Gerald Howard-Smith’s life is intriguing both in its own right and as a vehicle for exploring the world in which he lived. Tall, boisterous and sometimes rather irascible, he was one of the so-called ‘Lost Generation’ whose lives were cut short by the First World War. Brought up in London, and educated at Eton and Cambridge, he excelled both at cricket and athletics. After qualifying as a solicitor he moved to Wolverhampton and threw himself into the local sporting scene, making a considerable name for himself in the years before the First World War. Volunteering for military service in 1914, he was decorated for bravery before being killed in action two years later. Reporting his death, the War History of the South Staffordshire Regiment claimed that, ‘In his men’s eyes he lived as a loose-limbed hero, and in him they lost a very humorous and a very gallant gentleman.’
As well as telling the fascinating story of Gerald Howard-Smith for the first time, this important new biography explores such complex and important issues as childhood and adolescence, class relations, sporting achievement, manliness and masculinity, metropolitan-provincial relationships, and forms of commemoration. It will therefore be of interest to educationalists, sports historians, local and regional historians, and those interested in class, gender and civilian-military relations – indeed all those seeking to understand the economic, social, and cultural life of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain.
Table of Contents
List of Figures
2. ‘A Thoroly Sound Healthy Minded Good Fellow’: Home, School and Socialisation
3. ‘An Unassailable Distinction through Life’: University, Sport and Status
4. ‘Gentlemanly Manners and Refined Habits’: London, the Home Counties and Teaching
5. ‘A Gentleman of Experience’: Wolverhampton, Sport and the Law
6. ‘The Thing to Do’: Class, Patriotism and Preparation
7. ‘Large, Gallant and Loose-Limbed’: Class, Patriotism and Sacrifice
8. ‘In Loving Memory’: Class and Commemoration, Representation and Misrepresentation
John Benson is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Wolverhampton. He has written widely on nineteenth and twentieth-century history, has held visiting positions in Canada and Japan, and has spoken on his work throughout Great Britain as well as in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States of America. His books include British Coalminers in the Nineteenth Century, The Working Class in Britain, 1850-1939, The Rise of Consumer Society in Britain, 1880-1980, Prime Time: A History of the Middle Aged in Twentieth-Century Britain, Affluence and Authority: A Social History of Twentieth-Century Britain, and The Wolverhampton Tragedy: Death and the ‘Respectable’ Mr Lawrence.
'In this engaging and well-written book, Benson offers a new approach to historical biography – the idea of a life written from the outside. How should we study individuals who left no personal papers, who didn’t pen memoirs or diaries? Benson has the answer – with his ‘biography from the outside’ he offers a brand new approach that will serve as a model for professional historians and students alike. Taking the example of sportsman and solicitor Gerald Howard-Smith, this excellent book explores just how far it is possible to reconstruct a life based on external sources.'
Dr Jane Hamlett, Royal Holloway University of London, UK