Today is Armistice Day. Ninety-six years ago, Germany surrendered and brought World War I to an end. The wreckage left behind by the war was enormous. More than 16 million people died, seven million of them civilians. Monarchies had ended in Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire. The maps of Europe and the Middle East were redrawn. New nations were formed. Lenin and the Communist Party had taken control in Russia, except the control was tenuous, only to be decided by an ugly civil war. Massive war reparations were imposed on Germany, which would ultimately contribute to ruinous hyperinflation. Victorious Britain and France faced huge war debts.
The emotional and psychological impact on victor and defeated was just as significant. That emotion and psychology had begun during the war, and it no better articulated than by the group of Britons collectively known as the War Poets.
We’ve spent the last several weeks discussing the poets and poetry of World War I. What we have not considered ion detail in the context of the poets and what they wrote – and that context is the war itself, the Great War, the War to End All Wars.
In Some Desperate Glory: The First World War the Poets Knew, historian, novelist and biographer Max Egremont (he’s also written a biography of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon) does something unusual in a book.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Photograph: Chateau Wood, World War I.