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A Guide to the History of the Salient
Never has the extraordinarily rich literature on mass atrocity seemed more relevant as ongoing reports from around the world remind us that we live in an age of genocide. This vast repertoire of scholarly work can appear at maximum capacity with countless overarching theoretical frameworks of mass violence.
Historically, wars have always witnessed reports of ghostly sightings and visions. However, the First World War is of particular interest as such phenomena occurred in a more modern, secular environment, at a time when science and secularisation had emerged as predominant ways of thinking about the world. In addition, the number of lives being lost due to conflict was unprecedented.
With her latest book, Jordanna Bailkin makes a singularly impressive contribution to 20th-century British history. Her focus is on the various sites that were built or, more commonly, re-purposed to hold refugees who reached Britain at various stages in the 20th century.
There are few historical events with a cultural legacy as enduring as that connected to the Second World War. The conflict occupies an important place within many personal, as well as national, narratives. Those interested in its history and heritage are confronted by an enormous range of writing, on a wide variety of themes.
The fate of prisoners of war (POWs) is now established within the mainstream of historical enquiry. As well as a growing literature on the subject, modules dedicated to studying the history of POWs are now a common feature on university history courses. The two books under review focus on British servicemen captured during the Second World War.
As is often the case with (in)famous remarks attributed to prominent personages, there is some doubt about whether Winston Churchill ever did describe the traditions of the Royal Navy as comprising ‘nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers and the lash.’ Churchill himself reputedly denied that he had, confiding to his private secretary that ‘I never said it. I wish I had’ (p. 1).
The relief and resettlement of Europe’s unaccompanied and displaced children in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War has recently received considerable scholarly scrutiny. The two books reviewed here, while different in scope and methodology, are both welcome additions to the growing literature on the topic.
Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro’s The Internationalists And Their Plan to Outlaw War is an ambitious book which has attracted wide attention.
‘This is a biography of an intellectual, but it is more than just an intellectual biography because, in the evolution of Kissinger’s thought, the interplay of study and experience was singularly close. For that reason, I have come to see this volume as what is known in Germany as a bildungsroman – the story of an education that was both philosophical and sentimental.