The Beauty and the Sorrow

November 2018 will see the centenary of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 when the guns fell silent after 4 years of one the bloodiest conflicts in human history. There have been a huge number of histories of The First World War, and here is one with much to commend it.


In Peter Englund’s ( version of the war, the political players such as Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson and Georges Clemenceau are not centre stage.  Instead, he describes the conflict in several hundred snapshots drawn from the diaries, memoirs and letters of 20 individuals who experienced the conflict, ranging from two British infantrymen and a German seaman to a French civil servant. Also a Venezuelan adventurer who served with the Ottoman forces. It is very much a record of individual, personal experiences. The First World War shattered any belief that human progress was on an inevitable upward trajectory. Englund records the thought of Paoli Monelli, an Italian soldier: ‘This is going to be our evil inheritance, or our good inheritance, in any case our irrevocable inheritance – and we are going to be fettered by our memories forever.’


Englund offers a chance for some sombre reflection on The First World War one hundred years on. Check if this history book is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at


544 pages in Profile Books

First published  2011

ISBN  978-1846683428


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Peter Englund

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