The British Working Class and Enthusiasm for War, 1914-1916

By David Silbey

© 2004 – Routledge

200 pages

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Paperback: 9780415652308
pub: 2012-11-14
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Hardback: 9780415350051
pub: 2004-12-14
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About the Book

Millions of men volunteered to leave home, hearth and family to go to a foreign land to fight in 1914, the start of the biggest war in British history. It was a war fought by soldier-citizens, millions strong, most of whom had volunteered willingly to go. They made up the army that first held, and then, in 1918, thrust back the German Army to win the Great War.

The British 'Tommy' has been lionized in the decades since the war, but little attention has been made in the literature to what motivated the ordinary British man to go to France, especially in the early years when Britain relied on the voluntary system to fill the ranks. Why would a regular working-class man leave behind his job, family and friends to go to fight a war that defended not British soil, but French? Why would a British man risk his life to defend places whose names he could pronounce only barely, if at all? This book answers why, in the words of the men who were there. Young and old, from cities and country, single and married, they went to war willingly and then carried their experiences of being a part of the Great War, and why they chose such a difficult and dangerous path.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. The Rush to Colors, Business as Usual, and the Coming of Conscription, August, 1914-January, 1916 3. Currents within the Flood: Who were the Volunteers? 4. 'The Monotony of the Trivial Round': Enlistment and the Escape from Domesticity 5. 'Money was the Attraction.' Enlistment and Economic Motives 6. 'We Were Being Patriotic. Or Young and Silly.' Enlistment and Allegiance 7. 'A View of the Round World.' The Workers, Britain, Europe, and Empire 8. Conclusion: The Shadow of the Somme 9. Bibliography

About the Author

David Silbey is an assistant professor of European History at Alvernia College, Reading, PA. He obtained his PhD at Duke University in 1999.

About the Series

Military History and Policy

This series will publish studies on historical and contemporary aspects of land power, spanning the period from the eighteenth century to the present day, and will include national, international and comparative studies. From time to time, the series will publish edited collections of essays and ‘classics’.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HIS015000
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HIS027000
HISTORY / Military / General
HIS027090
HISTORY / Military / World War I