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on 3 October 2003
An excellent professional work, and an always-useful antidote to the all-too-often emotional response to the Great War. Bond doesn't sneer at the emotionalism of others, but he does take to task those who all too often base their scholarship on such emotive sources yet who would call themselves professional historians.
Bond's target is not the trench poets and other contemporary writers but today's historians. He rightly points out that history, as we understand it--as the historian makes it--is not the stuff of individual experience . This view does not invalidate the suffering of an individual soldier, but it would invalidate any history of the war that limited its subject-matter to the collective suffering of all the soldiers--even if the war for all soldiers had been all suffering, which Bond denies. History must take in the larger picture, which encompasses the larger world beyond the trenches.
This is great stuff. And the book is a brilliant read and a good fund of information (though more of value for its argumentation than for any new information the reader may get out of it). Without being callous (though no doubt some will look for callousness and find it) Bond firmly takes our focus away from the "traditional" treatment of the war and forces us to look at it from a more professional perspective.
Unfortunately he skirts too close to polemicism for comfort. By refuting the traditional view he is all but forced to identify with those we might call, with respect, the "reactionaries"--John Terraine, for instance--whose contention all along is that Britain did a fine job, with all that follows from this thesis, notably, that Haig was a great man or at least a damn good one. And Bond does indeed offer evidence that no one could have done more: that there was a technological gap that only was closed in the Second War and that it was this technological gap--primarily in battlefield communications--that led inevitably to the horror for the soldier that the Great War often was.
Fine. But Bond's stance leads him to weaken his own thesis by rubbishing those who would oppose him. Many of these might deserve to be treated as less than professional historians, but none deserve to be treated with contempt, and a one-line dismissal of Denis Winter simply will not do. In HAIG'S COMMAND Winter raises serious questions (even if that book also raises certain questions about its own thesis). The fact that Winter would disagree with Bond ought to draw out the most professional, not the most dismissive, in Bond's treatment of Winter's disturbing book.
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on 9 August 2002
If you think that the First World War was all mud, blood and poetry, you need to read Brian Bond's latest book 'The Unquiet Western Front'. It is a must for anyone with an interest in the most persistent myths that have contributed to Britain's 'modern memory' of the Great War. Refreshingly short and to the point, Professor Bond has started to peel away the layers that surround Britain’s 'Forgotten Victory'. In doing so, he is paving the way towards a more objective approach that is being developed by a new generation of historians who are now rising through the ranks of British universities.
If you know your History, you may say that the series of battles known as the Great War finished on 11th November 1918. In fact, the fighting over the perception of the war is as old as the conflict itself. Numerous poets, novelists, memoirists, historians, playwrights and scriptwriters, together with film and television directors have sought to portray the war as a futile massacre, where stupid chateau generals led millions of brave Tommy Atkins to certain death in the muddy trenches of the Western Front. The 'Lions Led by Donkeys' approach, beloved of certain 'historical' writers, has resulted in the cult of the ‘million dead’ eclipsing the real reasons why Britain went to war in 1914. Not only that, the futility angle does a great disservice to the five million volunteers and conscirpts of the British Expeditionary Force who grew in strength and expertise to defeat the Germans in 1918. For those who remember Geoffrey Palmer’s Field Marshal Haig sweeping up toy soldiers with his dustpan and brush in the 1989 BBC comedy 'Blackadder' or of battle casualty figures on cricket scoreboards on Brighton Pier in the 1960s film 'Oh! What a Lovely War', Brian Bond will remove the scales from your eyes.
The book is a succinct and comprehensive introduction to this area, deconstructing the development of selected Great War myths in just 101 pages. Professor Bond has successfully attempted to return the war to its rightful historical context, by getting to the root of the most persistent war myths that have been perpetuated by literature, visual art, film and television from the inter-war period via the 1960s and 1990s. In my opinion, it is the most fascinating study of this subject area since Samuel Hynes published 'A War Imagined' in 1991, Bond's work being more accessible to those outside academia, to be easily digested by those reading for general interest. It is certainly a book that will prove required reading for any discerning student of the cultural effects of the Great War on modern British society.
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on 3 August 2004
Brian Bond's short (just 128 pages including notes and index) book is based on his views articulated at the 1997 Liddell Hart lecture and further developed for the Lees Knowles lecture at Trinity Collage Cambridge in 2000. I mention this because it's clear that the need to distill his thoughts down to a very focused discussion has allowed Mr.Bond to present a very powerful and cogent argument against the "Futility" school of Great War scholarship.
However, Mr. Bond's major target is the "literary myth" of the Great War - summarised by the "Blackadder Goes Forth" view of events. Here he scores a bullseye as his arguments are both compelling and highly entertaining. His command of his subject matter and his easy to read style captured my attention immediately and kept it until the very end.
Highly recommended.
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on 6 September 2013
This was purchased for study purposes but I actually found it very interesting as a book for personal reading. Would recommend to anyone interested in the subject.
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on 22 August 2009
Brian Bond writes with blinders on. He is adept at taking snippet quotes of, say, historian John Keegan, and turning it into a whitewashed revisionist position. Bond is as flighty on facts as the subject of his biography.

Brian Bond is, after all, one of the new 21st century's revisionist historians, who, despite showing some merit here in examining some of the television and movie interpretations of the Great War, whines on consistently about the high moral leadership of the inept and self-righteous Douglas Haig, whilst undercutting more serious research/historians who have gathered the facts and presented them in a methodical way.

"Chateaux General" Haig never bothered to visit the forward field hospitals, speak to survivors as they came out of battle, or question the intelligence estimates which his fawning underlings gave him. As a result of the Battle of the Somme, Haig should be remembered as the greatest serial murderer in British twentieth-century history; guilty of the crime of stubbornness. This man was personally responsible for the slaughter of the cream of the British population, the new volunteer army that had been raised.

Brian Bond's Haigiography testifies to the power of British patriotism and loyalty into which, as a British general, Haig tapped. Bond's defense of Haig's asininity horsed cavalry convictions is only exceeded by defense of Haig when he was faced by the evidence that his major push into the Somme had failed...and let's not forget his deceit and outright lies to the British government and public in covering up the enormity of that failure. Brian Bond omits how Haig and his headquarter staffs concealed and ignored British casualties, while reporting only the numbers of enemy troops captured!

In this book, like his "Haig: A Reappraisal 80 Years On," Brian Bond ignores the fact that, by retrospectively changing the purpose of his non-battle plan, Haig was able to avoid disgrace or dismissal....it was brilliant strategy for keeping his position...but which squandered the lives of British and Commonwealth soldiers...it was, in essence, a most elaborate perversion of historical truth.

Bond's 101 page diatribe (I omit his 5 page self-congratulation in being part of the Lees Knowles Lectures, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the main thesis of his book) of glossed-over facts, and poor research, is quickly read and poorly researched. Don't waste your time or money. Brian Bond is the archetype of revisionist history.
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on 25 September 2014
A book cited frequently by ‘revisionist’ historians, the implication being that it disposes of the ‘blood and horror’ view of the First World War. Bond is a readable and generally temperate writer, but his arguments are simplistic, contradictory and sometimes just plain silly. ‘Literary critics have too often focussed on enduring literary merit’ (p. 29) is a notably odd suggestion. The key argument is in the final chapter, where Bond, quoting Correlli Barnett, asserts that only ‘the political and strategic dynamics of the war’ can give meaning to the human experiences (p. 81). This is Douglas Jerrold redivivus: ‘history’ is a grand panorama of nations and empires to which individual experience must be connected to possess meaning. The exact opposite is the case.
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on 19 October 2012
Bond has written a fair description of the trends in Great War historiography but spoilt it by writing

"Military historians ... find these deep-rooted myths disturbing ... believing that they are not just narrow academic specialised issues but have serious implications for our present attitudes and values and may well affect security decisions."

in his penultimate paragraph.

"Security decisions"? That's Goebbels talking, that is; what colonialist insouciance.
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