The Great War and Modern Memory

Paul Fussell

Introduced by Lyn Macdonald

One hundred years on, the enduring impact of the First World War is explored in Paul Fussell’s acclaimed literary and cultural history.

Published price: US$ 92.95


The Great War and Modern Memory

In writing The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell’s stated aim was suitably far-reaching: to understand ‘the way the dynamics and iconography of the Great War have proved crucial political, rhetorical and artistic determinants on subsequent life’. Almost 40 years after it was first published, his lyrical and penetrating analysis of what the Great War means to our collective consciousness remains as powerful as ever.

Production Details

The Great War and Modern Memory book
  • Bound in buckram, blocked with artwork by Frances Button based on a First World War Recruitment Poster, published by the Parliamentary Recruitment Committee, London, 1915
  • Set in Janson
  • 464 pages
  • Frontispiece and 32 pages of colour and black & white illustrations
  • Printed endpapers
  • Book size:10" x 6¼"

Unpublished material and powerful images

The First World War has come to epitomise the horror of mechanised warfare. As introducer Lyn Macdonald comments, this century-old war ‘casts a long shadow into our own lives’. Paul Fussell, who served during the Second World War, published his award-winning exploration of why and how the ‘Great War’ had become a part of our collective memory in 1975. Through a myriad of literary and artistic forms, he examines how the war ‘was generating new myth, and that myth is part of the fiber of our own lives’. Steeping himself in poetry, novels, memoirs and art, Fussell traces themes and images that have become familiar, from the innocence of the pre-war world to the ‘troglodyte’ existence of trench and dugout. As well as great writers, Fussell draws upon an enormous quantity of unpublished material from ordinary soldiers, sometimes lyrical, sometimes filled with mordant humour. Fussell recalls how he felt on finding ‘little notebooks still stiff with the mud of the Somme or Ypres … identity disks, their string dark with the sweat of some hopeful boy’. This edition contains a powerful collection of images, from aerial views of fields scarred with shell holes, to poppies from No Man’s Land.

'It is a model of intelligence and fine writing and will remain a key text in our culture for decades to come'
John Keegan

This book defies classification, encompassing history, literature and a deeply felt meditation on memory and culture. It is the work, as Fussell put it, of an essayist, rather than an academic. As such it remains a classic which continues to move and challenge its readers.

Longman-History Today Historical Picture Researcher of the Year Award 2015 won by Laura Canter for her work on this edition

Inside the book

Click to read an extract from the book

In the opening section, Fussell describes how even by December 1914 the arts were irrevocably altered by the war.

About Paul Fussell

Paul Fussell (1924–2012) was an American cultural and literary historian. He was Professor Emeritus of English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in eighteenth-century british poetry and prose and also commentary on america’s class system. a decorated veteran of the Second World War and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1977, he was the author of more than twenty books, including Theory of Prosody in Eighteenth-Century England (1954) and Class: A Guide through the American Status System (1992). Fussell is renowned for his writings about the First and Second World Wars, with his memoir Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic (1996), Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (1989), and The Boys’ Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945 (2003).

About Lyn MacDonald

Lyn MacDonald is a British historian. She is best known for her books on the First World War which draw on first-hand accounts of surviving veterans. Her books include They Called it Passchendaele: The Story of the Battle of Ypres and of the Men Who Fought in it (1978), Somme (1983), 1914: The Days of Hope (1987), 1915: The Death of Innocence (1993), and To the Last Man: Spring 1918 (1998). She was editor of the Folio Society’s Anthem for Doomed Youth: Poets of the Great War (2000) and Ordeal by Fire: Witnesses to the Great War (2001).


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