The Beast has weighed in with a scholarly review of Michael Gove’s attitude to commentaries on World War I such as Blackadder Goes Forth, which have been discussed in this blog since Gove made his comments in January, including an article last week. The Beast writes:

Gove’s opinions aren’t simply those of a Tory politician, impatient and intolerant with any view that dares to contradict their own. His views were also based on by a number of historical studies of the Great War, that have attempted to overturn the traditional view that it was a bloody, brutal debacle, in which millions of men were sent to their deaths by out-of-touch and incompetent generals.

These historians have argued instead that officers and the men, who served under them, got on well and that accounts of the class friction between them have been exaggerated.

At one level, Gove simply missed the point. Blackadder Goes Forth was a comedy, not a work of serious drama or historical investigation. Comedies entertain by poking fun. Their subjects and targets are the vain, the stupid, the pompous, the greedy, and the inept.

And whatever the reality of the War, it left many across Europe feeling betrayed by a political and economic system that given rise to such colossal, horrific carnage. This bitterness and horror was portrayed in verse by poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. It also inspired satirists and comic writers and artists across Europe to add their comments to the horror and absurdity of the situation.

The Beast’s article goes into detail about some of these. You are encouraged to visit his site and read about them.

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