The Great Silence
1918-1920 Living In the Shadow of the Great War
Date of publication: 2009
Publisher: John Murray
Peace at last, after Lloyd George declared it had been 'the war to end all wars', would surely bring relief and a renewed sense of optimism? But this assumption turned out to be deeply misplaced as people began to realise that the men they loved were never coming home.
The Great Silence is the story of the pause between 1918 and 1920. A two-minute silence to celebrate those who died was underpinned by a more enduring silence born out of national grief. Those who had danced through settled Edwardian times, now faced a changed world. Some struggled to come to terms with the last four years, while others were anxious to move towards a new future. Change came to women, who were given the vote only five years after Emily Davidson had thrown herself on the ground at Ascot race course, to the poor, determined to tolerate their condition no longer, and to those permanently scarred, mentally and physically, by the conflict. The British Monarchy feared for its survival as monarchies around Europe collapsed and Eric Horne, one time butler to the gentry, found himself working in a way he considered unseemly for a servant of his calibre. Whether it was embraced or rejected, change had arrived as the impact of a tragic war was gradually absorbed. With her trademark focus on daily life, Juliet Nicolson evokes what England was like during this fascinating hinge in history.