4 out of 4 stars
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Historians have debated the very essence of World War I. While many reasons have been given, none seems weighty enough to explain the core of the war. Many questions arise as to why countries such as Great Britain joined the war considering the hefty price they ultimately paid. 'The Evidence of Our Senses' by Rod Beecham is an in-depth analysis of Great Britain’s culture and its people’s perspective of war especially in the second half of the nineteenth (19th) century that influenced their participation in the war.
The book begins with some insight into the Crimean War. Similarly to WWI, Great Britain had entered this war as a matter of showcasing their supremacy. The idea of establishing the state’s influence was largely impacted by the education system at the time as Beecham explains. The notion of a man dying in battle for his state was highly esteemed while war was overly glorified. The literature and poetry of the time clearly highlight this outlook. One man, in particular, Sir Edward Grey, highly influenced the state’s contribution as he vaguely alluded to the fact that since the British were allies of the French they were obligated to fight alongside them in the war.
In 'The Evidence of Our Senses', Rod Beecham effectively juxtaposes the concept of war from the point of view of the civilians and that of the soldiers who actually went to war. The difference is striking. To do this, Beecham chronicles the events surrounding the life of Siegfried Sassoon during WWI. As Sassoon experiences the real side of war, he begins to doubt the validity of it all. He further goes ahead to lodge protests against Great Britain’s involvement in the war after he returns home following an injury that almost leaves him paralyzed.
I also deeply appreciated the extensive research that went into writing the book. Beecham adequately explores the values and the ways of Great Britain around the period of WWI as well as other defining events. He captures the lack of trust between senior officers in the war. The hostility between career politicians and career soldiers during the period between 1917 and 1918 is revealed through the words of a senior member of the War Office, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Edward Callwell. He also highlights the effect that the veneration of war had on the poets and authors during this time. He further covers the dilemma that followed the execution of the peace agreement, a result of the peace conference held in Paris after WWI ended. This dilemma is clearly expressed through John Maynard Keynes’s take on the consensus.
'The Evidence of Our Senses' by Rod Beecham is a great thought-provoking expository on the rationale behind Great Britain’s contribution in WWI and hence I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. Any reader with an appreciation of history especially regarding the events before and after WWI will find this book an enlightening treat.
'The Evidence of Our Senses'
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