Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Critical look at Military History: Jean Norton Cru's War Books

After fighting in WWI, Jean Norton Cru realized that the prevailing accounts that made up a widely accepted military history were written by high ranking officials, most of whom never experienced front line combat. War Books is the result of Cru's effort to sift through the romanticized image of a soldier in war. His aim is to get to the true individual accounts of those who lived, toiled, and experienced the war on the front lines and endured life in the trenches.
Cru clearly outlines how he went about the critical process of dissecting military history. He lists age-old legends and common notions that civilians have about war and sets out to dispel them with the compilation of writings from those who really lived it. Cru helps you realize that as a civilian, one really knows nothing about being a soldier.
Cru identifies the main flaw in popular military history:
"It is inferior because it concerns itself with special facts, facts which the witnesses, the chroniclers, the historians of the time, all those whose writings constitute our only documents, have exercised their wits to misrepresent, through motives of patriotism, of vainglory, or of tradition."
 and Jean Norton Cru really hoped to provide a work that would prompt people to see that war is not glorious in any way:

"These testimonies will teach...that man comes to the point of making war only by a miracle of persuasion and deception...; that if people knew what the soldier learns at his baptism of fire, nobody would consent to a solution by force of arms; not friends, not enemies, not government, not legislative bodies, not voters, not reservists, not even professional soldiers."
War Books is great because it can knock some sense into any civilian that claims to know what it is to fight in a war and reminds the reader why war is completely senseless and unnecessary. It can also enrich one's perspective because it provides a raw and arguably more accurate military history; a favorable alternative to the common history that is rife with distorting pride.
More specifically, it can provide essential background knowledge for the English literature major because it was compiled by a veteran of World War I; a war characterized by an inhumanity that helped inspire Modernism and some of the greatest English poets and writers.

Get War Books now, on sale from SDSU Press.

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