An English Governess in the Great War : The Secret Brussels Diary of Mary Thorp, Hardback Book


An Englishwoman living in World War I Brussels started a secret diary in September 1916.

The diary, which survived the war and whose author remained anonymous, ended up in a Belgian archive.

This book brings to light both the diary and the story of the woman who wrote it: a middle-aged English governess working for a Belgian-Russian family in German-occupied Brussels.

Mary Thorp (1864 -1945) grew up in London and in Bruges.

Like many educated young women ofimpoverished middle-class backgrounds, she worked as a governess.

Neither a servant nor a member of the upper classes that employed her, she harbored a sturdy middle-class outlook stressing self-reliance and responsibility for others - the very attitude that underlay societies' resilience in the face of war. Her diary expresses this attitude but also the strains on it as the war wore on.

Thorp did not only crossed classes; she crossed national borders as well.

Her diary's perspective is transnational. She followed the wartime fate of her widely dispersed friends and family.

She tracked military news from theaters both far-flung and nearby. And, because of her privileged access to diplomats from Spain, the Netherlands, the US, Persia, and Japan, she tallied wider war news - on peace overtures, the Russian Revolution, and discontent in Germany.

At the same time, Thorp remainedattuned to local dynamics in Brussels, the First World War's largest occupied city.

Alert to both structural constraints and individual stories, she showed how the occupying army sought to exploit Belgium, but also how this rebutted some in the German military.

Uniquely, her diary also documents theArmistice and its immediate aftermath, for she kept it up until January 1919.

In this volume, Tammy M. Proctor and Sophie De Schaepdrijver provide a biographical introduction on Thorp, an overview of the war in occupied Belgium, and detailed annotations to the diary.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 288 pages, 23
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Diaries, letters & journals
  • ISBN: 9780190276706



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