summer book exchange #9: Christmas Truce

There’s stories, rumors, apocrypha, legends and myths. Telling the difference between them – for historians – is critical and often difficult.

Christmas Truce, by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, 1984

photo 2There have been dozens of books, articles and movies written about the legendary Christmas Truce in World War I. This book, though a bit older, is one of the better ones.

In 1914, the governments of Europe merrily sent their sons off to fight what they were sure would be a very short war filled with honor and glory. “We’ll be home by Christmas,” they all cheered, certain of their impending victory.

Then they discovered the realities of machine guns, artillery and poison gas. Those who died, many have said, were the lucky ones, because the rest of us had to live forever in a new and unpleasant world.

Christmas Truce examines day-by-day the break in the fighting that spontaneously happened in December 1914. Soldiers who had only the day before been eagerly trying to kill each other stopped fighting, shook hands, exchanged gifts, and some even played in pickup soccer games.

Brown and Seaton present here a good examination of the before, during and after of the impromptu truce. The pacing of history books is often monotonous, dragging facts through the molasses of time, but the authors’ work in television has apparently given them some insights into how better to pace a book to keep the reader interested.

The book is well and thoroughly researched. If you’re interested in WW1 history, this is one to pick up.

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