§335 World War I

April 17, 2009

If you were wondering about my twitter the other day when I wrote that I hade received a direct personal email from Peter Englund, allow me to give you some background about who Peter Englund is. This would not be the first time I’ve mentioned him. He is a popular historian. That is a professional historian who has good writing skills and writes popular non-fiction books for regular people that are interested in history. Other historians (according to my wife who studies history) often see him as too narrative, and it becomes difficult to see what in his book is added for the sake of the narrative flow and what actually has backup from reliable sources. For people like me, who love history but has another profession because the need to make a living, authors like him are perfect. Englund makes the history I love come to life in a way that 800 heavy volumes of professional history studies could never do.

I have followed his blog since I found it, and throughout 2008 (actually, since December 1st 2007) I have followed his descriptions of his work writing the book “The Beauty and Sorrow of the Combat” which is a biography-based book about 19 people who lived during World War I. All far down in the hierarchy, all deeply affected by the war, from different countries and sides, infantery, cavallery, air force, nurse, etc, etc. The cover of the book:

(Photo by the author, moments after it came from the presses, picture from his blog)

By the way, if you’re wondering how come the head has rottened but the legs not, the reason for the skull is not rottening, but rather animals.

Where was I?

Right, so I received this book from my parents around the year shift but didn’t have time to read it until I got sick. One of the first things I notice is that according to the chronology, Japan declared wara against Germany on September 2nd 1914, but in the book one of the main characters is pondering on the Japanese war declaration in August. I sent him an email and he answered me that he would add this to the correction page on his homepage. The reason is that in August Japan had already moved troops and given Germany ultimatums which were impossible to fullfill, so everyone knew it would end in a declaration of war.

How come no one noticed this before me??



  1. Obvious explaination – because you’re the super nerd! 😉 Or that the book hasn’t gotten the attention it probably should have.

  2. Yes… You are a super nerd! You think this guy is available in English? I’ve just read a similar styled book on Mao that was excellent – he was NOT a nice guy at all – and would love to read something on the WWI. I think we forget about that one too often.

  3. I know that he has had books translated to English, but this one is pretty fresh from the presses so I doubt it. But make a search on his name.

  4. I’ve just read on the web that Peter Englund’s book is going to be published in English:

  5. Yes! Halleluya! I actually read on his blog that England has shown interest, and that it will be published in other countries too. He intends to make sure that every language version will not be a direct translation from the original, but will have its own uniqueness.

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