Here at the Centre for Cultural Collections we are lucky enough to have a Borough Archivist who has a keen eye and generous cheque book! Over the past few years she has been creating her own personal collection of books that either originate from the period of the Great War or more modern publications dealing with different aspects of the conflict. This resource is already proving to be invaluable to our team.
One collection of periodicals that has drawn my attention is The War Illustrated. The first issue went into circulation on the 22nd August 1914 just 18 days after Great Britain declared war on Germany. Published in London by William Berry, it continued to circulate up to 1919 when it was discontinued until its reappearance during the Second World War. The periodicals were later bound into albums and the series used here is the ALBUM DE LUX –The Story of the Great European War told by Camera, Pen and Pencil. Contributors included War correspondents and notable authors of the period such as H.G.Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The articles are supported by maps, photographs and illustrations.
In particular I have enjoyed reading the article ‘Why Britain Went to War’ By H.G.Wells contained in volume 1 of the albums, The First Phase. The article examines not only what Wells believed to be the cause of the war but also the object of the war. Wells identifies the cause of the war as being ‘the invasion of Luxembourg and Belgium.’ He discusses Great Britain’s treaty with France and how the ‘fortified Eastern frontier of France could have been held (…) without any help from us.’ However Britain had pledged to defend the ‘integrity’ of Belgium since its formation. In Wells’ opinion ‘No power in the world would have respected our Flag or accepted our national word again if we had not fought.’
The rest of the article then concentrates on Wells’ view on the object of the war. Wells is keen to examine the purpose of the conflict and the ultimate aim which he identifies as being that the ‘Germans as a people know they are beaten, and that they are convinced that they have had enough of war.’ However, he does differentiate between the German people and their positive traits and an ‘evil system of Government’.
Our small library of First World War books has allowed me to access this popular and contemporary publication which, at its peak, had a circulation of 750,000. For me, it is really interesting to be able to examine a magazine that was produced for consumption by the general public of Great Britain and its Empire.
If you would like to access this publication it is also available online using the following link: http://greatwarproject.org/2014/08/22/the-war-illustrated/