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Lesley Milne’s Laughter and War: Humorous-Satirical Magazines in Britain, France, Germany and Russia 1914–1918, offers a well written overview of the humour of four nations during the Great War, and in turn, four satirical magazines that provoked laughter in these combatant countries.
Essay collections are always a mixed bag, and this one is more muddled than most. The warning signs are clear. The volume is part of a series ominously titled ‘Austrian Studies in English’. Six of the 15 essays were papers presented at a 2010 conference of the same name at the University of Vienna.
What a great idea! The only wonder is why no publishing house thought of commissioning a book on the topic before. The reader’s delight starts straight from looking at the cover illustration – a ‘translation’ of Harry Beck’s celebrated London Tube Map, in which Waterloo Station becomes Gare de Napoléon.
Rachel Duffett has written a fine social history of British rank and file soldiers, or rankers, and their experiences of food during the Great War. She states, ‘The ranker’s relationship with food was a constant thread, woven throughout his army experience … every day, wherever he was, a man needed to eat’ (p. 229).
Over the past generation of scholarship, the history of consumption and material culture has emerged as a rich subfield of European history.
Introduction: trauma, modernity, and the First World War