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Who are the First World War scholars worth reading?

Peter Simkins’ presentation to the Western Front Association (WFA)
on 14 April 2012 Mansfield College, Oxford read like a who’s who of the leading scholars on World War One history.

Prof Peter Simkins is the President of the WFA

He has been a professional historian for nearly 50 years (he graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1961) and as had 35 years at the Imperial War Museum.

The topic was something he looked in the 1990s: The state of scholarship in relation to WW1 from Junior Ranks and other ranks. Not memoirs, but studies.

He suggests caution over colouring how we see WW1 from war poets, to authors, to TV companies and even the well-rehearsed lines of veterans.

Over the last twenty+ years the key shifts in studying the First World War have been:

  • Opening of the public record
  • Assemblies of papers
  • Growth of the WFA

The questions he asks are:

  • What motivates a unit to perform well or fail badly in a particular action?
  • What are the effects of continuity?
  • How often were officers briefed or rehearsed?
  • Was there a social cohesion?

Tony Ashworth

Tim Cook No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War

Dale Blair, Dinkum Diggers

Dale Blair The Battle of Bellicourt Tunnel

Tim Bowman, Irish Regiments of WW1

Scott Bennett, Professor of History, Georgian Court University

Bill Gamage 
Bryn Hammond Cambria ‘Acting Head of Collections’ Imperial War Museum
Paul Kobes (Link)
Author of Cambrai 1917: The Myth of the First Great Tank Battle (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008)
Glyn Harper ‘Dark Journey’ Dark Journey: Three key NZ battles of the western front

Peter Hart “Raw courage. Doggedness.”

Richard Holmes. ‘Tommy’

Geoffrey Ratcliff Husband (2012) Joffrey’s War: A Sherwood Forester in the Great War

A corrective to Blackadder goes forth, Birdsong and Downton Abbey.
An invaluable record of ta British Soldier who did his bit, but he only went over the top twice lasting 35 minutes (Author), J. M. Bourne (Editor), Bob Bushaway (Editor)

Julian Lewis-Temple (Link)
Peter Little (Link)
Lyn Macdonald ‘They Call it Passchandaele’
Helen McCartney, Citizen Soldiers.
‘Scholarly and very readable’.
Martin Middlebrook ‘The First Day of the Somme’.
Desmond Morton  ‘When Your Number’s Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War ISBN 0-394-22388-8, (1994)
Jack Sheldon. http://www.jacksheldon.net/
• Le Cateau
• The Battle for Vimy Ridge
• The German Army at Cambrai
• The German Army at Ypres 1914 etc:
Len Smith, 5th French Division Between Mutiny and Disobedience

Soldiers developed self-determined rules of how they would or would not fight.
Peter Stanley. Men of Mont St Quentin September 1918. 9 men.

Mike Steadman. Manchester units.
Denis Winter  ‘Haig’s Command – A Reassessment (1991)


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