August 1914. France, the Great War, and a Month that Changed the World Forever

August 1914. France, the Great War, and a Month that Changed the World Forever 132 R E V I E W S O F B O O K S August 1914. France, the Great War, and a Month that Changed the World Forever. By Bruno Cabanes. Translated by Stephanie O’Hara. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2016. xix + 230 pp. £18.99. ISBN 978 0 3002 0827 6. Taking as his subject a period in which France plunged into war, three million civil- ians were mobilized only to suffer the country’s worst losses of the entire conflict, the Book Review north-east was invaded and occupied and the army (having stemmed disaster on the Marne) discovered the stalemate of the western front, it is hard to disagree with the premise of this book’s title. The unintended consequences of what were really two or three months, not just one, indeed set the course of French history for much of the rest of the century. It is all the more surprising that no one should have attempted a new overview of the topic since Jean-Jacques Becker’s magnum opus, 1914: Comment les Français sont entrés dans la guerre (1977), despite an explosion of new research. In a bravura study (beautifully translated from the 2014 French original), Bruno Cabanes, one of the leading figures in that historiographical revolution, demonstrates many of its key attributes. Unlike Becker, he integrates military history into his study of society. He emphasizes the emotions with which the French went to war, constructed their demonic image of the Boche, ran the gamut of fear and anger at the German inva- sion and adjusted to the hollowing out of a home front from which so many men were absent—often beyond recall. Incisive in his arguments, sensitive in his portrayal of atmosphere and feeling, Cabanes combines the latest secondary work, especially in the realm of cultural history, with primary sources, notably from the police and prefectoral archives. Time and again, we hear the voices of ordinary French men and women in support of his key contention—that beneath the political truce of the Union sacrée, French society was (like others) wracked by myth, violence and emotion as it adapted Book Review to the transformed psychological landscape of a society at war. The brevity of the study means that some of the issues it perforce takes up—such as French ‘responsibilities’ for the outbreak of the war—do not get the detailed attention they need. But on its chosen ground—ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances—this book is a tour de force. Trinity College Dublin JOHN  HORNE doi:10.1093/fh/crx061 Advance Access publication 11 October 2017 La Grande Guerre des assiettes. By Jean-Pierre  Chaline. Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne. 2016. 406 pp. €34.00. ISBN 979 1 0231 0543 8. This recent publication draws attention to a unique private collection of over 400 ceramic plates, primarily French pieces, which were produced during the First World War. These important works were collected over a twenty-year period by M.  Henry Parent de Curzon and Mme Agnès Parent de Curzon who have imbued this private col- lection with their passion for the ceramic plates produced during this turbulent period of history. Entrusted to the expertise of a team of specialists, the reader is taken on a journey of discovery in which the plates are grouped based on thematic and iconographic inter- pretations. There is merit to the use of thematic classification because it provides a framework of analysis for the collection. Singular pieces and plate series from the pri- vate collection are supplemented with the inclusion of pieces from French and German Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/fh/article-abstract/32/1/132/4443085 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png French History Oxford University Press

August 1914. France, the Great War, and a Month that Changed the World Forever

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of French History. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
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0269-1191
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1477-4542
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10.1093/fh/crx061
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Abstract

132 R E V I E W S O F B O O K S August 1914. France, the Great War, and a Month that Changed the World Forever. By Bruno Cabanes. Translated by Stephanie O’Hara. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2016. xix + 230 pp. £18.99. ISBN 978 0 3002 0827 6. Taking as his subject a period in which France plunged into war, three million civil- ians were mobilized only to suffer the country’s worst losses of the entire conflict, the Book Review north-east was invaded and occupied and the army (having stemmed disaster on the Marne) discovered the stalemate of the western front, it is hard to disagree with the premise of this book’s title. The unintended consequences of what were really two or three months, not just one, indeed set the course of French history for much of the rest of the century. It is all the more surprising that no one should have attempted a new overview of the topic since Jean-Jacques Becker’s magnum opus, 1914: Comment les Français sont entrés dans la guerre (1977), despite an explosion of new research. In a bravura study (beautifully translated from the 2014 French original), Bruno Cabanes, one of the leading figures in that historiographical revolution, demonstrates many of its key attributes. Unlike Becker, he integrates military history into his study of society. He emphasizes the emotions with which the French went to war, constructed their demonic image of the Boche, ran the gamut of fear and anger at the German inva- sion and adjusted to the hollowing out of a home front from which so many men were absent—often beyond recall. Incisive in his arguments, sensitive in his portrayal of atmosphere and feeling, Cabanes combines the latest secondary work, especially in the realm of cultural history, with primary sources, notably from the police and prefectoral archives. Time and again, we hear the voices of ordinary French men and women in support of his key contention—that beneath the political truce of the Union sacrée, French society was (like others) wracked by myth, violence and emotion as it adapted Book Review to the transformed psychological landscape of a society at war. The brevity of the study means that some of the issues it perforce takes up—such as French ‘responsibilities’ for the outbreak of the war—do not get the detailed attention they need. But on its chosen ground—ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances—this book is a tour de force. Trinity College Dublin JOHN  HORNE doi:10.1093/fh/crx061 Advance Access publication 11 October 2017 La Grande Guerre des assiettes. By Jean-Pierre  Chaline. Paris: Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne. 2016. 406 pp. €34.00. ISBN 979 1 0231 0543 8. This recent publication draws attention to a unique private collection of over 400 ceramic plates, primarily French pieces, which were produced during the First World War. These important works were collected over a twenty-year period by M.  Henry Parent de Curzon and Mme Agnès Parent de Curzon who have imbued this private col- lection with their passion for the ceramic plates produced during this turbulent period of history. Entrusted to the expertise of a team of specialists, the reader is taken on a journey of discovery in which the plates are grouped based on thematic and iconographic inter- pretations. There is merit to the use of thematic classification because it provides a framework of analysis for the collection. Singular pieces and plate series from the pri- vate collection are supplemented with the inclusion of pieces from French and German Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/fh/article-abstract/32/1/132/4443085 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018

Journal

French HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2018

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