on 10 March 2000
This most important and very well written book challenges the predominant tradition in the (Anglo-Saxon) cultural history of the First World War that considers the war as a fundamental and abrupt caesura in European cultural history, giving birth to modernity. This view is exemplified by much-read and hugely influential books as Fussell's seminal 'The Great War and Modern Memory', Hynes' 'A War Imagined' and Eksteins' 'Rites of Spring'. In contrast with these works, Winter carefully avoids taking elite culture and art developments for changes in the society at large. His focus is on the everyday lived effects that the war produced all over Europe: the problem of how to overcome the trauma of war and come to terms with the grief felt by the unprecedented loss of kin and friends. The major argument is that traditional idioms were still capable of giving sense to the slaughter and thus warding off a symbolic collapse; more modernist idioms that stressed the senselessness of war, in contrast, could not heal the trauma. Winter's point is very well developed, using a broad range of examples and resources. Another major achievement is putting monuments (sites of memory) in their contemporary lived social and cultural context, seeing them first and foremost as sites of mourning, rather than viewing them as expressions of patriotism or pacifism. Although the link between the first and the second world war in Germany could have been more developed, the explicitly comparative perspective (restricted to Britain, France and Germany) is extremely valuable, and much-needed. A must-have-read.
on 25 September 2014
In 2014, a century on, and at a moment of remembrance and commemoration, it is important we should contemplate and reflect what the events of 1914-18 meant in the longer perspective. Jay Winter, a distinguished historian of political, economic and social change, has produced an incisive and expertly documented evaluation of how we might remember the First World War, an epic series of events by any standards with huge implications for the rest of the 20th century. The academic reviews pf the book have been very positive since it first appeared in 1995 while the innumerable readers who have encountered this book since then have, by all accounts, been impressed. Most importantly we should recognise that wars and military engagements have long-term consequences - as we are witnessing at this present time. Jay Winter has reminded us that we all have different way of commemorating events. Quite simply, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants another perspective on the First World War, and by implication other recent wars, over and beyond the dramatic events and actions.
on 18 March 2010
As an artist with an interest in memory and memorial , this book is like a manual which I refer to and read often. Its contents have sent me off on new investigative directions, and even the bibliography is a source of information for my own artistic reasearch. It covers more than visual art, including literature and film. It manages to be both scholarly and moving, particularly where repatriation of the dead is discussed. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the impact of the Great War on art and society. It's a sobering, interesting and provocative read.
on 20 August 2014
I first read this amazing piece of cultural history nearly twenty years ago, and thought to revisit it this year, with remembrance being such a central theme. It really gets to the core of the impact and aftermath on the public psyche of such catastrophic wars and how the shockwaves are felt decades on. A tremendous read, full of insightful comment, I really couldn't recommend this book enough.