The Best Books On The Legacy Of The First World War

Benjamin Carter Hett Author Of The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic
By Benjamin Carter Hett

The Books I Picked & Why

The Great War and Modern Memory

By Paul Fussell

The Great War and Modern Memory

Why this book?

Paul Fussell looks at the way British soldier writers – poets and memoirists – transmuted their experience of the First World War into literature, and how the picture they drew is the picture we still see when we think of the Great War. The irony and skepticism of authority which is classically modern starts here, Fussell tells us. His book is an extraordinary work of archeology and explanation – when you have read it, you understand yourself and the times we live in much better than you did before.


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The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century

By David Reynolds

The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century

Why this book?

David Reynolds is simply one of the smartest and most original historians operating today. Do we imagine that no one thought much about the poems of Wilfred Owen until the 1960s? Do we think about how important the fiftieth anniversary of the Somme was for the politics of Ireland? This book is packed full of perceptive and original insights about the Great War’s very long legacy.


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Germans Into Nazis

By Peter Fritzsche

Germans Into Nazis

Why this book?

Fritzsche shows here how, from 1914 to 1933, middle class Germans were welded into the political block that supported Hitler. Another spellbindingly original book – among other things, Fritzsche shows very persuasively that the Great Depression had little to do with the rise of Hitler – the Nazis’ recipe of egalitarian but nationalist politics was already doing its work before 1929.


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Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War

By Thomas Weber

Hitler's First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War

Why this book?

Weber is another outstanding and original historian. Here he takes apart all the myths that have accumulated around Hitler’s military service in the First World War, showing that Hitler was a mediocre soldier with a relatively safe job who got medals because the officers knew who he was. Weber also shows how crucial a (legendary) version of Hitler’s war service was to his rise to power.


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Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain

Testament of Youth

Why this book?

Vera Britain was twenty years old when the war broke out, and volunteered for service as a nurse. One by one all the young men she loved were killed, and this is the heart-breaking memoir of her loss and grief. She was an extraordinary woman and a pioneering feminist. Her civil courage and hatred of war led her to actively protest British bombing of Germany in World War II – a remarkable thing to do when your country is at war and fighting for its life.


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