Some Thoughts on how People have "respOnded to war"

The full gammit from the ridiculous to the sublime

 

This is part of a collection of matrial on "Responses to War".

Below are some of the "responses" to war I discussed in my lectures for the subject "Responses to War: An Intellectual and Cultural History." Some genres of response got more attention than others. For example, each film I showed was introduced with some brief remarks and a short Study Guide (they are listed here), and the work of some artists got extensive treatment in the lectures and for whom I wrote a more formal Study Guide (see the list below). In each lecture I also played a piece of music or songs to illustrate the point I was trying to make.

Part I of this page: I will begin with some thoughts of my own, which is followed by a list of the different categories of responses which I have discussed in the course.

Part II of this page: The various responses are categorised as follows, and are listed in more detail below:

Some recurring themes:

Some Specific Groups

 


 

Some Thoughts on how People have Responded to War

Introduction

In brief, the purpose of the subject is to use the history of ideas and culture to gain insights into the nature of war and the combat experience, to explore the impact of war on individuals and societies, and to examine the impact of war on ideas and culture. The method adopted to do this is unashamedly historical. Thus biography, historical context, the historical origin and evolution of ideas, and an evaluation of the historical accuracy of the sources will all play an important part.

The major wars of the last 2,000 years have influenced the economic, political and social development of not just Europe and America but of the entire world. War is crucial in the following developments:

  1. creation of the modern nation state in late medieval and early modern period. Rival families/lords subdued by dominant family/lord to create centralised nation state; peripheral regions brough under central control through war (civil war)
  2. creation of the central institutions of the nation state. They had their origins in the need to fight war and maintain army in field - taxation, professional bureaucracy, standing army, police, central banking, protection of state industries
  3. expansion of empire overseas (Britain, France) or across continent (USA, Russia), or into region (sub-imperialism of Australia). War and empire linked to origins of our own nation state (competition with France in Pacific, need to supply India).
  4. link between war and creation of “national” identity (e.g. ANZAC tradition in Australia). Compulsory education (learning national language and national history) and military service seen as crucial obligation of citizenship. In age of “total war” (French Revolution, American Civil War, World Wars of 20thC) all citizens must contribute to “defence” of nation directly (through military service) or indirectly (through war industries, producing children). Celebration of “national” days by means of public spectacles to commemorate famous military victories. Teaching of “national history” in schools (compulsory, universal, state run).
  5. link between defeat in war and social/political/economic revolution. Total war and total defeat. Examples of Germany and Japan following defeat in WW2 which lead to entirely new political and economic structures being created after discrediting of previous regime. Victorious powers obliged to offer “reward” to citizens who fought in mass army (men) or contributed to war effort (women) with welfare state and right to vote (women).
  6. impact of war on culture (purpose of this subject)

Therefore, in order to comprehend the origins and structure of our own society, it is important to study them. However, the study of war has too often been left in the hands of military historians who are not sufficiently sensitive to the intellectual and cultural consequences of war. Thus another aim of this subject is to concentrate on this intellectual and cultural dimension to war which has been neglected for too long. When the study of war is approached from this direction the emphasis turns from the military leaders and the outcome of battles to the subjective experience of participants, eyewitnesses and, very importantly, victims. Such a study tells us something about war which traditional military history does not - namely its effect on ordinary individuals who are caught up in an historical event often beyond their comprehension and certainly beyond their control. It also tells us something important about the human condition, how individuals cope with extreme situations and how this experience influences their later thinking and creative work.

A common theme of the responses to war which we will examine in the subject is the horror, destructiveness, and sheer waste of war in terms of human life and property. Yet at the same time it also becomes obvious that many individuals counterbalance their horror of war with the view that war also provides an opportunity for some positive and even noble human attributes to be shown. For example, war allows the development of the very close feeling of comradeship, the opportunity for sacrifice and individual heroism, and the spur to reform society after the war is over. This tension between the horror of war and its usefulness or necessity is just one aspect of the complexity of responses to war which we will examine in the subject.

Aim of subject is to explore the intellectual history of war. Provide new dimension to those only familiar with military history. This is not a course concerned with the mechanics of warfare, battles, strategies, leadership, insignia, etc. Primary concern is with how educated literate individuals responded to wars they experienced. Overall aim is to examine as broad a range as possible of responses to war by literate observers.

On "Reading" War as a "Text"

Palmer in Noble, Forgotten Warriors compares reading a culture or social/individual life to reading a text (quotes LaCapra, Rethinking Intellectual History (1983). Perhaps we can read war or culture of war as a “text”. In this case war is more like a medieval palimpsest - OED definition “a parchment or other writing-material written on twice, the original writing haveing been erased or rubbed out to make place for the second; a manuscript  in which a later writing is written over an effaced earlier writing”. Stories of war, attitudes and responses to earlier wars have been partly erased and over-written by later stories of war, but the earlier writings can still be seen faintly underlying the more recent ones. The writings (histories or stories) have been incompletely scrapped away. Early attitudes about heroism, chivalry, sacrifice, have never disappeared and still sit uncomfortably with the innovations brought about by technology, mass urban society, total war, modern ideologies.

War might also be seen as a kin d of "cultural artefact", something created by and done for/to certain iondividuals for a complex range of purposes and reasons, all of which has great cultural meaning. Friedrich Schiller in his History of the Thirty Years War (1786) stated that the Thirty Years War (1618-48) extinguished “the spark of culture” in the German states. Orson Welles, in his film The Third Man (1949) about black market activities in occupied Vienna just after WW2, has a character say the following:

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!”

In a back-handed way, one might argue that war has created a "spark of culture" if the richness and sometimes brilliant works of art, literature, music, film, and other creations which have come out of the war experience, are anything to judge it by. Let us try this thought experiment. Imagine the state our culture would be in if all war and war-related material (war inspired plays, music, art, novels, poetry, films, memoirs, history, political philosophy, economics) did not exist or had not existed?. This thought experiment might help us evaluate the isgnificance of the influence of war on society and culture. 

A related question is to ask: are there things about the human condition which only wars and the war experieince can tell us? Is this something we want to know?

These questions pose a serious dilemma, it creates a sense of unease in me to think that valuable (even great) works of art, history, philosophy are the product of human sufferin, death and destruction of property.

Another thought experiment is as follows: the “magic button dilemma”. If there existed a magic buttoin on this lecturn which, if pushed, would expunge war and its consequences from our history (thus permitting millions more indiviuduals to live out their lives but also preventing from being produced all the material we have studied in this subject), would I press the magic button? Would you? What about unintended consequences?

Who is best able “to write the war”?

If war is a kind of "text" which gets written, we need to ask ourselves who gets to write this text or texts? And who is best able to do so? Here are some interesting observations to thnk about.

In Tim O’Brien’s Viet Nam war novel Going After Cacciato (1979) one of the characters states:

In a battle, in a war, a soldier sees only a tiny fragment of what is available to be seen. The soldier is not a photographic machine. He is not a camera. He registers, so to speak, only those few items that he is predisposed to register and not a single thing more. Do you understand this? So I am saying to you that after a battle each soldier will have different stories to tell, vastly different stories, and that when a war is ended it is as if there had been a million wars, or as many wars as there were soldiers. (p. 189)

The political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain believes the study of war should be approached as a form of “received narrative” or “war stories” (i.e. texts):

To take up war-as-discourse compels us to recognize the powerful sway of received narratives and reminds us that the concepts through which we think about war, peace, and politics get repeated endlessly, shaping debates, constraining consideration of alternatives, often reassuring us that things cannot really be much different than they are. As we nod an automatic “yes” when we hear the truism (though we may despair of the truth it tells) that “there have always been war,” we acknowledge tacitly that “there have always been war stories,” for wars are deeded to us as texts. We cannot identify “war itself” as an entity apart from a tradition that includes poems, epics, myths, official histories, and first-person accounts, as well as articulated theories... (p. 32)

In his collection of stories The Things they Carried (1990) Tim O’Brien gives advice on “How to Tell a True War Story”:

You can tell a true war story by the questions you ask. Somebody tells a story, let’s say, and afterward you ask, ‘Is it true?’ and if the answer matters, you’ve got your answer.

For example, we’ve all heard this one. Four guys go down a trail. A grenade sails out. One guy jumps on it and takes the blast and saves his three buddies.

Is it true?

The answer matters.

You’d feel cheated if it never happened. Without the grounding reality, it’s just a trite bit of puffery, pure Hollywood, untrue in the way all such stories are untrue. Yet even if it did happen - and maybe it did, anything’s possible - even though you know it can’t be true, because a true war story does not depend upon that kind of truth. Absolute occurrence is irrevelant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth. For example: Four guys go down a trail. A grenade sails out. One guy jumps on it and takes the blast, but it’s a killer grenade and everybody dies anyway. Before they die, though, one of the dead guys says, ‘The fuck you do that for?’ and the jumper says,”Story of my life, man,’ and the other guy starts to smile but he’s dead.

That’s a true story that never happened. (p. 79)

O'Brien asks the penetratng question, if there are as many vastly different war stories as there are soldiers, are there then no common stories to be told? The implication of Elshtain’s argument that “those who tell the stories and those about whom the stories are told define what war is.” , is that the historian of war is faced with a serious problem. How then does the historian use these stories to find out more about war, or to try to tell the "truth" about war? If "true stories" sometimes never happen, how then do historians separate "truth" from "fiction", and who then tells the "truest" war stories?

The Variety of Responses to War

Perhaps the "truth" about war lies in the very diversity of the stories told about it. In the course we "read" a large number of "responses" to war from the ancient world to the present. These include the responses of:

  • actual participants in fighting (such as Grimmelshausen, Clausewitz, Tolstoy, Remarque, Hitler, Orwell, Böll, Stone)
  • contemporary civilian eyewitnesses (Callot, Voltaire, Goya, Nightingale, Dunant, Kipling, Brittain, Hersey, Herr), and
  • those who were just influenced generally by the wars of their time (Shakespeare, Grotius, Knox, Beethoven, Zola, Picasso, Kubrick, Baez).

These responses ranged from:

  • realisation that war is an essential part of state building or raison d'état (Machiavelli)
  • war as necessary or useful (Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Burke, Zola)
  • excitement and celebration of victory (Handel)
  • war as heroic (Shakespeare, Handel, Beethoven, Hitler)
  • nobility and tragedy of war (Shakespeare)
  • the sadness and "pity" of war (Josquin Desprez, Heinrich Schütz, Wilfred Owen)
  • the futility of war (Remarque)
  • the excitement of actual combat
  • the dread one feels at the moment one kills another person (Tolstoy, Remarque)
  • war useful to distract citizens from domestic reform - Vicesimus Knox, Benjamin Constant, and George Orwell
  • war as a crusade to eliminate revolutionary cancer (Burke)
  • stimulus to a more scientific analysis of war (Clausewitz)
  • horror at man's capacity to harm others (Erasmus, Goya, Remarque)
  • the horror of seeing injury to innocent animals, especially horses Zola, Remarque, Picasso
  • total despair (Shostakovich, Klimov)
  • resigning oneself to one's inevitable death
  • a rite of passage which turns boys into men
  • determination to alleviate the suffering of war (Nightingale, Dunant)
  • the injustice of war and the desire to end war forever/pacifism (Cobden, Tolstoy, Baez)
  • perception of the absurdity/comedy of war (Kubrick, Daumier, MASH, Catch 22)
  • war brings about an end of an era (Constant, Renoir)
  • the need to "memorialise" the death
  • war shows that we have been abandoned by God (Erasmus, Voltaire, MASH, the Animals)
  • war drives us to seek revenge or justice for what has happended (Monarchomachs, Callot )

And some recurring themes in these various reposnses:

  • the use of Christian symbols and stories to explain what happened
  • the persistence of classical Greek, Roman and medieval notions of the heroic warrior

Some other interesting reactions or observations:

  • the “Fussell fallacy” - civilians who want to fight to protect liberty and democracy find to their horror that the army is an organisation based upon the opposite of these values (coercion, authoritarian, unquestion obedience. arbitrary power, violence)
  • “Hart’s 10 Year Law” - the difficulty many veterans face in putting their war experience into words for others to appreciat, thus there is a “10 year lag” between experiencing war and writing about it (Remarcque in WW1)
  • the “Catch-22 phenomenon” - the outrage and frustration expressed by individuals caught in the bureaucracy of mass armies (arbitrary power, corruption, insanity)
  • war has an internal and external function - war is not just between opposing armies (nations) but takes place within ones’s own army - the class privileges, power and arrogance of the officier class vis-a-vis the enlisted men (“Paths of Glory”
  • "Kubrick’s quandrary" - the moral dilemma faced by authors and filmmakers in depicting realistically violence and horror without glorifying it

 

What should our "Response" be to these "Responses"?

What are our responses likley to be to the things we will study in this subject?

1. Negative Emotional Response.

To share their excitement, horror, outrage, sadness. We will witness some dreadful things and horror etc is natural response. Especially true for films which can appeal to our emotions before anything else. Power of films to evoke emotional response. No need to avoid this but not let it dominate our reaction.

2. Positive Emotional Response.

Many films and texts are produced in order to appeal to our sense of nationalism, patriotism, or to persuade us to support a particular cause, political leader, or to view events through the eyes of a particular individual, i.e. propaganda. Even if we wish to remain critical, detached, aloof sometimes we find ouselves being swept along by the power of what we see or read.

3. Historical Response

This is a response I have tried to encourage in the course, namely that one can only understand an author/artist/composer/film maker's response by understanding something of their life, personal experience of war, historical context. I believe this is the great contribution of history and the historical method of analysis to enable us to understand and appreciate an author's response in its historical context, to understand something about the relationship between experience and cultural artefact, that works of art, philosopy, music, literature are not produced in a vacuum but are intimately related to the time and circumstances in which they are created.

4. Critical/Intellectual Response

What can we, as critically aware individuals, learn from reading, watching, listening to these varied responses to war?

  • That the authors have something profound to teach us about this extraordinarty aspect of human civilisation known as war.
  • That the study of war and individuals experience of it tells us something about the human condition and about human behaviour (human behaviour in the most extreme circumstances).

Much of what we have studied is tied very closely to the events of the time, but much is also of lasting value, independent of and rising above the constraints of time and place. In other words something of lasting value, not just emphemeral and contingent. Role of arts education is to equip you with the critical skills to distinguish what is of lasting value from what is ephemeral. I hope that the course has provided you with some images/thoughts/ideas about war which will stay with you.

5. Organisational or Reformist Response

How can we alter society so that war is made less likely to occur, that the destructive effects of war are lessened: E.g. the formation of the League of Nations after WW1, and the United Nations after WW2; the formation of disarmament bodies and conventions such as the Geneva Convention after the publication of Jean de Bloch's book The Future of War (1898); the formation of the Red Cross after Henri Dunant's account of the Battle of Solferino 1859; Carl Sagan's nuclear winter hypothesis leading to calls for deep cuts in nuclear armament to below the doomsday threshold.

6. The Personal Response

After have seen/read/heard so many response to war it must occur to you to ask yourselves what your own response to war is. I suggested to you at the start of the course to think about this question. Perhaps some of you can remeber what you that at the start of the course. You might like to ask yourselves if this view has changed during the course of the semester. Have any of the responses we have encountered had any influence upon you? Has it only reinforced existing points of view? Have you been confronted with an entirely new response which has forced you to think about your original position? If nothing else, I hope that the course has been an enriching experience for you, confronting you with a diversity of viewpoints which you had not thought of before doing the course.

 

A Note on Historical Method

Although this subject deals with texts drawn from a broad range of disciplines (literature, art, music, film, music, economic and political thought) the approach to take in analysing them is an historical one. In your reading and writing I would like you to examine the personal experience of and response to war of a number of individuals of your choice. To do this historically you need to keep the following in mind:

Biography (e.g. what personal experience of war did the individual concerned have and what impact did it have on them?, in other words - what was their response to war?). Biographical information can be found in autobiographies, biographies, memoirs and other critical works written by historians, encyclopaedias.

Historical Context (what were the main events and significance of the war experienced by that individual and/or what contemporary events influenced the individual when the text was created?). Works to consult for this information include standard histories of the war in question, historical works on the country or period in which the individual lived and worked.

Historical Origins (what are the origins of the ideas/approaches/style used by the individual in their response to war? what earlier writers, artists, filmmakers, philosophers influenced their work?). Information on the intellectual origins of the response of individuals can be found in specialised critical works on the author or filmmaker, histories of art, music, film etc.

Historical Accuracy (are the events depicted in the text or film “accurate” when compared with standard historical accounts of the war in question? Are they similar to other accounts by eye-witnesses, other novels, other films? If the text or film is not accurate, why has history been distorted? for what (political) purpose? Information to judge the historical accuracy of a film or text can be found in standard histories of the war in question.

 


 

The Different Kinds of Responses

War and Art

  • Jacques Callot's etchings of Lorraine in the Thirty Years War: The Miseries of War (1632-33).
  • Francisco Goya's depiction of the Spanish guerrilla war against the French: The Disasters of War (1863).
  • The French cartoonist Honoré Daumier's satires of French and German militarism leading up to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870: Daumier on War: 64 Print Reproductions after the Original Lithographs (1977).
  • Propaganda posters: WW1 or WW2.
  • Two German artists' depiction of the war: Otto Dix or George Grosz.
  • Pablo Picasso's reaction to the Nazi bombing of the Basque city of Guernica: the mural "Guernica" (1937).
  • Hiroshima bomb survivors paint their memory of the day the bomb was dropped some 30 years after the event: Unforgettable Fire: Pictures Drawn by the Atomic Bomb Survivors (1975).
  • Winslow Homer's art on the American Civil War.

See the separate Study Guides on

 

War and Film

See the full list of films here.

Here are some films listed by type:

  1. Film and History: The Relative and Partial Nature of Truth and Memory
    1. Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon (1950). A rape and murder is witnessed by a small group of individuals (a woodcutter, a priest, a police agent, a bandit, the wife and the husband), all of whom recollect the events in a different way.
  2. Film as a "Window on the Past"
    1. Carl Theodor Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc) (1928)
    2. Lewis Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
    3. Cy Endfield, Zulu (1964)
    4. Peter Watkins, The Battle of Culloden (1969)
    5. Oliver Stone, Platoon (1986)
    6. Maxwell, Gettysburg (1994)
  3. Film as a "Mirror of Contemporary Society"
    1. G.W. Pabst, Westfront 1918 (Comrades of 1918) (1930)
    2. Veit Harlan, Kolberg (1945)
    3. Don Siegel, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
    4. Robert Altman, M*A*S*H* (1970)
  4. Film as a Personal "Memoir"
    1. Lewis Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
    2. Jean Renoir, The Great Illusion (La Grande Ilusion) (1936)
    3. John Ford, They Were Expendable (1945)
    4. Masaki Kobayashi, The Human Condition (1959-61)
    5. Oliver Stone, Platoon (1986)
  5. Film as a Philosophical or Historical "Essay"
    1. Films based upon Shakespeare's plays:
      1. Laurence Olivier, Henry V (1944),
      2. Kenneth Branagh, Henry V (1989),
      3. Akira Kurosawa, Throne of Blood (The Castle of the Spider's Web - Kumonosu-Djo) (1957), Akira Kurosawa, Ran (1985)
    2. Akira Kurosawa, The Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai) (1954)
    3. Sergei Bondarchuk, War and Peace (Voina i Mir) (1967)
    4. Jean Renoir, The Great Illusion (La Grande Illusion) (1937)
    5. Kon Ichikawa, The Burmese Harp (Harp of Burma - Biruma No Tategoto) (1956) and Fires on the Plain (Nobi) (1962)
    6. Stanley Kubrick's oeuvre of war films: Paths of Glory (1957), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb (1964)
    7. Masaki Kobayashi, The Human Condition (Ningen no Joken) (1959-61)
  6. Documentaries
    1. Gwynne Dyer, War (London: Bodley Head, 1986) and accompanying documentary series: War (A National Film Board of Canada Production, 1983), in seven parts
    2. Frank Capra, Why We Fight (1942)
    3. The World at War (1973)
    4. Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will (1935)
    5. Marcel Ophuls, The Sorrow & the Pity (1970) and Hotel Terminus (1987)
    6. Claude Lanzmann, Shoah (1985)
    7. The Archives Project/Rafferty, The Atomic Café (1982)
  7. Propaganda Films
    1. Bugs &Daffy: Wartime Cartoons (1989)
    2. Seiler, Guadalcanal Diary (1943)
    3. Mizoguchi, The Loyal 47 Ronin (1941-42)
    4. Harlan, Kolberg (1945)

War and Music

See the main list here.

  • The L'Homme armée
  • Ludwig van Beethoven's attitude to war, the French Revolution and Napoleon: the Eroica Symphony (1803).
  • Hector Berlioz's operatic treatment of war in a classical context: The Trojans (1856-8).
  • Benjamin Britten's combination of Owen's poetry and the Latin Requiem Mass: War Requiem (1962).
  • Dmitri Shostakovich's reactions to Stalin and the Nazi invasion of Russia: Testimony and the War Symphony no. 7 (1941-2).
  • Protest songs against the war in American popular music: Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez.

War Poetry

  • John Milton and the English Civil War
  • Walt Whitman or Herman Melville and the American Civil War
  • A collection of poems by women: Scars Upon My Heart: Women's Poetry and Verse of the First World War, ed. Catherine W. Reilly (London: Virago, 1989).
  • Another collection of poems by women: Chaos of the Night: Women's Poetry and Verse of the Second World War, ed. Catherine W. Reilly (London: Virago, 1984).
  • The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen, ed. C. Day Lewis (New York: New Directions Books, 1965). Also edition by Stallworthy.
  • The work on Vietnam of the English poet and journalist James Fenton, The Memory of War .

War and Literature

  • Shakespeare's attitude concerning the duties of a leader towards his men in time of war and civil conflict: Julius Caesar (1599) and Henry V (1599).
  • Grimmelshausen's comic but at times brutal view of someone caught up in the changing alliances of the Thirty Years War, Simplicius Simplicissimus (1689).
  • Voltaire's critical and satirical account of the adventures of Candide. Along the way Candide witnesses a battle in the Seven Years War: Candide (1759).
  • Tolstoy's famous epic of the Napoleonic wars War and Peace (1869) about Russian society during the invasion.
  • Fontane's novel from the Prussian perspective Before the Storm: A Novel of the Winter of 1812-13 (1878).
  • Stendhal's novel set in Northern Italy during the occupation by Napoleon's army, The Charterhouse of Parma (1839).
  • The young Russian officer Leo Tolstoy's reactions to the fighting at Sebastopol, The Sebastopol Sketches (1856).
  • Emile Zola's historical novel of the Franco-Prussian War written 20 years later but based on careful research: Emile Zola, The Debacle, 1870-71, trans. Leonard Tancock (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982).
  • Mark Twain's attack on the hypocracy and inhumanity of those who pray to God for victory in war: "The Chronicle of Satan" (1900) and "The War Prayer" (1904-5).
  • Kipling's short stories about war and empire: Traffics and Discoveries (1904).
  • Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) (St. Albans, Hert.: Triad, 1977).
  • Erich Maria Remarque, The Road Back (trans. A.W. Wheen (London: Granada, 1979).
  • Jaroslav Hasek's comic character "Svejk" survives the war by carrying out literally every order he his given, much to the horror of his commanding officers: Jaroslav Hasek, The Good Soldier Svejk and his Fortunes in the World War (1921), trans. Cecil Parrott (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, 1974).
  • Other novels about the First World War: Zweig, Aldington, Blunden, Manning, Barbusse, Dos Passos, Cummings, Jünger
  • The long satiric drama by the Austrian Karl Kraus, The Last Days of Mankind (1918-19).
  • Heinrich Böll's short stories and novels about life in the German Army: And where were you, Adam? (1947-51).
  • Günter Grass's story of the child Oscar who decides to stop growing as a protest against the adult world of Nazi Germany: Günter Grass, The Tin Drum, (1959) trans. Ralph Manheim (London: Picador, 1989).
  • Joseph Heller's Catch 22 (1961) lampoons the bureaucratisation of war and the way some individuals can be used by others for personal gain.
  • George Orwell's vision of a society in perpetual war: Nineteen Eight-Four (1948).
  • The novel on which the film and TV series were based, about the lives of doctors and nurses in an army hospital near the front in the Korean war: "M*A*S*H*"
  • A novel by an American Vietnam draftee: Stephen Wright, Meditations in Green (1983).
  • The articulate and erudite memoirs of a Mid-Western American whose patriotism led him to volunteer to fight in Vietnam: Tim O'Brien, If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973).
  • The story of a young man who wanted to fly helicopters and got his chance in Vietnam: Robert Mason, Chickenhawk (1983).
  • A novel by a Vietnam doctor: Ronald Glasser, Another War, Another Peace (1985).
  • Philip Caputo, A Rumour of War (1977).

War and Religion

  • Desiderius Erasmus on the conduct of a Christian Prince in war and peace: The Education of a Christian Prince (1516).
  • The French protestants' theory of tyrannicide to justify killing kings who prevent them from practicing their religion: Philippe du Plessis-Mornay, Defense of Liberty against Tyrants (1579).
  • Voltaire's link between war and religious fanaticism in Candide (1759) and the Philosophic Dictionary (1764).
  • A radical minister preaches against Britian waging war against the French Revolution: Vicesimus Knox, "Sermon on the Unlawfulness of Offensive War," (1793) and "The Spirit of Despostism" (1795).
  • Christian pacifist thought (especially the Quakers)
  • Tolstoy's religious pacifism.
  • The medieval Christian concept of crusading.
  • Mark Twain's attack on the hypocracy and inhumanity of those who pray to God for victory in war: "The Chronicle of Satan" (1900) and "The War Prayer" (1904-5).
  • Martin Luther King's idea of non-violence.

War and Political Thought

  • Medieval theorists of just war
  • Machiavelli's view of war, violence, and politics in The Prince (1513).
  • Erasmus's view of The Duties of a Christian Prince ()
  • The Monarchomach theory of the just killing of a tyrant: Philippe du Plessis-Mornay, "Defense of Liberty against Tyrants" (1579).
  • Hugo Grotius on the principles of a just war and the laws which govern a nation when it is at war: The Law of War and Peace (1625).
  • The Putney Debates in Cromwell's New Model Army.
  • Rousseau's reworking of the Abbé Saint-Pierre's ideas on "Perpetual Peace" (1756).
  • Bentham, "Plan for a Universal and Perpetual Peace" (1786-89).
  • Kant's plans for a Perpetual Peace (1795).
  • Edmund Burke's conservatism led to his desire for a "crusade" against the French Revolution: "Letters on a Regicide Peace" (1796-7).
  • Benjamin Constant's attack on Napoleon as a militarist, a usurper and a conquerer: "The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation and their Relation to European Civilisation" (1814).
  • Carl von Clausewitz's view of military innovations of Napoleon and their relationship to the revolution: On War (1820).
  • Other 19thC Classical Liberals: James, Mill, Frederic Bastiat, Richard Cobden, John Morely
  • Herbert Spencer on the sociology of the "Militant Type of Society": Principles Sociology (1892).
  • Baden Powell's idea to create a boy's movement to overcome the weaknesses in British society revealed by the Boer War: Scouting for Boys (1908).
  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels on war.
  • Helmut von Moltke and the theory of Prussian militarism
  • Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925) and Nazi militarism.
  • Gandhi and the theory of Non-violence.

Opposition to War

  • The personification of "Peace" comes to earth and condemns mankind for what she sees: Desiderius Erasmus, The Complaint of Peace (1517).
  • A radical minister preaches against Britian wagin war against the French Revolution: Vicesimus Knox, "Sermon on the Unlawfulness of Offensive War," (1793) and "The Spirit of Despostism" (1795).
  • Benjamin Constant's attack on Napoleon as a militarist, a usurper and a conquerer: "The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation and their Relation to European Civilisation" (1814).
  • Two British liberal politicians who opposed the Crimean War in parliament: Richard Cobden and John Bright.
  • Leo Tolstoy's experience of the war in the Crimea turned a hard-drinking and gambling aristocrat into one of the leading pacifists of the 19th century: The Sebastopol Sketches(1856) and other writings.
  • Herbert Spencer denounced militarism in his books on sociology and in many essays: Principles of Sociology (1892), "Rebarbarisation," "Regimentation" and "Imperialism and Slavery" (1902).
  • One of the leaders of the German peace movement before the war: Alfred Fried, Handbuch der Friedensbewegung (1905).
  • Gustave de Molinari's radical liberal critique of war: Grandeur et décadence de la guerre (1898).
  • Jean de Bloch's accurate but largely unheeded predictions of the destructiveness of the nest war: The Future of War (1899).
  • The German pacifist novelist and activist, Bertha von Suttner. She wrote a best selling anti-war novel, Die Waffen nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms!) (1889).
  • Alfred Nobel: the industrialist who made weapons of war and established the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • The British pacifist Norman Angell: The Illusion of War (1909).
  • A famous British philosopher, imprisoned for opposing conscription and the war: Bertrand Russell, Justice in Wartime (1916).
  • The experiences of Vera Brittain as a nurse in the First World War turned her into a life-long feminist and pacifist: War-time Letters to Peace Lovers (1940) and other writings.
  • The anti-Vietnam War protest songs of the 1960s - Ochs, Dylan, Baez, et al.

 

Some Recurring Themes

The Heroic Warrior

  • David and Goliath, Homeric Heroes - Achilles
  • The Amazons, Boudicea, Joan of Arc
  • Roland, Lancelot, Robin Hood, Henry V
  • Musashi Miyamoto
  • Lord Nelson, George Washington
  • The Light Brigade, General George Custer
  • Rudyard Kipling and Tommy Atkins
  • W.E. Johns and Biggles
  • Simpson and his donkey, C.E.W. Bean and the ANZACs
  • T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), The Heroes of Langemarck
  • Ernst Jünger, Nazi Heroes
  • Japanese Kamikaze Pilots, Charles de Gaulle, Weary Dunlop
  • John Wayne, Audie Murphy, Ho Chi Minh
  • Luke Skywalker, John Rambo, Ellen Ripley/Sarah Connor, Mad Max

War and Black Humour

  • Grimmelshausen's comic but at times brutal view of someone caught up in the changing alliances of the Thirty Years War, Simplicius Simplicissimus (1689).
  • Voltaire's critical and satirical account of the adventures of Candide. Along the way Candide witnesses a battle in the Seven Years War: Candide (1759).
  • The French cartoonist Honoré Daumier's satires of French and German militarism leading up to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870: Daumier on War: 64 Print Reproductions after the Original Lithographs (1977).
  • Mark Twain's attack on the hypocracy and inhumanity of those who pray to God for victory in war: "The Chronicle of Satan" (1900) and "The War Prayer" (1904-5).
  • Jaroslav Hasek's comic character "Svejk" survives the war by carrying out literally every order he his given, much to the horror of his commanding officers: The Good Soldier Svejk and his Fortunes in the World War (1921).
  • The long satiric drama by the Austrian Karl Kraus, The Last Days of Mankind (1918-19).
  • Spike Milligan's humous and at times sad account of his experience in an entertainment outfit in the Second World War.
  • Günter Grass's story of the child Oscar who decides to stop growing as a protest against the adult world of Nazi Germany: The Tin Drum (1959).
  • Joseph Heller's Catch 22 (1961) lampoons the bureaucratisation of war and the way some individuals can be used by others for personal gain.
  • The film and TV series about the lives of doctors and nurses in an army hospital near the front in the Korean war: "M*A*S*H*"

 

Some Specific Groups

The Casualties of War

  • Florence Nightingale's critical observations on the hygiene and mortality rates of British soldiers in the Crimea and her proposed reforms of the British Army medical system: Evidence Taken Before the Commission... (1858) and Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters, ed. Martha Vicimus and Bea Nergaard (London: Virago, 1989).
  • Henri Dunant's eyewitness acount of the wounded at the Battle of Solferino, which led him to found the privately funded Red Cross aid organisation: A Memory of Solferino (1859).
  • Vera Brittain's diary and memoir showing how her nursing experience and personal loss led to disillusionment and the advocacy of feminism and pacifism: Chronicle of Youth (1981) and Testament of Youth (1933).
  • An Australian woman's version of Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1929): Helen Zenna Smith (Evadne Price), Not So Quiet... Stepdaughters of War, (1930).
  • Another account of disillusionment and horror by an English nurse: Irene Rathbone, We That Were Young (1932).
  • The experience of an English nurse in Russia during the war and the revolution: Florence Farmborough, Nurse at the Russian Front: A Diary 1914-18 (1977).
  • The diary of a Japanese doctor, Michiko Hachiya, who was in Hiroshima when the bomb went off: Hiroshima Diary (1945).
  • The film and TV series about the lives of doctors and nurses in an army hospital near the front in the Korean war: Richard Hooker, M*A*S*H (1968) (Sphere 1970).
  • A TV series about the experience of women in and around an army hospital: "China Beach"
  • The experiences of an American burn specialist, based in Japan, who treated the worst casualties from Vietnam: Ronald J. Glasser, 365 Days (London: Longman, 1972); Another War, Another Peace (New York: Summit, 1985)..
  • The autobiography of an American doctor in Vietnam: John Parrish, Journal of a Plague Year (1972).
  • Dalton Trumbo's bitter novel and later film of an incapacitated American soldier in WW1, Johnny Got His Gun (1970).
  • The photographs of dead and wounded soldiers of WW1 collected by the German pacifist and Marxist Ernst Friedrich, War against War! (1924), ed. Douglas Kellner (Seattle: The Real Comet Press, 1987).

Women and War

  • accounts of mythical (or real) women warriors: Amazons, Valkyries, Joan of Arc
  • Women as the "ministering angel" of war (i.e. nurses): I have done my duty: Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, 1854-56, ed. Sue M. Goldie (University of Iowa Press, 1987).
  • Women and pacificism: Bertha von Suttner, Die Waffen nieder! (1889).
  • Helen Zenna Smith (Evadne Price), Not So Quiet... Stepdaughters of War, (1930) ed. Barbara Hardy (London: Virago, 1988).
  • Martha Gellhorn, The Face of War (London: Virago, 1986).
  • Scars Upon My Heart: Women's Poetry and Verse of the First World War, ed. Catherine W. Reilly (London: Virago, 1989).
  • Chaos of the Night: Women's Poetry and Verse of the Second World War, ed. Catherine W. Reilly (London: Virago, 1984).
  • Sylvia Pankhurst, The Home Front: A Mirror to Life in England During the First World War (London: The Cresset Library, 1987).
  • Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900-1925 (1933) (London: Virago Press, 1978, 1988).
  • Simone Weil, "The Iliad or the Poem of Force" (1941) in Simone Weil: An Anthology, ed. Siân Miles (London: Virago, 1986) and her other wartime writings.
  • Joan Baez, And A Voice to Sing With: A Memoir (Arrow: London, 1989).
  • Marguerite Duras, The War: A Memoir trans. Barabara Bray (New York: Pantheon, 1986).
  • Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas (Penguin, 1993) and her other war novels.

War Correspondents

  • One of the few women war correspondents, Martha Gelhorn, whose career spanned many decades of war: The Face of War (London: Virago, 1986).
  • The war correspondent for The Times, William Howard Russell: Caroline Chapman, Russell of the Times: War Dispatches and Diaries (1984).
  • Theodor Fontane as war correspondent during the 1860s and a prisoner of war during the Franco-Prussian War: Kriegsgefangen. Erlebtes 1870 (1871).
  • Liberal journalist for the Manchester Guardian: John A. Hobson: The War in South Africa (1900).
  • A journalist turned warrior: Winston Churchill: The Boer War: London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton's March (1900).
  • An English journalist's account of the fighting at Gallipoli: John Masefield, Gallipoli (1916).
  • The classical view of the Australian contribution to the fighting at Gallipoli by a journalist who became the offical Australian historian: C.E.W. Bean, Gallipoli Mission (1948).
  • George Orwell's famous memoir of fighting in the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War: Homage to Catalonia (1938).
  • John Hersey's interviews with Japanese survivors and his reconstruction of events on the day the atomic bomb was dropped: Hiroshima (1946).
  • An American novelist turned journalist: John Dos Passos's account of the war in the Pacific: Tour of Duty (1946).
  • Richard Tregaskis, Guadalcanal Diary (1942).
  • Mark Baker's interviews with American combat soldiers about the experiences in Vietnam: Nam: The Vietnam War in the Words of the Men and Women who fought there (1982).
  • An account by a New Yorker magazine journalist who captured better than most the speech and attitudes of the American soldiers: Michael Herr, Dispatches (1977).
  • An English poet turned jpurnalist, James Fenton, All the Wrong Places: Adrift in the Politics of Asia (1988)

Rank and File Soldiers

  • Jakob Walter, The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, ed. Marc Raeff (New York: Penguin, 1993).
  • The young Russian officer Leo Tolstoy's reactions to the fighting at Sebastopol during the Crimean War, The Sebastopol Sketches (1856).
  • Any of the accounts listed in Commager, The Blue and the Gray (Crescent, 1995) on the experience of the American Civil War.
  • Geronimo: His Own Story: The Autobiography of a Great Patriotic Warrior. As Told to S.M. Barrett, ed. Frederick Turner (New York: Penguin/Meridian, 1996).
  • Bloody Game: Anthology of War, ed. Paul Fussell (Abacus, 1992). Deals with 20thC warfare mainly from an American perspective. Any of the extracts.
  • J. Glenn Gray, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle (New York: Harper and Row, 1970).
  • Adolf Hitler's experience as a soldier during the First World War and its aftermath, Mein Kampf (1925-6).
  • T.E. Lawrence's ("Lawrence of Arabia") experience as a soldier supporting the Arab independence movement against the Turkish empire, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph (1926).
  • The autobiography of the English poet Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That (1929).
  • Bill Gammage's analysis of hundreds of Australian soldiers' letters and diaries, The Broken Years, in particular concerning the Gallipoli campaign.
  • Erich Maria Remarque's WW1 novel of trench warfare from the German perspective All Quiet on the Western Front (1929).
  • An American historian's recollections of and reflections on fighting in the Pacific: Paul Fussell, Wartime (1989).
  • Guy Sajer's experience as an Alsatian French-speaking soldier in the German Army on the Russian Front in WW2, The Forgotten Soldier (1967).
  • A black comedy of WW2 by Joseph Heller who was a bombardier in the US Army Air Corps, Catch-22 (1961)
  • The American novelist James Jones who saw action in the Pacific in WW2, his memoir of the Guadalcanal battle The Thin Red Line (1962) and WWII (1975)
  • Mark Baker's interviews with American combat soldiers about the experiences in Vietnam: Nam: The Vietnam War in the Words of the Men and Women who fought there (1982).
  • Another account of the Vietnam War by a journalist - Michael Herr, Dispatches (London: Picador, 1978)
  • The perspective of the black soldier: W. Terry, Bloods (1984).
  • Tim O'Brien's novel of the war in Vietnam, The Things They Carried (1990) and Going After Cacciato (1979)
  • One of the first and best novels to come out of the Vietnam War - Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War (1977)
  • A deeply pessimistic and brutal account of the war in Vietnam by one of the screenplay writers for Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket - Gustav Hasford, The Short-Timers (1979)