March 22, 2005


While googling around, somewhat disinterestedly (I'm waiting for the cat to come home so I can let him in and go to bed) I came across this interesting press release about a study that found that the British Tommies of World War One were more accurately depicted by Rowan Atkinson's excellent series Blackadder Goes Forth:

DPhil student Esther MacCallum-Stewart says the anti-war view of soldier poets such as Owen and Siegfried Sassoon is only a part of the picture. The ordinary "Tommy" was actually pro-war, kept a stiff upper lip and didn't talk about the horrors. He looked instead to morale-boosting humour to deal with the grim realities of life in the trenches and indulged a taste for mockery and the absurd, as employed in the BBC comedy series set in World War One, Blackadder Goes Forth.

"Humour helped to relieve the boredom. Most frontline soldiers spent much of their time out of action behind the lines," says Esther. "Blackadder is subversive without being political. The soldiers of the war would have recognised the stereotyped characters of posh, inept officers and the lower ranks and would have enjoyed the joke of Blackadder and his sidekicks trying to shirk their duties. It wasn't the war they were against, but the way it was fought."

Esther has studied the ways in which World War One has been depicted down the decades, from poetry and songs to films such as Oh! What A Lovely War, and bestselling books such as Birdsong and the Regeneration trilogy. She says that the way we view World War One was skewed by a renewed interest in it during the sixties, when the poems such as Owen's Dulce Et Decorum Est, gained new prominence with the anti-war movement.

Ms. (or is it Dr?) MacCallum-Stewart also has a blog that tracks her Great War research.

The First World War fascinates me, in part because it's not yet over, as I noted on paleo ideofact here, here, here, here, here and here.

Posted by Ideofact at March 22, 2005 01:01 AM