'Boredom is the Enemy'
The Intellectual and Imaginative Lives of Australian Soldiers in the Great War and Beyond
War is often characterised as one percent terror, 99 per cent boredom. Whilst much ink has been spilt on the one per cent, relatively little work has been directed toward the other 99 per cent of a soldier's time. As such, this book will be welcomed by those seeking a fuller understanding of what makes soldiers endure war, and how they cope with prolonged periods of inaction. It explores the issue of military boredom and investigates how soldiers spent their time when not engaged in battle, work or training through a study of their creative, imaginative and intellectual lives. It examines the efforts of military authorities to provide solutions to military boredom (and the problem of discipline and morale) through the provisioning of entertainment and education, but more importantly explores the ways in which soldiers responded to such efforts, arguing that soldiers used entertainment and education in ways that suited them. The focus in the book is on Australians and their experiences, primarily during the First World War, but with subsequent chapters taking the story through the Second World War to the Vietnam War. This focus on a single national group allows questions to be raised about what might (or might not) be exceptional about the experiences of a particular national group, and the ways national identity can shape an individual's relationship and engagement with education and entertainment. It can also suggest the continuities and changes in these experiences through the course of three wars. The story of Australians at war illuminates a much broader story of the experience of war and people's responses to war in the twentieth century.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction; Part I World War I: Books and reading at war; Soldiers as readers; Soldiers as entertainers and audiences; Prisoners of War and demobilization. Part II World War II: Mobilizing education and entertainment; Cultural worlds; The imaginative and intellectual lives of POWs. Part III The Vietnam War: Education and entertainment; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
Amanda Laugesen, Australian National University, Australia
'We can calibrate an Australian military appetite for cultural recreation, and the official and unofficial efforts to satisfy or shape it, thanks to Amanda Laugesen’s brilliantly conceived and nicely executed study of the reading, watching, and listening habits of Australian soldiers... in the world wars and Vietnam.' Australian Book Review 'What books did [...] members of Australia’s masculine, infantry-based expeditionary forces of the twentieth century turn to, if restlessly and briefly, in precious, private moments out of the firing line and off fatigue duty? What comedians made them laugh, what films made them cry, and what songs did they sing among themselves? Questions like these prompted this brilliantly conceived, carefully researched and clearly written book by Amanda Laugesen, a cultural historian at the Australian National University.' Australian Army Journal '... a book that shines a light on an important and neglected aspect of the history of Australians at war, while also illuminating the growth of mass culture and how individuals and groups make active use of culture in shaping their own meanings and identities, albeit never entirely on their own terms.' Australian Historical Studies 'One could in fact describe Boredom is the Enemy as a history of reading, of the reception of entertainment and media, and of popular culture, as easily as one could call it a history of war... the labour of research and the range of scholarship brought to bear on this work make it valuable as well as novel. I recommend it to scholars of media, popular culture, and masculinity - as well, of course, to historians interested in servicemen’s experience of war.' Journal of Australian Studies ’Laugeson makes a valuable contribution to the social history of war by focusing on the alleviation of boredom as an essential element of the military experience. Her astute use of official and personal papers offers a model for uncovering the intellectual and emotional l