Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Phil Harling

Abstract

The orthodox narrative of the First World War, which maintains that the conflict was futile, unnecessary and wasteful, continues to dominate historical representations of the war. Attempts by revisionist historians to dispute this interpretation have made little impact on Britain’s collective memory of the conflict. The Christmas truce has come to represent the frustration and anger that soldiers felt towards the meaningless war they had been trapped into fighting. However, the Christmas truce, which at the time it occurred was seen as an event of minimal importance, was not an act of defiance, but one which arose from the unprecedented conditions of static trench warfare and the adaptation of the soldiers to that environment. An examination of contemporaneous accounts of the truce demonstrates that it was viewed by the soldiers involved as merely a brief holiday, and that British army commanders generally ignored or tolerated the truce, eventually releasing orders preventing its continuation or reoccurrence but taking no steps to punish any of the men who took part in it. A review of the letters and diaries of truce participants sheds light on the event itself, while simultaneously challenging the orthodox narrative of the First World War.

Share

COinS