Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source4
Extract from 'English History 1914-1945' by the historian, AJP Taylor, published in 1965
(Page 61-2, by permission of Oxford University Press)
  • AJP Taylor was a very famous historian in the 1960s. He worked at Oxford University. He was famous for asking awkward questions and for putting forward controversial theories that upset peoples' ideas.
  • He was also famous for changing his mind a lot. He once described himself as having 'strong opinions, weakly held'.
  • He uses typically strong terms and language in this extract.
  • Zest means enthusiasm. Idealism means belief in ideals and living according to one's principles – in this case the belief that going to war was the right thing to do.
  • Disenchantment means disappointment or losing faith in something.
  • Prussia was the largest state in the German empire. It was generally thought of as being warlike and aggressive. Soldiers often said they were proud to be fighting against Prussian militarism.
  • Virtuosity means great skill. According to Taylor, the British Army kept its class distinctions even though it was such a huge organisation of men all lumped together in a similar situation.
  • Self-deprecatory means laughing at yourself or putting yourself down a little bit.
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