A Guardian Best Book of the Year 2014 11pm, Tuesday 4 August 1914: with the declaration of war London becomes one of the greatest killing machines in human history.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers pass through the capital on their way to the front; wounded men are brought back to be treated in London's hospitals; and millions of shells are produced in its factories.
The war changes London life for ever. Women escape the drudgery of domestic service to work as munitionettes.
Full employment puts money into the pockets of the London poor for the first time.
Self-appointed moral guardians seize the chance to clamp down on drink, frivolous entertainment and licentious behaviour. As the war drags on, gloom often descends on the capital. And at night London is plunged into darkness for fear of German bombers and Zeppelins that continue to raid the city.
Yet despite daily casualty lists, food shortages and enemy bombing, Londoners are determined to get on with their lives and flock to cinemas and theatres, dance halls and shebeens, firmly resolved not to let Germans or puritans spoil their enjoyment. Peopled with patriots and pacifists, clergymen and thieves, bluestockings and prostitutes, Jerry White's magnificent panorama reveals a struggling yet flourishing city.
- Format: Hardback
- Pages: 400 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 01/05/2014
- Category: British & Irish history
- ISBN: 9781847921659
- Paperback from £9.15
- EPUB from £7.99
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Review by Shrike58
I've not read any of the author's previous books on the history of London but on the strength of this book I'm interested. What White gives you is a portrait of a city that could truly claim to be the center of the world but which was riven by social conflicts that never went away even with the war. That the author never loses track of how these conflicts of class, gender and power played out is the real strength of his narrative. I will say that I thought that this book was going to be more about the primeval "Blitz" of Zeppelins & Gotha bombers then it was but that is no detraction from the story that is on offer.