Staring at God:

Britain in the Great War,

Simon Heffer,

London: Windmill Books, 2019.

(914 p, RRP $35)


 Reviewed by Mike O''Brien

This volume provides further proof that good military history is not just about generals and battles – it can importantly concern itself with the home front and its social and political history. This is the third volume in the author’s similarly based history of Great Britain.

The central elements in this book include politics and the opinions of the public. It extends beyond theses areas to daily life, the importance of civil production, the increasing importance of the female workforce, recruitment and conscription.

The author has documented day-to-day events with meticulous precision. Official records are richly supplemented by personal correspondence He has a particular skill in indicating public attitudes of various classes of society by the well-chosen anecdote. For example, one knew Britain was at total war when it became permissible to shoot pheasants out of season.

This is an extensive book that could well have been used in the later war as a primer on how to run (and indeed, not to run) a war on the home front. It’s a great scholarly addition to the literature in this area.

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