05 March 2007

"The Myth of the Great War" - the Lusitania

This was the title of a 2001 book by John Mosier, not a military historian but a professor of English with an interest in military history. I remember when it came out as being somewhat controversial among British reviewers. (It goes completely against the 'party line' among British historians concerning the BEF.) It did garner a Pulitzer Prize nomination, not that that's necessarily a recommendation, given the manipulation of American publishing prizes.

You'll find a very negative discussion of it by some Brits here. Unfortunately, these comments are long on indignation and short on specific criticism, which I always find is an almost certain indication that the book makes a valued contribution to our understanding of the subject! However, the lead review at the Amazon link quoted above makes some pointed criticisms that should lead one to approach Mosier's book with caution.

Anyway, I'm not in a position to offer a criticism at the moment, never having read it. I'm here to offer a quote that in the circumstances of my "Wilson's War" obsession I found worth including here:

The extent of the aid given before America's formal declaration of war has traditionally been passed over in silence. Neither Allied apologists nor American defenders of President Wilson have been anxious to draw attention to the massive level of American support...Bryan, Wilson's first secretary of state, genuinely wanted America to remain neutral, but he was undercut at every turn, and resigned in protest over the handling of the Lusitania sinking...when a senator pointed out - correctly - that the Lusitania was carrying armaments to Great Britain, he was saved from impeachment only by the testimony of the Harbor Master of the Port of New York. [pp 304-305]

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