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Myths and Legends of the First World War Hardcover – Large Print, January 1, 2003


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Hardcover, Large Print, January 1, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Hayward is the author of Shingle Street, a study of myth and propaganda in 1940. He has an active interest in twentieth-century military history and recently assisted in the research of Speak of the Devil (Cambridge UP, 1998). He is a solicitor by profession and lives near Dereham, Norfolk. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Isis (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753156415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753156414
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,870,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MarkK VINE VOICE on July 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Truth, as the saying goes, is the first casualty of war, and in this book James Hayward demonstrates just how true this was during the First World War. He examines many of the falsehoods that arose during the way, from rumors of nonexistent spies to such fabled tales as the "Angel of Mons" and the Russians in England. Addressing each of these, he details the impact of the particular legend and traces its probably origin, an effort that requires equal parts detective work and reasoned speculation.

Yet for all of his admirable work in penetrating through the mythos of the war, Hayward's book suffers from some notable flaws. His text suffers from errors borne of sloppiness; he makes factual mistakes when establishing the context, and in one instance he cites a novel as if it were a memoir instead of a work of fiction. The most problematic part of his book, however, is his chapter of the "legend" of the incompetent British command on the Western Front. While the idea of the "lions led by donkeys" has faced increasing challenges recently from several quarters, Hayward treats it as if it were simply another myth. By lumping it in with the other falsehoods he addresses, he distorts the process of historiographical debate underway, ignoring the evidence that led many historians to their views on the incompetent leadership of the British generals. A different approach towards the topic would have served the author better in this respect.

For the most part, Hayward's book is a rewarding read. It offers an entertainingly written examination of the propaganda and rumors that grew out of the First World War. People who are seeking an introduction to the topic could do worse than to turn to its pages, though a certain amount of skepticism is warranted in some parts.
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Format: Kindle Edition
James Hayward has researched some of the large and small misbeliefs that beset Britain during World War I, such as the supposed secret transportation of a Russian army from Murmansk via Scotland to the south coast. Many otherwise lucid people testified to seeing these phantom battalions in rail cars, snow still on their boots, during the fraught early days of the war, when the French and British were barely holding back the invading Germans. On the front, many soldiers claimed to see masses of ghostly archers foiling the Boche with bows and arrows. German atrocities in Belgium were real, as Hayward’s research shows, but news from the front included frequent sightings of “the crucified Canadian,” supposedly nailed to a barn door by the Germans. The British countryside was riddled with German spies, according to popular belief, exploited by such fantasies as John Buchan's "The 39 Steps." Actually, the British were aware of the small German fifth column effort, and rolled it up before it could do any harm. Hayward doesn’t pretend to be a psychologist and avoids speculating about the reasons these comforting and frightening fantasies arose and spread, beyond citing the shock of such a horrifying combat suddenly sweeping a seemingly peaceful continent, and the news blackout imposed by the British authorities. The weakest chapter is one investigating the widespread belief that British generals were incompetent. According to Hayward, they did the best that could be done in the fog of war, but many authorities have documented the blunders of the first British commander, Sir John French, in the crucial early months. Overall, this is a highly readable short inquiry into mass hysteria. It could never happen today—weapons of mass destruction, anyone?
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By Bill Feild on March 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great job addressing "old chestnuts" and blowing their minimal contents through their thin shells! A reminder to investigate truth of myths carefully.
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