ArticlePDF Available

The War Books Boom in Britain, 1928–1930


Abstract and Figures

Based on a dataset of unparalleled extent containing nearly 1500 books, this article for the first time offers an analysis of the War Books Boom that combines the qualitative and quantitative. The Boom did not simply rise and fall; an early peak in publication in 1928 was followed by a dip in 1929, as huge successes like R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End and Erich Maria Remarque’s Im Westen Nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) dominated the market and were successful in the subsequent two years in a variety of media. The major peak, far exceeding that of 1928, was in 1930, as both publication and commentary trends spiked. The Boom was understood in commentary as such at the time, and the surrounding discourse saw this moment as a battle for the enduring memory of the conflict between the brutal realism of works such as Remarque’s, his followers and imitators, and a more conservative focus on courage, fortitude and honour. We enrich the existing scholarly understanding of the cultural history of the War Books Boom, drawing on our dataset and the interwar journalism collected in the British Newspaper Archive, and situating these findings among existing scholarship. Taking as starting points Sherriff’s and Remarque’s texts, we identify key publication trends, drawing particular attention to the dominance by publication numbers of non-fiction texts, particularly in life-writing, history and regimental history. We conclude by suggesting further lines along which our method might be used to develop the scholarly understanding of this moment.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
First World War Studies
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage:
The War Books Boom in Britain, 1928–1930
Andrew Frayn & Fiona Houston
To cite this article: Andrew Frayn & Fiona Houston (2022): The War Books Boom in Britain,
1928–1930, First World War Studies, DOI: 10.1080/19475020.2022.2129718
To link to this article:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa
UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis
Published online: 16 Nov 2022.
Submit your article to this journal
View related articles
View Crossmark data
The War Books Boom in Britain, 1928–1930
Andrew Frayn
and Fiona Houston
School of Arts and Creative Industries, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK;
The Open University,
Milton Keynes, UK
Based on a dataset of unparalleled extent containing nearly 1500
books, this article for the rst time oers an analysis of the War
Books Boom that combines the qualitative and quantitative. The
Boom did not simply rise and fall; an early peak in publication in
1928 was followed by a dip in 1929, as huge successes like R.C.
Sherri’s Journey’s End and Erich Maria Remarque’s Im Westen
Nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) dominated the market
and were successful in the subsequent two years in a variety of
media. The major peak, far exceeding that of 1928, was in 1930, as
both publication and commentary trends spiked. The Boom was
understood in commentary as such at the time, and the surround-
ing discourse saw this moment as a battle for the enduring mem-
ory of the conict between the brutal realism of works such as
Remarque’s, his followers and imitators, and a more conservative
focus on courage, fortitude and honour. We enrich the existing
scholarly understanding of the cultural history of the War Books
Boom, drawing on our dataset and the interwar journalism col-
lected in the British Newspaper Archive, and situating these nd-
ings among existing scholarship. Taking as starting points
Sherri’s and Remarque’s texts, we identify key publication trends,
drawing particular attention to the dominance by publication
numbers of non-ction texts, particularly in life-writing, history
and regimental history. We conclude by suggesting further lines
along which our method might be used to develop the scholarly
understanding of this moment.
Received 14 October 2021
Accepted 21 September 2022
First World War; War Books
Boom; memory; journalism;
publishing history; Sherriff;
It is a critical commonplace that there was a ten-year gap after the First World War in
major writing about the conflict before a ‘War Books Boom’ from circa 1928–1932.
However, whether there was such a boom, its shape and duration have not been
researched, despite suggestions by Charles Carrington in 1965, Modris Eksteins in 1980,
and Rosa Maria Bracco in 1993.
If there was a boom, was it a boom in terms of
publication numbers, particular genres or forms, particular modes of representation,
sales figures or critical esteem? This paper begins to answer these questions by gathering
an unparalleled set of data about war books published between 1926 and 1933 and offering
empirical support for observations about the War Books Boom, adding to and nuancing
this by engaging with interwar journalism to outline critical reception and trends. We do
not claim that this is a complete list of war books from those years. However, the nearly
CONTACT Andrew Frayn
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License
(, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any med-
ium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
1500-book extent of this dataset enables us to draw meaningful and clearly substantiated
conclusions. There was a demonstrable boom in publication, but there is a first spike of
books published at the ten-year anniversary of the Armistice in 1928, a dip in 1929, and
a further dramatic spike in 1930. Publishers responded to continuing political tensions in
Europe, and the ongoing international successes of iconic works such as Erich Maria
Remarque’s Im Westen Nichts Neues (serial 1928; volume 1929; English translation as All
Quiet on the Western Front 1929; film 1930) and R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End (first
performance 1928; West End run 1929; publication 1929; novelization 1930; film 1930),
which both inspired and held back other titles. The extent of the data means that routes
through it in a single article are arbitrary. With that in mind, here we take Sherriff’s and
Remarque’s texts as starting points to analyse lines through the data for creative works,
before turning to examine non-fiction by genre, looking at life-writing, regimental his-
tories, and more general histories.
We conclude by arguing that the Boom ends because of
its critical ubiquity and suggest lines for future work on this vital moment in the
historiography of war literature.
The War Books Boom is acknowledged in key First World War literary studies and
cultural histories, if largely uninterrogated. Samuel Hynes sees 1926–33 as the years of
‘mythmaking’, following Wyndham Lewis and T.S. Eliot in taking the General Strike in
Britain as a turning point, the manifestation of underlying social conflict which is also
attested in the volatile UK politics of the 1920s.
These were, as Hynes argues, the years in
which ‘the Myth of the War was defined and fixed in the version that still retains
The language of myth alludes to Paul Fussell’s work in The Great War and
Modern Memory, in which he argues that soldiers mythologized the war as it continued.
However, Hynes’s claim that this moment broke ‘the conspiracy of silence’ has now been
widely disproved.
Jane Potter and Ian Isherwood point out that the War Books Boom of
the late 1920s was the second, after the war years.
Claire M. Tylee asserts in her
pioneering study of women’s writing about the First World War that there were many
women’s bestsellers about the war in the postwar decade, although her support for this is
in terms of esteem rather than sales or publication numbers; she identifies the dates of the
Boom as 1928–33.
Rosa M. Bracco points out that there was a significant amount of war
‘fiction of the 1920s and 1930s which did not have the literary quality to survive the test of
Her cataloguing of and serious engagement with popular fiction of the period
remains invaluable. As Dan Todman puts it, the ‘First World War was a cornerstone of
British culture throughout the 1920s and 1930s’, and ‘with quantity came variety. That
not only meant a variety of views of the war, but a variety of reasons for involvement with
its remembrance and representation’.
In his reassessment of the ground in the 1920s,
however, Todman overcorrects. He rightly acknowledges the recuperation of the history
of popular literature about the war in the 1920s. However, as we demonstrate here, this
was not ‘ten years of steady production’; the War Books Boom is no myth, but
a demonstrable spike.
Randall Stevenson makes a similar claim, positing that
‘Remarque’s success is better understood not as a sole or sudden influence on war
narrative at the end of the 1920s [. . .] but in the context of gradual developments
throughout the decade’.
There was a developing acceptance of criticisms of the war
and conduct in it, but we demonstrate that there was a clear publication and commentary
boom ranging across forms and genres.
The War Books Boom dataset
Here, we focus on Britain in order to generate a manageable, significant, but finite
dataset, and select the years 1926 to 1933 to give a sense of the rise and fall of the
Boom. We count works that are published for the first time and make the war evident in
their title, along with those described in lists of forthcoming books, reviews and spread
advertisements as ‘pre-war’ or ‘postwar’, suggesting an active connection to the conflict.
It is impossible to establish less tangible connections without extensive reading beyond
the scope of this study.
The data collects information from previous scholarly work,
the catalogues of the British Library, the National Library of Scotland and the National
Library of Wales, and the trade journal The Publisher and the Bookseller; Bracco and
Isherwood highlight its importance in tastemaking and opinion forming.
Data from
a cognate project looking specifically at Scotland is incorporated.
A wide range of
genres are identified by cataloguers, advertisers, readers and scholars: we record creative
and non-fiction works ranging across autobiography, biography, children’s fiction, criti-
cism and analysis, economics, essays, history, letters and diaries, memoirs, novels,
periodical reprints, plays, poetry, reference works, regimental histories, short stories
and songs. Some of these categories inevitably overlap or are closely aligned: among
the most closely overlapping genres we record autobiography as a first-person account of
a life, and a memoir as a personal account that does not purport to narrate the whole
Works with any fictionalization are recorded as creative forms. We take history as
aspiring to objectivity, while criticism and analysis explicitly offer evaluation.
We are conscious of the limitations of this data, and do not claim that it is in any
meaningful sense complete or infallible. More books were undoubtedly published in the
UK which might be recovered by further archival work; this is before we start to consider
the rest of the world. The Bookseller offers a clear view of the UK-wide picture, but it is
London-focused and offers only a small amount of information about, for example, the
children’s book market, on which further work is needed.
While we record here only
works that directly invoke the war, or are explicitly situated in its context by title or
marketing, the pervasive impact of the war on the British public and its reading habits is
registered far beyond the numbers that we provide here. Alice Kelly is right to describe
‘modernist culture in the heart of the modern period [. . . as] inherently a war culture’,
and our data suggests that we can take ‘modernist’ there in its broadest possible sense.
Despite these issues, the dataset we have collected is unparalleled, and in and of itself
radically reshapes previous understandings of the War Books Boom.
We count 1483 war books published from 1926 to 1933. The number of publications
increases from 1928 to 1930, but the trend does not simply rise and fall. While Vincent
Trott cites 1929 as the ‘peak of the boom’,
we discern two significant peaks in publica-
tion in 1928 and 1930 (Figure 1). The years leading up to the peak do not follow
a consistent upwards trajectory. There are fewer recorded titles in 1927 (108) than in
1926 (133), despite the fact that The Bookseller includes a forthcoming books section
from 1927, making the identification of content and genre easier. The peak years of 1928
and 1930 saw 251 and 315 publications respectively. 1931 sees the greatest drop in
numbers throughout the sampled years, almost halving to 176 titles. Market saturation
leads to reader fatigue and ennui, and there is a backlash against the ubiquity of war
writing and the disenchanted tone of many works. An advertisement for Faber & Faber
points to a growing weariness towards war books, acknowledging the increasing ‘pre-
judice’ against them (The Publisher & The Bookseller, 15 May 1931). Our research
suggests that by 1932 the number of war books published (160) was still substantially
above the level of 1926; by 1933 it was only five books fewer (128). However, the focus
shifts towards the global economic crisis, the maintenance of peace and avoidance of
future wars, and the efficacy of the League of Nations
; the resonance of the previous war
was channelled into fears about a future conflict.
That there was a moment for ‘war books’ is evidenced by the recuperation of that
category for the postwar moment, tied in with an increasing volume of discussion. One
way of tracking this is by searching the exact term ‘war books’ in the British Newspaper
Archive (Figure 2). This demonstrates an even more striking boom in terms of criticism
and commentary: 1930 sees 1264 articles containing this phrase, over three times as many
as the preceding year (372), and over five times as many as in the subsequent year (243).
The month-by-month breakdown of these articles suggests that the major critical boom
lasts for barely over a year, from September 1929 to January 1931, with a peak in April
Figure 1. Number of war books per year in the War Books Boom.
Figure 2. “War books” in the British Newspaper Archive.
and May 1930 (200 and 210 articles); there is also a demonstrable spike in November of
each year at the anniversary of the Armistice, which itself dwindles in 1930 and 1931. As
with the publishing data, we recognize the limitations of the method, but argue that the
extent of the data supports claims about trends that are borne out by the commentary
itself. As early as March 1928, Oliver Way wrote that ‘with each publishing season now,
war books pour in upon us, but it must be adjudged that so far the war has proved to be
poor in literature’ (The Graphic, 10 March 1928). The demand was such that newspapers
advertised a £5000 prize for a high-quality war book offered by Houghton Mifflin and the
American Legion (e.g. Liverpool Echo, the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail and the
Nottingham Evening Post, 5 March 1928). By mid-1929, an advertisement for John
Lane, The Bodley Head is headed ‘This is the Day of the War Book’, and claims that
there is a ‘public demand for them and the demand has not yet been satisfied’ (The
Publisher & The Bookseller, 31 May 1929). On New Year’s Day 1930, Leonard James
wrote vividly in the socialist newspaper The Clarion that ‘the bombardment of war books
goes on. [. . .] In the last few days I have narrowly escaped being killed by a number of
“masterpieces” shot at me by publishers’. Military metaphors seem unavoidable. The
boom in criticism and commentary corresponds with the most substantial publication
spike, but the vertiginous spike in commentary attests to why the explosion of interest
was felt so strongly as a boom at the time: discussion in the local, regional and national
press gave it immediacy and proximity.
The War Books Boom was not only a retrospective critical construction but, we argue,
was understood as such at the time. At least one author sensed that this was a key
moment: as he was finishing his bitterly satirical novel Death of a Hero (1929) Richard
Aldington cabled his publisher, Charles Prentice: ‘Referring great success Journey’s End
and German war novels urge earliest fall publication Death of a Hero to take advantage
public mood. Large scale English war novel might go big now’.
On 2 January 1930, the
Daily Herald headlined the inability of Stepney Public Libraries in London to cope with
the demand for All Quiet on the Western Front, despite the purchase of 126 copies, as
a ‘War Books Boom’; the Yorkshire Post reported the same story as the ‘Cult of the War
Book’ (3 January 1930). The following month, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ‘was approached at an early stage in the war book boom, to write
a story based on a war theme’ but would not due to ill health (6 February 1930). Later that
month Vera Brittain wrote about ‘Women and War Books’ (Time and Tide,
21 February 1930), while the following month her friend Winifred Holtby began an
article on ‘War books and women’ with the assertion that ‘I have just been reading
a discussion of the War Book Boom, now about 18 months old. Indeed, it is hard to avoid
the subject nowadays’ (Yorkshire Post, 19 March 1930). The following day, Gerald Gould
contributed a feature on ‘This Boom in War Books’ to the labour movement newspaper
the Daily Herald, and began by asking ‘When will the boom in war-books begin to break?
I think the answer can be given in one syllable. I think the answer is “June”.’ This astute
commentary, aligning with the tailing-off of the critical boom, attempts to make
a qualitative distinction between books of enduring quality and worth, and the works
produced purely for commercial gain. The literary books, he asserts, ‘will survive. More
such books are needed. The war-book boom, the mere boom, the boom for boom’s sake,
will end. There will remain the best books about the war’. This hope is echoed by the
advertisements for war books that surround the feature: Jonathan Cape promotes ‘War
Books that will outlive a few weeks’ popularity’; Peter Davies goes simply for ‘War Books
that will survive’. Our data begins to reveal the vast number of works that did not survive,
the impossibility even at the time of having in view the range of available publications
compounded by ever-present processes of literary taste-making and canon formation.
By March 1930, there were already reports that the Boom was declining and/or
diverging. A double-page advertisement for Chatto & Windus stated that a ‘grave danger
of neglect now besets any war-book, however good, for there are too many’ (The
Publisher & The Bookseller, 14 March 1930). ‘At last the boom in war books is beginning
to weaken’, the London diarist for the Yorkshire Evening Post wrote on 10 April 1930,
suggesting the Boom’s end by the end of the summer, and lauding Douglas Jerrold’s
‘magnificent challenge to the muck-rakers’, The Lie About the War (1930). In the same
week, an article on ‘War on the Screen’ in the Yorkshire Post asserts that ‘the “boom” in
war literature may be said to have captured the screen’; the article notes that ‘although the
height of the war book boom is now probably over, plenty of books dealing with the war
in one form or another are to be found in the spring publishing lists’ (15 April 1930). By
2 July, the Nottingham Evening Post critic sees it as ‘daring’ to publish another war novel,
and notes that ‘latterly the war book boom has shown signs of being distinctly on the
wane, perhaps largely because those most interested in that epoch, the millions of ex-
service men, have become absolutely fed up with pacifist and hysterical calumny’. By
early August there are concerns that new war books ‘will have missed the boat’ (Yorkshire
Post, 1 August 1930), while the following month Gould reviewed Ernest Raymond’s The
Jesting Army (1930) positively ‘at a time when the war-book boom is supposed to be over’
(Daily Herald, 11 September 1930). Raymond is emblematic of the glorifying mindset for
his bestseller Tell England (1922). Heralding a shift to detective fiction, W.L.A. wrote on
10 March 1931 for the Leeds Mercury that ‘the War Book boom has sunk into a deathly
silence’. While our data shows that there was still a substantial level of additional war
book publication in 1931, there is no doubt that Roger Pippett, reviewing Guy
Chapman’s A Passionate Prodigality for the Daily Herald on 12 January 1933, was correct:
‘That barrage which was the war-book boom has passed over our heads’.
The War Books Boom and creative works
The War Books Boom is most strongly associated with the dominant creative successes of
the late 1920s, although our data makes clear that the first peak of the Boom in 1928
preceded the successes that appeared late that year, rather than resulting from them. We
begin, then, with these works that shaped the popular imagination of the First World
War then as now, even though we recorded 610 creative titles (41.1%) against 873 non-
fiction titles (58.9%) (Figure 3). This goes beyond Isherwood’s claims that ‘nearly half of
Great War literature released was non-fiction’, and that ‘over 350 non-fiction war books
were published and printed by British firms from 1918 to 1939’, along with ‘hundreds of
war novels [. . . and] more general military and unit histories’.
However, further work is
required to nuance the relationship between form and genre, publications, sales, reader-
ship and esteem. Isherwood observes that fiction ‘was the mainstay of the publishing
industry and almost always outsold non-fiction: this applied to war books as well’.
is evidenced by sales figures for bestselling war books; these are not always easy to
recuperate due to the destruction of many London publishers’ archives in the Second
World War. However, some information can be gleaned from contemporary advertise-
ments and reports: for example, H.M. Tomlinson’s All Our Yesterdays and Frederic
Manning’s Her Privates We (both 1930) both topped the bestselling books list in
January 1930 (The Publisher & The Bookseller, 7 February 1930)
; Manning had sold
30,000 copies by August 1931. Remarque‘s All Quiet had reached 375,000 sales by
May 1931 (The Publisher & The Bookseller, 1 May 1931) and John Galsworthy’s novel
Flowering Wilderness (1932), the second volume of his End of the Chapter trilogy, set
after the war but substantially informed by it, was among the best-selling books of 1932
(The Publisher & The Bookseller, 6 January 1933).
Not so quiet on the War Books front
Remarque was at the centre of the War Books Boom. Im Westen Nichts Neues was first
serialized in Germany on the tenth anniversary of Armistice Day, published in volume
form on 29 January 1929, then translated into English under A.W. Wheen’s enduring title
All Quiet on the Western Front for publication by Putnam in March 1929; on publication
it sold 25,000 copies in a fortnight.
It was an Oscar-winning Hollywood film within 2
years, and a 15 May 1930 article in The Stage, on the coming film, situates it as ‘the
German story that began the realistic war-book boom’.
Remarque’s novel was adver-
tised by August 1929 as the ‘Best Selling Book in the World’, and ‘The most talked of
book in the world’.
By Armistice week of that year, the book reviewer for the
Northampton Mercury bemoaned its banning by the Northampton Public Library and
reported that ‘there has never, I suppose, been any comparable book which in a short
time has been so widely read as Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front”. Months
ago, more than 1,700,000 copies had been sold; the total now may have reached
2,000,000. Over 300,000 copies have been sold in this country’ (15 November 1929). By
the end of 1929 the novel had sold nearly a million copies in Germany; Putnam ran an
advertisement in a number of local newspapers calling it ‘The best gift for the season of
Peace and Goodwill [. . .] The book that is bearing the message of Peace throughout the
world’. Looking back as the Boom declined S.T.S., in an analysis of ‘What Makes a Book
Sell?’,opined that its success was merely a matter of timing: All Quiet was ‘assured of its
Figure 3. War Books Boom trends for creative works (lower line) and non-fiction.
success the moment the manuscript was put into the printer’s hands. It was simply
a question of right book at the right moment’; if the novel had been published in the early
1920s, it would ‘have been launched upon a world which was counting the toll and
attempting to forget the horror of the war that had just ended. The public at that time had
no wish to be reminded of all it had been through, and the book would in all probability
have been rejected by it’ (The Publisher & The Bookseller, 30 December 1932). This
undoubtedly downplays the skill of Remarque in capturing that moment and of
Wheen’s translation; Thomas F. Schneider outlines the hurdles that Remarque navigated
to see the novel published at all, from rejection, to revision, to consciously situating the
novel outside the literary sphere as the authentic testimony of an ordinary soldier.
Eksteins sees the novel as the key text in a ‘War Boom’,
and not only was it a primary
catalyst for publication, but the controversy over its disenchantment was also a major
factor in the commentary boom that amounted to a battle over how the war would be
remembered a decade on. The novel was attacked from both political wings in Germany,
as either being insufficiently pacifist by the left, or for disparaging German soldiers and
ergo the nation by the rapidly developing Nazi movement on the right.
The response to
the novel was also fraught in the UK, and the attacks from conservative commentators
loudest. A concerted campaign against disenchanted books in the manner of All Quiet
and the Western Front seems to have been waged by the British Legion: veterans who
continued to see military service as central to their identity opposed the perceived shift
away from honour, glory, and heroism.
There was also a backlash from religious leaders
and organizations,
who saw the novel as a threat to proprieties, but perhaps also had in
mind a defence of their own support of the conflict. Novels such as Roland Dorgelès’s The
Cabaret Up the Line (1930) were praised for ‘a lightness of touch’ and their lack of
similarity to the ‘unflinching realism’ of Remarque’s novel (The Publisher & The
Bookseller, 2 May 1930). Some works overtly staked a claim to comedy, such as George
Knight’s The Humorous Side of War! (1929) and a collection of Humorous Scottish War
Stories (1930). Colonel David Rorie’s A Medico’s Luck in the War was praised for its
‘unfailing sense of humour’, in contrast to the ‘good deal of dirty linen [that] has been
washed in high places’ (Dundee Courier & Advertiser, 19 November 1929). Remarque’s
countryman Paul Alverdes’s The Whistler’s Room (1929) was directly compared to
Remarque and praised for ‘the same economy and crystallization of expression and
something of the simple humour that relieved the bitterness of the earlier novel’
(Dundee Evening Telegraph, 22 November 1929).
There were also direct responses to All Quiet on the Western Front, demonstrating that
it was recognized as a phenomenon whose sales and readership success could be
capitalized upon. The publication trend for novels followed the general boom, with
peaks in 1928 (56) and 1930 (77) (Figure 4). Remarque capitalized on the international
success of his first novel, writing a de facto sequel The Road Back, which was serialized in
late 1930 and early 1931, before being published in book form in April 1931 (also
translated by Wheen). Some responses are relatively oblique, such as John Worne’s
Unrest on the Home Front (1930), a contrast to the viscera of Remarque’s novel.
Perhaps the most prominent, and certainly one of the more compelling, is Helen
Zenna Smith’s Not So Quiet: Stepdaughters of War, another 1930 success story. The
title directly alludes to Remarque, and the novel tells the story of a female ambulance
driver during the war. Helen Zenna Smith was the pseudonym of Evadne Price,
a professional author, who drew on ‘the unpublished diaries of a real ambulance-driver,
Winifred Young, to provide her colour’
: the book implies that it is autobiographical,
playing into the desire for ‘real war stories’. It also addresses a desire for more wide-
ranging narratives of the war. Extracts from the novel were trailed in the People on
2 March 1930, and it was published on 27 March 1930; the first edition of this book had
a print-run of 15,000 copies, all of which sold; a second and third edition were printed in
1930. The American edition sold 20,000 copies before publication (The Publisher & The
Bookseller, 11 April 1930), the same as Sassoon’s Infantry Ocer. In between those dates,
on 19 March, Winifred Holtby wrote about women and war books, connecting nursing
service with a desire to read about the war and asserting ‘an increasing demand for books
which will show war as women knew it’ (Yorkshire Post, 19 March 1930). Brittain’s and
Holtby’s articles highlight Mary Agnes Hamilton’s Special Providence: A Tale of 1917
(1930) as a home front novel, along with works by American hospital worker authors
Mary Lee and Mary Borden. One wonders if Holtby, in claiming that ‘the
Englishwoman’s war book is still to come’, had seen the press coverage of Not So Quiet
and another book due to be published the following week, the anonymous W.A.A.C.:
A Woman’s Story of the War (1930); she may also have had in mind Brittain’s still-
unpublished memoir. The anonymous author capitalized on the notoriety of this volume
with two follow-ups, My Journey’s End (1931), a conspicuous nod to Sherriff’s play, and
W.A.A.C. Demobilized: her private aairs (1932), undoubtedly hoping to entice readers
with the prospect of scandal; the representation of pregnant W.A.A.C.s even led to legal
action against Richard Aldington.
Not So Quiet led, according to Tylee, to ‘two sequels,
each incredibly even more crudely overwrought and melodramatic than its
Price actually published three further volumes in this period as Helen
Zenna Smith, all highlighting the role of women: Women of the Aftermath (1931),
Shadow Women (1932), and Luxury Ladies (1933). This illustrates the commercial
potential in this area alongside the necessity to earn as a professional writer.
The influence of All Quiet on the Western Front also manifests a bubble in transla-
tion, particularly from the German. Of the titles recorded in 1930, at least 34 were
originally written in another language before being translated into English, and at least
17 of those (50%) were from German.
1929 also saw a high number of works
Figure 4. War Books Boom trends for novels (lower line) against total war books.
translated from German; it is clear that 1929 and 1930 see by far the highest numbers
of translations, particularly from German: the peak in translated works aligns with the
peak of the Boom. Wheen was also unsurprisingly in demand, translating Ernst
Johannsen’s Four Infantrymen on the Western Front (1930), and Edlef Koeppen’s
Higher Command (1931). There were also translations in 1930 from French (7),
Hungarian (4), Czech, Danish, Italian, Russian and Romanian (one each), which attest
to the interest in war narratives beyond British experience. There was an increase in
translated German books in 1933, as the market responded to Hitler’s rise to power,
which many saw as precipitated by the First World War: six books in our dataset
analyse the impact of the Treaty of Versailles, most strikingly Alfred von Wegerer’s
Refutation of the Versailles War Guilt Thesis (1930). Throughout the sampled years we
noted, but did not record, many books focusing on German travel, ‘modern’ Germany
and the German language, which demonstrate a lasting preoccupation in Britain with
Germany, its culture and people.
Journey ends, boom begins
Just as big a success, and one originating in the UK, was R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End.
First performed at the Apollo Theatre in December 1928 by the Incorporated Stage
Society with Laurence Olivier in the title role, the play was immediately a success when it
transferred to the West End, picked up by a little-known pacifist, Maurice Browne, after
a lack of other interest.
Their timing was impeccable: the play was a huge box-office hit,
and ran for 594 appearances at the Savoy theatre; it was broadcast as part of the BBC’s
Armistice Day schedule in 1929. When Victor Gollancz published the play text in 1929 it
sold unusually highly for that form: sales were up to 175,000 within a year, ‘an all time
record for a new play’, Sherriff claimed in his autobiography.
It also undoubtedly sold
many further copies in Gollancz’s anthologies Famous Plays of Today (1929) and Six
Plays (1930, repr. 1933); such was its fame that it was adapted for a German audience as
Die andere Seite (The Other Side, 1931), which was banned there after the Nazis took
power. As with All Quiet on the Western Front, the success of Journey’s End leads to
adaptation and rewriting for other forms. The faithful 1930 film adaptation, directed by
James Whale, retained Colin Clive as Stanhope; the play was novelized by Sherriff with
Vernon Bartlett, who during the Boom published a volume of short stories, Topsy Turvy
(1929), and two novels, Calf Love (1929) and No Man’s Land (1930). The novelization’s
critical success was mixed: the Dundee Courier reviewer judged it as, ‘despite the
fragmentary form of it [. . .] on top of most of the others [war novels]’
(10 March 1930), and the Portsmouth Evening News saw it as ‘expected to become
a war classic’ (12 March 1930). However, Oliver Way, in the Graphic, offered a rather
more objective assessment of its merits: ‘a competent piece of work, but not calculated to
set the literary Thames on fire’ (15 March 1930). Pertinently, the perspicacious reviewer
for the Yorkshire Post, Collin Brooks, observed the play’s centrality to the furore over war
books: it ‘suffered both the adulation of the unthinking and the almost rabid attacks of
those who construed its necessary dramatic limitations as the deliberate attempt of its
author to pervert the characters of British officers. [. . .] The novel will doubtless re-
arouse this combat of opinion’ (10 March 1930). It remained a touchstone for compar-
ison, and such was its success that Sherriff struggled to follow it up.
Our data for the number of plays is among the smallest by form/genre in the set, so it is
difficult to draw concrete conclusions.
We record peaks in 1928 (11) and 1930 (9), with
the next highest year, 1932, recording 6 plays published. Notable among the 1928
publications was W. Somerset Maugham’s The Sacred Flame, about the postwar mis-
fortunes of a man who survived it. We record only 3 in 1929, suggesting that the ubiquity
of Journey’s End was such that other war plays were crowded out of the market,
increasing in number as its West End success declined. The other two were Veronica
Pilcher’s The Searcher: A War Play, which received little attention or acclaim,
Stefan Zweig’s Jeremiah, written in 1917, translated for Seltzer’s in the US in 1922, but
only available for the first time in the UK in 1929 in an Allen & Unwin edition from US-
printed sheets. Notable authors produced plays in 1930, however. Robert Graves was
commissioned by the producers of Sherriff’s play and published But It Still Goes On,
which takes place after the war. The title of the play nods to Graves’s autobiography
Goodbye to All That (1929), and to the difficulties of leaving behind the traumas of
wartime emphasized by the fact that the play was not first performed until 2018.
Combining drama and translation, Sigmund Graff and Carl Hintze’s The Endless Road,
translated from the German, nods to Sherriff’s play in its title, and is directly compared to
Journey’s End in its advertisement by the publisher George Allen & Unwin (The Publisher
& The Bookseller, 28 March 1930). Sherriff’s prominence is also demonstrated by his
writing introductions to J.D. Gregory’s On the Edge of Diplomacy (1929) and G.H.F.
Nichols’ memoir Pushed (1930). In tracing these connections we add to existing knowl-
edge about the broader influence of these key creative works. The lack of publication data
for this form or, at least, publication data that is found in similar places and takes
a similar shape to other forms and genres – is undoubtedly due to the fact that plays are
primarily performance rather than publishing phenomena. Much of the valuable work
that has been done to date on theatre of the First World War focuses on the war years.
Further work such as Andrew Maunder’s surveying the theatre of the period, or the
development of a ‘Theatre of the War Books Boom’ database along the lines of Helen
Brooks’s Great War Theatre project will be vital in understanding further the impact of
Journey’s End at this moment in theatre history; work examining the review reception of
war dramas in the late 1920s and early 1930s will also be welcome.
Non-ction: writing lives and selves
Our data clearly reveals that non-fiction remained the dominant form by publication
numbers, although further work combining publication data, sales and esteem is needed
to assess the impact of this key finding on the construction of cultural memory. History
and memoir are the dominant genres, with criticism and regimental history also sub-
stantial (Figure 5). Histories see pronounced booms in 1928 (47) and 1930 (53), while
memoir shows a high peak in 1930 (67), over 50% more than the next highest year, 1932
(44). This suggests that memoirs were more readily produced, and that this genre was
stimulated strongly by the earlier part of the Boom. Autobiographies and memoirs were
staples of the market as readers looked for both distinctive and typical war narratives. The
dominance of memoirs highlights the interest in the war as a subject, rather than the
whole life (compare the total numbers of autobiographies (20) and biographies (61)). We
comment on category trends only where we note over 50 volumes across these years; in
this section we analyse forms of life-writing, regimental histories, general histories, and
the beginning of critique of the Boom.
Life-writing was a key aspect of the Boom. Literary figures were prominent among
the authors writing memoirs, compounded by the close connection of many fictional
works with lived experience: Sassoon’s and Graves’s most famous volumes are a case in
point. Sassoon chose the security of thinly veiled fiction. Graves’s choice of autobio-
graphy, however, was reacted against in private by Sassoon and Edmund Blunden,
whose Undertones of War was an early success on publication in December 1928, and
very publicly by Graves’s father A.P. Graves in To Return to All That, published barely
8 months later in July 1930. Both Sassoon’s and Graves’s volumes were popular:
Graves’s, published in late November 1929, had sold 40,000 copies by the turn of
the year (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 4 January 1930), and Sassoon’s Memoirs of an
Infantry Ocer was selling 1000 copies a day after its publication (The Publisher & The
Bookseller, 26 September 1930). Blunden wrote of it that ‘[A]mong the war-books it will
take the highest rank’, and Harold Nicolson called it a book of ‘deep beauty and abiding
significance’ (The Publisher & The Bookseller, 3 October 1930). The military service of
Sassoon, Graves, Blunden and other memoirists undoubtedly contributed to their
success, the hegemony of what James Campbell calls ‘combat gnosticism’ some way
from being challenged.
Also well-received was the first UK edition of E.E.
Cummings’s The Enormous Room (US 1922; UK 1928), in spite of what was already
felt as an excess of war books. In July 1928, a double-page advertisement by the
publisher Jonathan Cape stated that they had been reticent to publish, ‘believing that
the public did not want another War book’ (The Publisher & The Bookseller,
13 July 1928). T.E. Lawrence, whose memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926) had
been published privately, followed by the abridged Revolt in the Desert (1927), describes
The Enormous Room as ‘one of the very best of the war books. Modern in feeling and
new-world in pedigree and all the more exciting in consequence’ (The Publisher & The
Bookseller, 6 July 1928). Lawrence’s phrasing shows the awareness among readers and
authors of the commonality of ‘war books’; these titles focusing on the conflict were
becoming so commonplace as to be a genre in their own right.
Figure 5. War Books Boom trends for non-fiction books by genre; novels included for comparison.
To look beyond these very familiar figures, R.H. Mottram’s memoir Ten Years Ago
(1928) points to the interconnectedness of publishing across genres and how professional
writers reused material. The subtitle Armistice and Other Memories, forming a pendant to
the Spanish Farm Trilogy makes clear the importance of the anniversary while also
asserting Mottram’s authority as a result of his successful realist fiction; several of the
stories feature key characters from the Trilogy. The acknowledgements identify a wide
range of periodicals in which the material has previously appeared.
The success of his
trilogy enabled him to become a professional author, leaving behind his career as a bank
manager, and he published 17 volumes with tangible connections to the war in the period
of this dataset, plus a further co-produced volume of war memoir; the British Library
catalogue makes it clear that many of these were republished in cheap and variant
editions, and some of those 17 volumes reproduce individual or small collections of
items already in print. Both the impact of war experience on Mottram and his level of
industry are clear. In addition to this vast amount of activity, he also introduced works by
H.W. Freeman, Henri Daniel-Rops, Ernst Jünger, and István Szegedi-Szüts; Freeman was
a fellow East Anglian, while the latter three French, German and Hungarian respec-
tively – suggest that Mottram’s introduction acted as a validation in the UK market for
international and translated authors (Szegedi-Szüts required no translation as My War is
a volume of illustrations).
Major events such as the deaths of key figures in the war effort played a part in
stimulating publishing demand. Douglas Haig’s funeral (he died on 29 January 1928) was
a major national event precipitating widespread mourning given his prominence in the
British Legion and United Services Fund.
Two biographies were published later
that year, Sir George Arthur’s Lord Haig and Ernest Protheroe’s Earl Haig; the
next year saw Brigadier-General John Charteris’s Field-Marshal Earl Haig and Haig’s
batman T. Secrett’s Twenty-five years with Earl Haig (1929); G.A.B. Dewar’s 1922 account
of Haig’s command was reprinted by Constable. Protheroe also published a biography of
the nurse Edith Cavell in 1928. Protheroe had previously published A Noble Woman: The
Life-Story of Edith Cavell (1916), demonstrating the opportunistic nature of the Boom as
authors and publishers reprinted and revised old material to profit from the increased
demand for war books. Indeed, a charming piece of doggerel in the Daily Herald of
21 May 1928 bemoans the glut of memoirs of statesmen, concluding that ‘the War Book
to End War Books / Is urgently needed now!’
History and regimental history
Moving outwards to consider histories of particular groups, regimental histories repre-
sent a substantial number of titles (80), and have a distinctive shape in the narrative of the
Boom. Unusually, the peak in regimental histories comes in 1928 (19), after two strong
years in 1926 and 1927 (both 16) before the most notable creative successes make an
impact. Regimental histories were published consistently throughout the 1920s, but the
number drops dramatically in 1929 (to 7) and continues to be fewer than ten for the rest
of the years in the dataset. However, the fact that one writer, Everard Wyrall, published
eight regimental histories in this period suggests that there was the possibility for
commercial success in the genre, or at least survival. Multiple volumes were also
produced by Major C.H. Dudley Ward and Colonel H.C. Wylly (3 each), and C.T.
Atkinson and Thomas Chalmers (2 each). Thinking about our methods of collection, it is
worth considering that these volumes were usually produced for a relatively finite read-
ership, often a local one, meaning that they do not necessarily have the same prominence
in marketing and public discourse as novels, memoirs and histories which purport to
general interest. As a result, it is likely that there are more we have not uncovered to
record; further research is needed into this striking divergence from the trends which
hold across the majority of genres we examine.
Histories remained popular throughout the period, third by total number of publica-
tions behind novels and memoirs in the genres and forms we examined. Works published
in this category ranged from military service in small towns, such as the Sedbergh School
Record of War Service, 1914–1918 (1926), to the roles of major cities, as in F.P. Armitage’s
Leicester 1914–1918 (1933), to home nations, as in David T. Jones et al.’s Rural Scotland
during the War (1926). Particular battles, campaigns, fronts and services across the world
were represented. There was a clear recognition that army, navy and air force had been
important, indicated most pithily in Admiral Mark Kerr’s Land, Sea and Air (1927),
along with many other books about the individual services. Five volumes mentioned
Jutland in the title, while there was evidently some interest in the war beyond the Western
Front, with volumes across the period about East Africa (1), West Africa (1), Turkey (4),
Mesopotamia (7), Palestine (7), Gallipoli (13). Isherwood suggests that such books were
‘especially popular with publishers’ as they offered ‘exoticism and adventure’ compared
with the ‘typical trench tale’; Tylee’s chapter on women’s autobiographies and fictiona-
lized war memoirs offers further support for this suggestion.
Beyond this, there were
the attempts to survey the conflict in a single volume, from Craig and Scott’s Outline
History of the Great War for Use in Schools (1928) to the synoptic volumes published
during the Boom’s peak in 1930: Major-General Sir George Aston’s The Great War of
1914-18, the war correspondent W. Beach Thomas’s Events of the Great War, Lee Benns’s
Europe since 1914, and the French historian Élie Halévy’s The World Crisis of 1914–1918.
That title, translated for the English market, picks up Winston Churchill’s series The
World Crisis, of which volumes three to five were published in this period (1927, 1929,
1931), along with an abridged version (1931). There were other multi-volume histories
that demonstrated both the appetite for works about the war and the sense of its historical
import; HMSO published numerous volumes about a wide range of aspects of the
The trends for criticism and analysis broadly followed the overall shape of the Boom,
with peaks in 1928 (20) and 1930 (22), although 1929 saw only the most negligible of dips
(19). Notable among them are the number of works concerned about the current peace,
or explicitly worrying about a future war such as the US academic John Bakeless’s The
Origin of the Next War (1926), the socialist Tom Bell’s Heading for War (1929), the war
correspondent Philip Gibbs’s The Day after Tomorrow: What is going to happen to the
world? (1929) and Major K.A. Bratt’s That Next War (1930). The Nazi successes in the
German elections of September 1930 precipitated further volumes in this vein including
Sir Leo Chiozza Money’s Can War be Averted? (1931) and Frank H. Simonds’s Can
Europe Keep the Peace? (1931), while after the Nazi election successes of mid-1932 Sisley
Huddleston’s War Unless . . . (1933) took an increasingly gloomy view. The Austrian-
Swiss pacifist Ludwig Bauer’s Morgen Wieder Krieg (1931) was translated the
following year as War Again Tomorrow, warning of the prospect of another conflict;
just beyond the scope of this dataset, the German geographer and militarist Ewald
Banse’s Raum und Volk im Weltkriege (1932), was translated as Germany, Prepare for
War (1934). Trott argues that ‘fears of a future conflict may have encouraged’ the
increased output of war books, and our data clearly demonstrates that this was
a substantial strand within the war books boom.
Conclusion: beginning of literary criticism, end of boom
Another small but important strand within works of criticism and analysis is the appear-
ance of literary criticism about war books. These works also intervened in the battle for the
memory of the conflict, the most prominent examples by conservative combatants. Cyril
Falls contributed to The War, 1914–1918: A Booklist (1929), which led to the longer
monograph War Books: A Critical Guide (1930), incorporated within our dataset. Falls
guided his readers through an extensive bibliography of books published about the First
World War to that date with an idiosyncratic one-to-three-star rating system; three-star
ratings were very rare indeed. The critic for the Yorkshire Post posited the volume’s
appearance in March 1930 as a marker of the addition of ‘a definite chapter to the history
of English and European literature’, suggesting that the chapter was already on its way to
Falls and the conservative commentator Gilbert Frankau, notable for his
curious bestselling war novel Peter Jackson, Cigar Merchant (1919) and his short-lived
journal Britannia (1928), the latter of which gives a sense of the depth of his patriotism,
both argued that the emphasis on the horrors of war in these books elided the patriotic
values that had sustained morale during the war and in the postwar years.
The official war
reporter Philip Gibbs, who had made a success out of telling the Realities of War (1920)
a decade earlier, railed against the new mode of war writing in an article entitled ‘War
Books: Are They Educating a Nation of Cowards?’, while Douglas Jerrold denounced what
he saw as The Lie About the War (1930).
Todman argues that the ‘dispute for critics of the
“war books boom” was not that the war had been horrible. What was at issue was the
balance of that horror with other emotions, the capacity of men – specifically British men –
to withstand its worst extremities, and the meaning of such endurance. For men like Falls
and Jerrold, the war had been the occasion for the reinforcement of traditional values of
honour and loyalty as much as about the experience of the battlefield grotesque’.
books were reviewed alongside each other in the Times Literary Supplement, and the
anonymous reviewer criticizes the ‘obsession with the discreditable’ in a fulminating list
of grievances.
The US critic A.C. Ward, in his study of the literature of The Nineteen-
Twenties (1930), assessed the situation with a precision that can only be achieved by an
outsider looking in: ‘British aggressive civilians (male and female) are not content to know
that British soldiers have won a war; they want to believe that it has been won by an army of
gentlemen in a gentlemanly way. Only when war is wrapped in a haze of romantic illusion
has the British public sufficient moral courage to contemplate war’.
That there was a war books boom has always been assumed. Here, using the previously
unmatched dataset that we have compiled, we add substantial nuance to the under-
standing of its shape and extent in the UK. Observing the separate publication peaks of
1928 and 1930 in the overall publication boom, and the varied intersections of different
genre categories with the overall picture, helps us to understand better than ever before
this vital moment in the history and historiography of the First World War; the moment
that shaped the memory of the war throughout the subsequent century.
Thinking about
the intersection of publication and commentary and recognizing the connections
between the two enhances our understanding of the Boom – and bust. Further work is
undoubtedly needed, and indeed welcomed, on the data that we have amassed. Further
quantitative work is necessary to understand the relationship between publication num-
bers and sales figures, while further qualitative work is needed on the nature of critical
esteem and debate, and on further detail of the contents of these volumes: how do issues
of representation, identity, and literary form contribute to the success or failure (by
a variety of metrics) of the texts? Many of the texts we discuss were undoubtedly of
European and even global interest, and Nicolas Beaupré’s claim that ‘the soldier-writer
was a global figure and the boom in war books straddled the world’ is a compelling
element of his argument for the necessity of a transnational history of war writing.
welcome work on other nations that might lead to a truly transnational understanding of
war literature at this time. What is certain, for the first time, is that there was in the UK
a war books boom, which saw two peaks in 1928, and in 1930, and that there was an
entwined boom in newspaper and periodical commentary on the subject.
While the existence of the War Books Boom has long been taken as a truism, our
collation of this data enables the development of a more nuanced understanding of this
key moment in the development of the literature and history of the First World War.
Recognizing the sheer extent and breadth of literature published relating to the war
around the end of the postwar decade has the potential to reshape our understanding of
what mattered at the time, unpicking a mostly ossified canonicity and recovering diverse,
popular and genre texts to the debate. Returning to the scene of this vital point in the
historiography of the war not only develops our understanding of the First World War
and responses to it in the interwar, but also makes possible new insights into the
relationship between conflict and memory, and their enduring impact.
1. Carrington is quoted by Eksteins in “All Quiet on the Western Front and the Fate of a War”;
Bracco, Merchants of Hope.
2. In terms of creative works, this means that we do not address in detail poetry. The shape of
the poetry boom is somewhat anomalous, peaking in 1926 and 1929 but with consistently
high levels of production (23 to 39 volumes with the exception of 1932 (13)). It is further
complicated by the republication of key wartime works, often in new, revised or expanded
3. Hynes, A War Imagined, pt. v.
4. Ibid., 424.
5. Fussell, Great War and Modern Memory, ch. 4. Isherwood offers a good summary of
questioning responses to Fussell in “The British Publishing Industry and Commercial
Memories of the First World War”, 325–6.
6. Hynes, A War Imagined, 425.
7. Potter, “The British Publishing Industry”, 380; Isherwood, Remembering the Great War, 43.
Bergonzi also describes a resurgence which he aligns with a stage of autobiography-writing
in Heroes’ Twilight, 146. Todman identifies a further boom in the 1990s in The Great War,
8. Tylee, The Great War and Women’s Consciousness, ch. 5; 189.
9. Bracco, Merchants of Hope, 1. Simmers’s blog Great War Fiction has now looked at
a formidable range of texts, taking seriously much neglected literature.
10. Todman, The Great War, 17.
11. Ibid., 156.
12. Stevenson, Literature and the Great War, 88–9.
13. For example, Vincent Trott highlights that dustjackets of key texts of the War Books Boom
such as All Quiet on the Western Front also make the war more evident than earlier in the
response in Publishers, Readers and the Great War, ch. 1.
14. Incorporated in this work are entries from (in chronological order): Falls, War Books;
Reilly, English Poetry of the First World War; Ouditt, Women Writers of the First World
War; Kosok, The Theatre of War; Isherwood, Remembering the Great War; Budgen,
British Children’s Literature and the First World War; Ruzich, ed., International Poetry
of the First World War. There will undoubtedly be further entries to be gleaned from
examining more specialist bibliographies and those beyond the UK context such as
Schaffer, The United States in World War I; Noffsinger, World War I Aviation; Lengel,
World War I Memories.
15. Bracco, Merchants of Hope, 11; Isherwood, “The British Publishing Industry”, 332–3. The
Bookseller was published under that title until 1922, when it became the monthly The
Bookseller and the stationery trades’ journal (1922–7); it was then again The Bookseller
(1927–8), before a stint as The Publisher and the Bookseller (1928–33), then reverting to The
Bookseller (1933-).
16. Thanks are due to Louise Bell and Dr James Benstead for their work on that project.
17. On some of the problems of this genre, see Edwards, “British War Memoirs”.
18. Recent work on children’s literature and the First World War includes Blamires, “Children’s
Books”; Paul, Johnston and Short, eds, Children’s Literature and Culture; Budgen, British
Children’s Literature. It is striking how comparatively few of the books in Budgen’s biblio-
graphy are from 1926–33.
19. Kelly, Commemorative Modernisms, 2.
20. Trott, Publishers, Readers and the Great War, 29.
21. Potter discusses the League of Nations and books about peace in “The Bookman, the Times
Literary Supplement and the Armistice”, 159.
22. Aldington quotes his cable of the previous day in a letter of 11 May 1929 to Charles Prentice,
a partner and his editor at Aldington’s UK publisher Chatto & Windus. University of
Reading, Chatto & Windus Archives, CW48/3. Quoted by Christopher Ridgway,
Introduction to Aldington, Death of a Hero. See also Trott, ‘“The market is getting flooded
with them”’.
23. Isherwood, Remembering the Great War, 50.
24. Isherwood, Remembering the Great War, 50; Isherwood, “The British Publishing Industry”, 328.
25. Manning’s novel, which shares strong structural similarities with Journey’s End, was also
published in unexpurgated form by Piazza Press as The Middle Parts of Fortune in the final
days of 1929.
26. Bracco, Merchants of Hope, 145. Todman highlights the importance of ‘an innovative
advertising campaign’ in its success, The Great War, 19; see also Eksteins, Rites of Spring,
27. The film is trailed alongside a positive review of the musical comedy film Not So Quiet on the
Western Front, dir. by Monty Banks (British International Pictures, 1930).
28. Isherwood, Remembering the Great War, 45; Advertisement for Putnam in North Wilts
Herald, 16 August 1929, p. 2. The advertisement records sales to date as England: 200,000;
France: 219,000; America: 185,000; Germany: 750,000 [total of these: 1.35 million] and notes
publication in 14 further European countries.
29. Schneider, “‘The Truth about the War Finally’”, 493–7. Steven Loveridge discusses the reception
of All Quiet on the Western Front in New Zealand in ‘Not So Quiet on the New Zealand Front’.
30. Eksteins, Rites of Spring, 275–7. A longer version of this material is available in Eksteins, All
Quiet on the Western Front and the Fate of a War”. Isherwood sees the memoir boom as
rooted in T.E. Lawrence’s Revolt in the Desert (1927) and Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of
War (1928) but stimulated by All Quiet on the Western Front. Remembering the Great War, 44.
31. Eksteins, Rites of Spring, 287–8.
32. See, for example, “War Books Condemned by Ex-Servicemen”, Sheeld Independent,
12 May 1930, 1; “The Prince and British Legion”, West Sussex County Times,
17 May 1930, 8; “Ex-Servicemen and War Books”, Yorkshire Post, 11 June 1930, 7; “Our
London Editor”, “What I Hear in London”, Leeds Mercury, 11 June 1930, 4; “Recent War
Books: Legion’s Justifiable Angry Protest”, Northern Whig, 11 June 1930, 8; “Union with
England; British Legion Suggestion; War Books Criticized”, The Scotsman, 16 June 1930, 7.
33. See, for example, “War Books”, Mexborough & Swinton Times, 29 November 1929, 11;
“Harmful war books: an Edinburgh protest”, The Scotsman, 31 May 1930, 16;
“Remembrance Day Services”, Sheeld Daily Telegraph, 9 November 1931, 2.
34. Tylee, The Great War and Women’s Consciousness, 197. Tylee offers further information on
the figures who form the basis for characters in the novel. See also Trott, Publishers, Readers
and the Great War, 46–7.
35. Willis jr., “The Censored Language of War”, 483–4.
36. Tylee, The Great War and Women’s Consciousness, 197.
37. Up to another 7 are probably translated, 4 of these from German. It is not always possible to
ascertain the original and the translator, which makes it difficult to provide precise statistics.
38. See Einhaus, “Wyndham Lewis, Cicely Hamilton and Nazi Germany”.
39. Sherriff, No Leading Lady, 49, 65–76.
40. Sherriff, No Leading Lady, 192. On the development of Journey’s End as a commercial
success see Walters, “Between Entertainment and Elegy”.
41. We record publications, rather than productions, and welcome suggestions for developing
this analysis.
42. See Purkis, “The Mediation of Constructions of Pacifism”.
43. Maunder, British Theatre and the Great War; Brooks, Great War Theatre; on British theatre
and the war in the early 1920s, see Brooks, “Remembering the War on the British Stage”.
44. Reference books (18), autobiographies (20) and studies of economics (29) do not make this
45. Campbell, “Combat Gnosticism”.
46. Mottram, Ten Years Ago.
47. Sheffield, The Chief, 366–7.
48. Isherwood, “The British Publishing Industry”, 329; Tylee, The Great War and Women’s
Consciousness, ch. 6.
49. Trott, Publishers, Readers and the Great War, 13.
50. G.G., “Forthcoming Books”, Yorkshire Post, 5 March 1930, 8.
51. Bracco, Merchants of Hope, 3.
52. Ibid., 179.
53. Todman, The Great War, 22. See also Stevenson, Literature and the Great War, 196.
54. ‘The Garlands Wither’, Times Literary Supplement, 12 June 1930, 485. See Frayn, Writing
Disenchantment, 240–2.
55. Ward, The Nineteen-Twenties, 143.
56. See, for example, Ouditt, “Myths, memories, and monuments”.
57. Beaupré, “Soldier-writers and poets”, 471.
Thanks to Louise Bell and James Benstead for their work on the cognate project funded by the
Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and to Beth Campbell for her work as an intern
funded by the Centre for Literature and Writing at Edinburgh Napier University. Thanks also to
Ann-Marie Einhaus for her comments on an earlier version of the article.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s).
This work was initially supported by Edinburgh Napier University under grant N5097. A cognate
project, work from which is incorporated here, was funded by the Carnegie Trust for the
Universities of Scotland under the Research Incentive Grants scheme.
Andrew Frayn
Data availability
The data that underpin this research are openly available in the Edinburgh Napier University
repository at
Aldington, Richard. Death of a Hero. 1929. London: Hogarth, 1984.
Beaupré, Nicolas. “Soldier-Writers and Poets.” In The Cambridge History of the First World War,
edited by J. Winter, 445–474. Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Bergonzi, Bernard. Heroes’ Twilight: A Study of the Literature of the Great War. 2nd ed.
Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1980.
Blamires, David. Telling Tales: The Impact of Germany on English Children’s Books 1780-1918.
Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2009. .
Bracco, Rosa M. Merchants of Hope: British Middlebrow Writers and the First World War, 1919-
1939. Oxford: Berg, 1993.
Brooks, Helen E.M. “Remembering the War on the British Stage: From Resistance to
Reconstruction.” In Revival After the Great War: Rebuild, Remember, Repair, Reform, edited
by L. Verpoest et al., 165–176. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2020. https://library.oapen.
org/handle/20.500.12657/43023 .
Brooks, Helen. Great War Theatre.
Budgen, David. British Children’s Literature and the First World War: Representations Since 1914.
London: Bloomsbury, 2018.
Campbell, James. “Combat Gnosticism: The Ideology of First World War Poetry Criticism.” New
Literary History 30, no. 1 (1999): 203–215.
Edwards, Paul. “British War Memoirs.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the
Great War, edited by V. B. Sherry, 15–33. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Einhaus, Ann-Marie. “Wyndham Lewis, Cicely Hamilton and Nazi Germany in Time and Tide.”
Journal of Modern Periodical Studies 10, no. 1 (2020): 76–97.
Eksteins, Modris. “All Quiet on the Western Front and the Fate of a War.” Journal of
Contemporary History 15, no. 2 (1980): 345–366. doi:10.1177/002200948001500207.
Eksteins, Modris. Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age. 1989. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Falls, Cyril. War Books: An Annotated Bibliography of Books About the First World War, edited by
R. J. Wyatt. New ed. 1930. London: Greenhill Books, 1989.
Frayn, Andrew. Writing Disenchantment: British First World War Prose, 1914–1930. Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 2014.
Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. 1975. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Hynes, Samuel. A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture. London: Pimlico,
Isherwood, Ian. “The British Publishing Industry and Commercial Memories of the First World
War.” War in History 23, no. 3 (2016): 323–340.
Isherwood, Ian. Remembering the Great War: Writing and Publishing the Experiences of World
War I. London: I.B. Tauris, 2017.
Kelly, Alice. Commemorative Modernisms: Women Writers, Death and the First World War.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020.
Kosok, Heinz. The Theatre of War: The First World War in British and Irish Drama. London:
Routledge, 2007.
Lengel, Edward G. World War I Memories: An Annotated Bibliography of Personal Accounts
Published in English Since 1919. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004.
Loveridge, Steven. “Not so Quiet on the New Zealand Front: All Quiet on the Western Front and
New Zealand Memories of the Great War.” Journal of New Zealand Studies 18 (2014): 23–40.
Maunder, Andrew, ed. British Theatre and the Great War, 1914-1919: New Perspectives.
Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2015.
Mottram, R.H. Ten Years Ago: Armistice & Other Memories Forming a Pendant to The Spanish
Farm Trilogy. London: Chatto & Windus, 1928.
Noffsinger, James. World War I Aviation: A Bibliography of Books in English, French, German, and
Italian. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997.
Ouditt, Sharon. Women Writers of the First World War: An Annotated Bibliography. London:
Routledge, 2000.
Ouditt, Sharon. “Myths, Memories, and Monuments: Reimagining the Great War.” In The
Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War, edited by V. B. Sherry,
245–260. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Paul, Lissa, Rosemary R. Johnston and Emma Short, eds. Children’s Literature and Culture of the
First World War. London: Routledge, 2016.
Potter, Jane. “The Bookman, the Times Literary Supplement and the Armistice.” In The Silent
Morning: Culture and Memory After the Armistice, edited by T. Tate and K. Kennedy, 149–166.
Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013.
Potter, Jane. “The British Publishing Industry and the First World War.” In The Edinburgh
Companion to the First World War and the Arts, edited by A.-M. Einhaus and K. Baxter,
371–384. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017.
Purkis, Charlotte. “The Mediation of Constructions of Pacifism in Journey’s End and The Searcher,
Two Contrasting Dramatic Memorials from the Late 1920s.” Journalism Studies 17, no. 4 (2016):
Reilly, Catherine. English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography. London: Prior, 1978.
Ruzich, Constance M., ed. International Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology of Lost
Voices. London: Bloomsbury, 2021.
Schaffer, Ronald. The United States in World War I: A Selected Bibliography. Santa Barbara, CA:
Clio, 1978.
Schneider, Thomas F. “‘The Truth About the War Finally’: Critics’ Expectations of WarLiterature
During the Weimar Republic: The reception of Erich Maria Remarque’s Im Westen Nichts
Neues [All Quiet on theWestern Front], 1928–1930.” Journalism Studies 17, no. 4 (2016):
Sheffield, Gary. The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army. London: Aurum Press, 2011.
Sherriff, R.C. No Leading Lady: An Autobiography. London: Gollancz, 1968.
Simmers, George. Great War Fiction Plus.
Stevenson, Randall. Literature and the Great War, 1914-1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
Todman, Dan. The Great War: Myth and Memory. London: Hambledon Continuum, 2005.
Trott, Vincent. “‘The Market is Getting Flooded with Them’: Richard Aldington’s Death of a Hero
and the War Books Boom.” In The Book World: Selling and Distributing British Literature, 1900-
1940, edited by N. Wilson, 95–116. The Hague: Brill, 2016.
Trott, Vincent. Publishers, Readers and the Great War: Literature and Memory Since 1918. London:
Bloomsbury, 2017.
Tylee, Claire M. The Great War and Women’s Consciousness: Images of Militarism and
Womanhood in Women’s Writings, 1914–64. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990.
Walters, Emily Curtis. “Between Entertainment and Elegy: The Unexpected Success of R.C.
Sherriff’s Journey’s End (1928).” The Journal of British Studies 55, no. 3 (2016): 344–373.
Ward, A.C. The Nineteen-Twenties: Literature and Ideas in the Post-War Decade. London:
Methuen, 1930.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
This article scrutinizes the contributions of Wyndham Lewis and Cicely Hamilton to coverage of Germany in the weekly review Time and Tide leading up to and following the National Socialist parliamentary election victory in September 1930. The magazine’s coverage of this crucial period in German interwar politics is used as a lens to explore its wider attitudes towards internationalism between the wars. Reading Lewis’s and Hamilton’s contributions against each other sheds new light on the crucial role played by Time and Tide in negotiating its readers’ course through the fraught political and cultural landscape of interwar Europe.