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on 11 August 2014
Nigel Fountain has made a very good job of assembling choice bits of Guardian First World War coverage. He provides a balanced sample which includes the must-have big stories alongside snapshot type reports, which are especially good on the home front and the reception of news. Of course this is far from being a history of the war and The Guardian got a lot wrong, particularly on the Russian Revolution, but its coverage was well-informed and, unsurprisingly, liberal throughout. That said, it's interesting that in covering the western front, hatred for the Germans does surface quite a lot. Again, in the circumstances that's not really surprising I suppose, the tabloids were probably infinitely worse, and overall the newspaper's attitude towards Germany was that it would be admirable once it was purged of 'Prussianism'. The clipped, down to earth style of writing favoured by the paper makes the collection highly accessible - there are no endless, adjective-clogged sentences here.
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on 3 June 2017
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Amongst the avalanche of books connected to the centennial of WW1, this approaches the subject in a nicely different way. Comprising extracts from the archives of the Manchester Guardian, the forerunner to today’s Guardian, this gives us an insight into Britain during the war years. In an era before widespread radio and TV, the papers were the main source of news. War reporting, too, was severely restricted with only five ‘scribblers’ being officially accredited.

This is as fascinating for its insight into the history of newspapers, journalism and the Guardian itself as it is about the war years: even then, the Guardian was reporting sympathetically on the suffragettes, conscientious objectors, and all manner of political dissenters. I particularly enjoyed the articles on the Pankhursts, the ‘new and ominous figure’ in Russia called Rasputin (22 January 1914), and the articles announcing the Russian revolution (16 March 1917 onwards).

The ‘big’ stories are here, of course: the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (29 June 1914), the declaration of war, the ‘Christmas truce’, zeppelin raids on London, but also smaller tales of music hall acts, Charlie Chaplin films and a review of Buchan’s Greenmantle that give a flavour of domestic life.

Because these are newspaper extracts written without any of the benefit of hindsight which can make ‘history’ inevitable and teleological, they allow us to trace what people thought and felt in the immediacy of the moment.

This is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and the objectivity of reporting makes it somehow more moving in parts than less emotionally reticent texts such as war novels – highly recommended.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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When the Lamps Went Out

The Manchester Guardian had a proud tradition in the early twentieth century for being proudly independent, liberal and representing those voices never heard from the London based newspapers. The paper had been edited by CP Scott for 42 years at that point and he had the ear of the Liberal elite in government and as war approached lobbied them hard and often.

With a foreword from the doyen of war reporters Kate Adie, Nigel Fountain the editor has delved in to the archives of the Guardian in 1914 from before the war, during the war then the aftermath and come up with some interesting articles from the paper by journalists and letter writers alike. Fountain uses the archives to show that everything was a rose tinted as some writers over the years have made things seem both before and during the war. The aftermath and devastation of the population nobody could hide or look at through rose tinted glasses.

In the first chapter we are reminded of the suffragette ‘raid’ on Buckingham Palace to the militant suffragettes being chased in Portsmouth campaigning for the vote. The death of another throwing herself under the Kings horse at the Derby, all in the hope of gaining women the vote, the vote so many have today but do not use. There are also constant reminders of the problems of Ireland and the problem with the Ulstermen causing trouble, somethings never really change.

Prior to the outbreak of the war The Manchester Guardian had been opposed to war and did as much as it could to campaign for peace, but when war came fell in behind the nation and supported the country in its fight. While supporting the war it was not slavishly so because Scott recognised that in war the young and innocent die as does innocence.

There are wonderful articles describing the tears when the German Ambassador and his wife left London and the embassy closed to the work preparing for war. The descriptions of war and refugees in Belgium written in such a way that has always set the excellent standards The Guardian works too today.

The descriptions of war and battle that can contain the minimum of real facts as set by war censorship still touch a nerve a century later. The high regard in which soldiers are help and that in towns and cities across the country how you could often see injured soldiers back from the front. To a letter from an officer describing the Christmas truce and the exchanging of gifts and the hope as 1914 ended. As the war years go the hope dies and the descriptions change as the war drags on, from describing the injured, the poison gas attacks to Gallipoli. A letter also about the Turkish genocide of Armenians forgotten by many then as now but The Guardian standing up for all peoples and not letting their story die silently.

This book is an edited testament to the honesty that CP Scott wanted in reporting the news, but also giving his readers the challenges along the way to make up their own minds when the facts are presented to them. The Manchester Guardian in this form gives a flavour of the reporting and readership of the time. All stories are poignant and this book does not pull any punches rather like its famous ancestor. To me as a historian and avid reader is the last article when in 1929 the author of All Quiet on the Western Front is visiting the trenches, that four years later the book would be one that was burnt by the Nazis during the burning of books.

A fabulous collection of articles from the Manchester Guardian make this book an interesting companion to the many other books that are being published with the century of the beginning of that war. To use part of Sir Edward Grey speech on 3rd August as the title is inspired and you could also argue those lights are still out now.
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on 29 December 2014
A lot of information which requires in depth studying so not easy reading But having said that, There is a lot more to the actions that took part that I found appauling and unfortunately made me realise the futility of it all and I am only up to the section 1918. I couldn't recommend it for light reading But its as well the author put pen to paper in a readable book
for generations to try to understand the responsibilty of those in Power.
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on 29 February 2016
Excellent book
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on 15 November 2014
Lots of anecdotes, not much commentary. Interesting but lacking in depth.
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on 17 July 2014
Very moving and sad to see how things developed.
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on 15 August 2014
Only received today so haven't had a chance to read it yet. Looks good though.
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