Roll of Honour : Schooling & The Great War 1914 - 1919
The Great War was the first 'Total War'; a war in which human and material resources were pitched into a life-and-death struggle on a colossal scale. British citizens fought on both the Battle Fronts and on the Home Front, on the killing fields of France and Flanders as well as in the industrial workshops of 'Blighty'. Men, women and children all played their part in an unprecedented mobilisation of a nation at war.
Unlike much of the traditional literature on the Great War, with its understandable fascination with the terrible experiences of 'Tommy in the Trenches', Roll of Honour shifts our gaze. It focuses on how the Great War was experienced by other key participants, namely those communities involved in 'schooling' the nation's children. It emphasises the need to examine the 'myriad faces of war', rather than traditional stereotypes, if we are to gain a deeper understanding of personal agency and decision making in times of conflict and upheaval.The dramatis personae in Roll of Honour include Head Teachers and Governors charged by the Government with mobilising their 'troops'; school masters, whose enlistment, conscription or conscientious objection to military service changed lives and career paths; the 'temporary' school mistresses who sought to demonstrate their 'interchangeability' in male dominated institutions; the school alumni who thought of school whilst knee-deep in mud; and finally, of course, the school children themselves, whose 'campaigns' added vital resources to the war economy.
These 'myriad faces' existed in all types of British school, from the elite Public Schools to the elementary schools designed for the country's poorest waifs and strays. This powerful account of the Great War will be of interest to general readers as well as historians of military campaigns, education and British society.
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Roll of Honour: Schooling and the Great War 1914-1919 covers the wartime experience of education from the viewpoints of children, past pupils, parents and teachers in schools of every sort in England, Wales, and Scotland. Barry Blades, whose background is in teaching and research, has been meticulous in finding and interpreting his sources, many of which are held in the archives of individual schools. He quotes from letters, diaries, logbooks, school magazines and histories. Everything is referenced in pages of notes at the end, and there is a lengthy bibliography. The book is easy to navigate, being divided into four parts: Call-to-Arms!; Schools at War; Teachers at War; and Aftermath - with 44 monochrome plates in a central section.
The first Index deals with People/Topics and the second is the names of Schools. Unfortunately, a proofreader must have nodded to miss Isle of 'White' (which should be 'Wight'); and, in the Schools' Index, the Island's Newport County Secondary School is assumed to be Newport High School for Boys, in Wales. It would be helpful to have a map pinpointing the location of the schools mentioned.
Roll of Honour, the first book in a planned trilogy, brings WW1 out of the trenches and into the home. Family historians like me will find this book invaluable because it gives insight into the Home Front from which our long-gone grandfathers and great-uncles left for War, and to which some returned. It could also inspire commemorative WW1 projects in schools and family/local history societies, which may be able to unearth more evidence and even some children's artefacts from those times. And, of course, teachers and social/educational historians should be reading it, too, for insights into how schools have developed and society changed in the last hundred years.
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