First World War

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The Impact of the First World War on British Society Author(s): Arthur Marwick Reviewed work(s): Source: Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Jan., 1968), pp. 51-63 Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/259966 . Accessed: 17/03/2013 23:29 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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The War

Impact
on British

of

the

First

World

Society

ArthurMarwick
A generationago ProfessorCyril Falls, in his inaugurallecture as Chichele Professor of the History of War in the University of the Oxford,attributed disreputeinto which he felt warstudieshad fallen to the 'fallacious'theory 'that the major, if not the sole, object of history should be the study of the artisan,the labourer and the peasant'.1 Today it has become a commonplacethat this very preoccupation with the artisan,the labourer,and the peasantmust, in the twentieth centuryat any rate, lead to a detailedstudy of war and war's'impact'on society.Yet even now, despitethe vast quantities of books and articles called forth in recognition of the fiftieth of anniversary the outbreakof the first World War, it cannot be said that the literatureon the Britishsocial experienceduringand immediatelyafter the war is extensive. This state of affairsis in accordwith the simple doctrinethat war can have only a destructive effect on civilisationelaboratedby ProfessorsToynbee and Nef,2 and reinforcedby that form of sociologicalexpositionwhich has treated war as analogousto naturalcatastrophe.3 general In those who have talkedmost aboutwar'simpacthave presentedthe least strict analysisand the fewest hard facts, writing blithely of 2 Toynbee's view is most clearlyexpressedin those extractsfrom the first six 1 Cyril Falls, The Place of War in History (London, 1947), 6.

ceding survey suggests that in the most recent stage of world-civilisationwar has made for instability,for disintegration, despotism,andfor unadaptability, for rendering the course of civilisation less predictable and continued progress toward achievementof its values less probable.'

volumes of A Study of History published as War and Civilisation (London, 1950). John U. Nef, War and Human Progress (London, I950), was written in explicit refutation of Werner Sombart, Krieg und Kapitalismus (Munich, I9I3). 3 Pitirim A. Sorokin, Man and Society in Calamity (New York, 1942); Quincy Wright, A Study of War, 2 vols. (Chicago, I942), especially I, 272: 'The pre-

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CONTEMPORARY HISTORY

social revolutions, short skirts, and the vulgar manners of the nouveau riche.4

The higher groundof solid scholarshiphas been dominatedby those 'whig' historianswho have followed Toynbee and Nef in stressing war's disruptive effects, and who have tended to concentrateon the association betweenmodernwarand the growthof totalitarianism.The counter-attackhas been mounted, sporadically, by the 'tories', the precursorsand followers of Professor Falls;5 in greater force, but on a more limited front, by the cinatedby the economicreorganisation growthof collectivism and war; and, more in the spirit than in the published accompanying word, by Marxist...
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