic chapters, Gregory transforms our understanding of how Britons went to war, how they persevered despite growing anger at unequal 'sacrifices', and, crucially, how victory allowed them to transcend the traumas and the hatreds of war by embracing the lie that bereavement and sacrifice had been universal. Throughout, Gregory places experience of life on the home front, in all its rich diversity, centre-stage.' Jon Lawrence, Emmanuel College, Cambridge

'The Last Great War is the most important book on the British Home Front of the First World War to appear since Arthur Marwick's The Deluge, published over 40 years ago, which it largely supersedes. In particular, Adrian Gregory's revision of the idea of 'war enthusiasm' is subtle and persuasive. This is an outstanding work by a major historian.' Gary Sheffield, University of Birmingham

'At first glance, one wonders if we need another book about Britain and the First World War. After reading Adrian Gregory's The Last Great War, it is clear that we do. It offers a stirring reminder of the importance of studying the war on its own terms, not its popular legacy. By taking on some well-entrenched orthodoxies about what the First World War meant, the book will provoke renewed discussion and debate about this pivotal event.' Susan Grayzel, University of Mississippi

'In his fascinating book, The Last Great War, Adrian Gregory demonstrates that the notion that Britain was carried to war on a wave of patriotic enthusiasm is false … It is true that some wanted to fight, and others saw war as a more exciting prospect than working in a dead-end office job. But Gregory shows that voluntarism wasn't all that it seemed.' George Monbiot, The Guardian

'… there is much material presented here that does explode many of the myths surrounding the First World War, through the extensive collection of personal documents, and giving more of a view 'from the shop floor'.' Tribune

'This fascinating, deeply revisionist study sets quite a few received opinions on their heads with its imagination, verve, and extensive use of sources, most of which come, by dint of availability, from the middle class - correspondence, diaries, newspapers, and local records … This is an important and exciting book … allowing us to better understand the past.' The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

'This is a very interesting study of the British Home Front during the First World War which looks at how the British public felt about the war and how this changed as the conflict progressed. … Gregory provides a sensible, balanced viewpoint, which emphasises the complexities inherent in talking about the feelings and motivation of a whole nation.' The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society

'Adrian Gregory has written a marvellous, interesting, detailed book. One that casts a new light on the Last Great War, not from the perspective of the Western Front but from the nation at home. It calls into question and provides fresh insight into many of the myths and accepted conclusions promoted by some historians' work.' Open History

'Adrian Gregory has written a marvellous, interesting, detailed book … No serious military or social historian can afford to ignore it.' Open History

Book Description

What was it that the British people believed they were fighting for in 1914–18? This compelling history of the British home front during the First World War offers an entirely new account of how British society understood and endured the war.

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Format: Paperback
This is possibly the best introduction to the social history of World War I in Britain currently available. It's exceedingly well researched, engagingly well written, and the author is not afraid of taking a definite stand on certain issues. The chapter exploring whether there was such a thing as "war enthusiasm" in August and September 1914 is especially eye-opening, and symptomatic of the way in which Gregory confronts -- and questions -- existing orthodoxies with evidence and a shrewd independence of mind. Anyone interested in WWI, whether a general reader, a student, or an academic, will gain a good deal by reading this.
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I would rate this as among the best history books I have read on any period.

Adrian Gregory has a real mastery of his sources.a shrewd historical judgement and an appealing touch of humour, and he combines all these to great effect. So he includes diary entries without getting merely anecdotal and deals with statistics without losing the human element. He integrates the home front with the fighting front (reminding us of what war histories often make us forget, that people at home were also part of the war). He doesn't just concentrate on London or the political and intellectual elites. He manages to deal with the subtle differences between the nations of the UK, and regions within the nations in their response to war. Not to mention different classes and occupations.

There is so much here to make you think about the Great War differently. As with a lot of writing about the Great War in recent years, there is a conscious attempt to undo the misconceptions sown by 'Oh What a Lovely War' and Blackadder. Though Gregory goes further and puts some of the blame for myth-making at the feet of the war poets, especially Sassoon. How much of popular understanding of the Great War in Britain comes from the fact that children are introduced to it by English teachers by way of the war poets, rather than by historians? Just one of the fascinating questions he raises.

I particularly appreciated the attention he gave to religious belief and practice, how religious imagery and language was drawn into the war effort and how the experience of war impacted on belief and practice. He avoids easy generalisations or guesses, and is careful not to read the attitudes of the 1930's back into wartime. I came away with a lot to think about.

If you want a superbly well-informed and judiciously analysed account of how Britain and Ireland coped with the Great War, read this book.
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Fantastic book on WWI that breaks down a lot of the postwar mythology and looks at how people experienced the Great War - not as the first of two world wars but instead as the lived experience of a total war the likes of which no one had ever seen. Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in the war from the perspective of everyday people on the home front.
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Brought during my time at university as one of the books I had to read, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and found it very easy to understand. It was used several times for reference during essays and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who found the period interesting.
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