Commitment and Sacrifice: Personal Diaries of the Great War

Hardcover | August 3, 2015

byMarilyn Shevin-Coetzee, Frans Coetzee

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For years, those who attempted to understand the devastation of World War I looked to the collections of diplomatic documents, the stirring speeches, and the partisan memoirs of the leading participants. However, those accounts offered little by way of the intimate history, or the individualexperiences of those involved in the Great War. In Commitment and Sacrifice, Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee and Frans Coetzee provide just such an "intimate look" by bringing together previously unpublished diaries of five participants in the First World War and restoring to publication the diary of a sixththat has long been out of print.The six diaries address the war on the Western front and the Mediterranean, as well as behind the lines on the home front. Together, these diarists form a diverse group: John French, a British sapper who dug precarious tunnels beneath the trenches of the Western Front; Henri Desagneaux, a Frenchinfantry officer embroiled in years of bloody combat; Philip T. Cate, an idealistic American volunteer ambulance driver who sought to save lives rather than take them; Willy Wolff, a German businessman caught in England upon the war's outbreak and interned there for the duration; James DouglasHutchison, a New Zealand artilleryman fighting thousands of miles from home; and Felix Kaufmann, a German machine gunner, captured and held as a prisoner of war. Through the personal reflections of these young men, we are transported into many of the iconic episodes of the war, from the upheaval of mobilization through the great battles of Gallipoli, Verdun, and the Somme, as well as the less familiar "other ordeal" of internment and captivity. As members ofthe so-called Generation of 1914 (each was between nineteen and twenty-four years old), they shared an unwavering commitment to their countries' cause, and possessed a steadfast determination to persevere despite often appalling circumstances.Collectively, these diaries illuminate the sacrifices of war, whether willingly volunteered or stoically endured. That the diarists had the desire and the ingenuity to record their experiences, whether for their families, posterity, or simply their own personal satisfaction, gives readers theability to eavesdrop on horrors long past. A century later, we are fortunate that they were both willing and able to set pencil to paper.

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For years, those who attempted to understand the devastation of World War I looked to the collections of diplomatic documents, the stirring speeches, and the partisan memoirs of the leading participants. However, those accounts offered little by way of the intimate history, or the individualexperiences of those involved in the Great Wa...

Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee and Frans Coetzee have taught at Yale and George Washington Universities and have been the recipients of fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, American Philosophical Society, Alexander von Humboldt, Fulbright, and Mellon Foundations, Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and the National...

other books by Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee

Format:HardcoverDimensions:352 pages, 9.25 × 6.22 × 0.01 inPublished:August 3, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199336075

ISBN - 13:9780199336074

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. "It was like ten thousand devils let loose:" John French, British sapper2. "Young men . . . helping this nation to save its soul:" Phillip Cate, American ambulance driver3. "Behind barbed wire in . . . a stable for men:" Willy Wolff, German internee in Britain4. "A year . . . such as I can never hope to have again:" James D. Hutchison, ANZAC artilleryman5. "Life has been spent among the dead:" Henri Desagneaux, French infantry officer6. "Hunger was stronger than all punishments:" Felix Kaufmann, German POW in FranceSelect Bibliography