Why did Asquith take Britain to war in 1914? What did educated young men believe their role should be? What was it like to fly over the Somme battlefield? How could a trench on the front line be 'the safest place'?
These compelling eye-witness accounts convey what it was really like to experience the first two years of the war up until the fall of Asquith's government, without the benefit of hindsight or the accumulated wisdom of a hundred years of discussion and writing. Using the rich manuscript resources of the Bodleian Libraries, the book features key extracts from letters and diaries of members of the Cabinet, academic and literary figures, student soldiers and a village rector.
The letters of politicians reveal the strain of war leadership and throw light on the downfall of Asquith in 1916, while the experiences of the young Harold Macmillan in the trenches, vividly described in letters home, marked the beginning of his road to Downing Street. It was forbidden to record Cabinet discussions, but Lewis Harcourt's unauthorised diary provides a window on Asquith's government, complete with character sketches of some of the leading players, including Winston Churchill. Meanwhile, in one Essex village, the local rector compiled a diary to record the impact of war on his community.
These fascinating contemporary papers paint a highly personal and immediate picture of the war as it happened. Fear, anger, death and sorrow are always present, but so too are idealism, excitement, humour, boredom and even beauty.
- 304 pages, 234 x 156 mm
- 16 pages of colour plates and 27 black and white integrated illustrations
- ISBN: 9781851243938
- Publication June 2014