The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39

The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39

by Robert Graves

"The long week-end" is Robert Grave's and Alan Hodge's evocative phrase for the period in Great Britain's social history between the twin devastations of the Great War and World War II.

It is social history the way it is meant to be written -- a classic of its kind.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 3.91
  • Pages: 480
  • Publish Date: April 1st 2001 by W.W. Norton & Company
  • Isbn10: 0393311368
  • Isbn13: 9780393311365

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I wonder how on earth Robert Graves and Alan Hodge decided what to include in this book and what to leave out. I would also imagine that most of the hard work in the archives was done by Alan Hodge and most of the commentary was written by Robert Graves, but the collaboration is pretty much seamless. This book is good social science.

A lot happened in those 20- odd years between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second, and Graves has done well to capture it. He starts with disarming frankness: This book is intended to serve as a reliable record of what took place, of a forgettable sort, during the interval between the two great European wars. But although its a mistake to read The Long Weekend as a true history book, and it is exclusively about England, the events he writes about are anything but inconsequential. Reading Weekend, the twenties appear superficially as a very modern decade, in the sense that mores became so much more relaxed. And gradually attitudes hardened, fascists took over in Europe; and fairly rapidly, it seemed, everyone was talking about war again it was felt to be inevitable, although there was (apparently) no particular enemy.

My focus tends to be on Europe, and in particular the UK, and so I was particularly interested in reading this "social history of Great Britain" during the peace that endured between World War One and World War Two. The book was first published in 1940 and so is written without the knowledge of the outcome of World War Two. That this book contains an alternate, idiosyncratic and personal history of Britain between World War One and World War Two, becomes very apparent when the reader arrives at the chapter headings. Here's a list of the 26 chapters contained within this book: Armistice, 1918 Revolution Averted, 1919 Women Reading Matter Post-War Politics Various Conquests Sex Amusements Screen and Stage Revolution Again Averted, 1926 Domestic Life Art, Literature, and Religion Education and Ethics Sport and Controversy The Depression, 1930 Pacifism, Nudism, Hiking The Days Of The Loch Ness Monster Recovery, 1935 The Days of Non-Intervention 'The Deepening Twilight of Barbarism' Three Kings in One Year Keeping Fit, and Doing The Lambeth Walk Social Consciences 'Markets Close Firmer' Still At Peace Rain Stops Play, 1939 Furthermore, the topics covered within these chapters tend to meander about, and the authors touch on all manner of disparate elements of life in Britain during this era.

One of the classic social/political histories of the inter-war period in Britain and the Empire.

Personally, I thought this book was jam-packed with intriguing bits of trivia that made me feel like I had learned a lot about the time period whilst giving me the drive to go read even more. It was interesting to read how much the world changed in this short period of time regarding new technology and media, how the politicians of whatever government was in power would stick their heads in the sand when threatened with the prospect of another war, and how the older generations were horrified at the behaviour of the youngsters of the time hmm perhaps like nowadays?

If you are a bit obsessed with this corner of history (as I have been ever since picking up a Dorothy Sayers mystery, and she too is chronologued here), then the book is well worth the time.

It reflects, especially, Graves personal history (and even weakly hides it) as well we his own conservatism: his dislike of 1930s social-realism and confusion about the modernism earlier in the century (which shared his preference for the classical, but was too structurally innovative). The book bills itself as a social history, but in todays terms would probably be better understood as a cultural history. (Science is squeezed into two sections, the first being that scientists were distant from the developments of society, the second that they developed a social conscience in the 1930s, but were inclined to speak about subjects they had no experience of.) Through these, there is a running thesis: the baleful effect of America on British culture. Meanwhile, according to the authors, British culture was mostly stagnant, after centuries of progressive growth, Health was badbut doctors were concerned only with cutting particular diseases, not making a healthy population. Its society, too: there were two occasions for a revolution that the book thinks would be right, one based on the experiences if the soldiers in the Great War, who wanted to clear house of the current rulers and install more pragmatic men, a movement that cut across classes.

Robert von Ranke Graves, born in Wimbledon, received his early education at King's College School and Copthorne Prep School, Wimbledon & Charterhouse School and won a scholarship to St John's College, Oxford. One of Graves's closest friends at this time was the poet Siegfried Sassoon, who was also an officer in the RWF. Graves, who feared Sassoon could face a court martial, intervened with the military authorities and persuaded them that he was suffering from shell shock, and to treat him accordingly. The intensity of their early relationship is nowhere demonstrated more clearly than in Graves's collection Fairies & Fusiliers (1917), which contains a plethora of poems celebrating their friendship. Following his marriage and the end of the war, Graves belatedly took up his place at St John's College, Oxford. During the early 1970s Graves began to suffer from increasingly severe memory loss, and by his eightieth birthday in 1975 he had come to the end of his working life.