In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling


Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
War and Society in Europe 1870-1970 
by Brian Bond.
Leicester University Press/Fontana, 256 pp., £12, December 1983, 0 7185 1227 8
Show More
Wars and Welfare: Britain 1914-1945 
by Max Beloff.
Arnold, 281 pp., £18.95, April 1984, 0 7131 6163 9
Show More
The Causes of Wars, and Other Essays 
by Michael Howard.
Counterpoint, 291 pp., £3.95, April 1984, 0 04 940073 8
Show More
Show More

‘With others of my own contemporaries,’ Denys Hay once wrote, ‘I certainly found myself in the years after 1945 still preoccupied with aspects of warfare in other times (in my case the later Middle Ages) which would not, I believe, have caught my attention if I had not experienced life between 1939 and 1945.’ Another distinguished Medieval and Renaissance scholar, Hans Baron, first sketched his thesis about the early Florentine Renaissance being triggered by the threat of invasion from other Italian states while he was in London during the Blitz. Medievalists have always been aware of war and society as a continuum: modern studies, however, for long remained remarkably resistant to the pervasive, if not cataclysmic resonances of war. The first serious study of 20th-century Britain, Charles Loch Mowat’s Britain between the Wars (1955), neatly managed, as the title indicates, to steer between the century’s two total wars. Liberal British historians found wars very nasty and preferred either to avoid them altogether or to keep them in carefully compartmentalised sections of their books. How far things have changed can be seen from the title of Max Beloff’s Wars and Welfare: Britain 1914-1945, an excellent textbook, if you like that sort of thing, of political and diplomatic history.

The great boom in studies of war and society did not come till the mid-Seventies. Even then it was far from clear that a fully consummated marriage had been achieved between the two parents: military history was ‘softened’ by a concern for social relations, and social history ‘toughened’ with an awareness of war’s impact. The social history of modern war was very much a creation of the soft Sixties, although it drew on still earlier work in social science (Sorokin, Andreski and Janowitz), social policy (Richard Titmuss’s rather naive equation of ‘the Dunkirk spirit’ with social reform, for example, is now very familiar) and Medieval studies. In the early Sixties at Edinburgh University, I launched special subjects on ‘The War and the Welfare State in Britain 1939-1950’ and, later, ‘War and Social Change in 20th-century Europe and North America’, as well as publishing a couple of books. A.J.P. Taylor’s English History 1914-1945, which came out in 1965, was the first general history of its period to give proper emphasis to the effects of two world wars on British society; a few years later, Professor J.R. Western at Manchester University organised a course on war’s impact on society (it is from the essays in his honour, War and Society, 1970, edited by M.R.D. Foot, that the remark by Denys Hay is taken), and in 1969 Angus Calder published The People’s War. In the meantime, Michael Howard and Brian Bond, at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, widened the dimensions of the military history taught there.

In 1970 the ‘Fontana History of War and Society’ was launched (‘society’ meaning British or English society, rather as, before the days of commercial sponsorship, the Football League meant the English Football League – the ‘Fontana History of War and European Society’ did not appear for another dozen years). It was a false dawn: asked, according to the blurb-writer on the jacket of Britain and the Second World War, to deal with the question ‘what effect did the Second World War have on the life of this country,’ Henry Pelling insisted on writing a very straightforward (and very useful) textbook which made only the faintest show of engaging with the interrelationship between war and society. In 1973 (its third year in business) the Open University offered ‘War and Society’. This course (now defunct – at the Open all courses are as grass) set out to cover four topics: the causes of wars; the consequences of wars (including the debate over war and social change, and the relationship between war and literature and the arts); the different types of wars, as determined by the historical and technological environment – including the relationship between civil and military authorities (this was something of an afterthought and might well have merited a separate heading); and attempts to control or abolish war. As Open University materials could be fairly readily bought, borrowed or pinched, a flash-flood of ‘War and Society’ courses struck many of the polytechnics and other institutions of higher education. During the high of the mid-Seventies a seminar on ‘Armed Forces and Society’ met regularly in desirable spots under the benign aegis of Professor Janowitz, flown in specially from Chicago; Brian Bond and Ian Roy edited two volumes of the yearbook War and Society; the Anglo-Dutch Historical Society devoted an entire conference, as well as one of its annual volumes, to the same subject; and the War and Society Newsletter made its appearance. Much of the heady spirit, and all of the profit, has gone by now, of course: but Brian Bond’s War and Society in Europe, 1870-1970 is the third volume in the new Fontana series to appear since 1982, and last January the annual conference of the Social History Society had ‘War and Society’ as its topic. It did not begin, as it almost certainly would have done had it been held across the Channel, with some pedant asking: guerre et société, est-ce-que ça existe?

Not a bad question, all the same. The boom has not been without its crashes: there is said to be a particularly awful ‘War and Society’ course at the University of Durham, unspecific in its objectives and unstructured in its teaching. It is worth noting that the war and society publication with which Brian Bond was associated was subtitled ‘A Yearbook of Military History’; and Geoffrey Best, himself the author of the brilliantly original Humanity and Warfare (1980), states in his general preface to the new Fontana series that ‘war and society’ comes to much the same thing as ‘war in history’. While the Social History Society Conference discussed such topics as ‘the social processes of demobilisation’, ‘war, peace and technical change’, ‘women, war and social change’, and ‘the European family and the Great War’, it is clear that the ‘Fontana History’ remains essentially military history broadened, as Best puts it, by being subjected to ‘more critical inquiry than military men and their myriad admirers seemed likely to undertake, and with a recollection that war and peace were, after all, two sides of the same medal.’ In adhering to the policies set for the series, therefore, Brian Bond has inevitably written narrative history, though certainly narrative with all the strengths of drama, drive and clarity. Indeed, there is a natural storyline to his chosen period, with just enough hidden twists and moments of optimism to spice a tale of which the outcome would otherwise be oppressively clear. Was Europe in 1870, with the unification of the German Empire, already set on a course for war, with military operations more destructive and less respectful of civilian rights than ever before? Bond’s perceptive answer is that a kind of conservative internationalism was still an important force for peace even if the mid-century wars had threatened a new era of aggressive nationalism; he notes the ruthlessness of Germany’s suppression of any French civilians who might be francs-tireurs (though the worst barbarities were perpetrated by Frenchmen on Frenchmen in the systematic massacres of the Communards), but also the continuing initiatives to humanise warfare.

In Chapter Two, ‘The Arming of Nations, c. 1880-1900’, the pace intensifies, yet, as Bond rightly stresses, ‘faith in material progress and optimism about the future of European civilisation remained buoyant for another decade.’ ‘The Approach to Armageddon, c. 1900-14’ emphasises what today would be accepted by most scholars – the special responsibility of Germany in giving total support to Austria-Hungary in her quarrel with Serbia. While patiently insisting that military planners are not invariably and at all times buffoons, Bond shows how faith in the offensive led to miscalculation and a dismissal of the possibility of a war of entrenchments. The scene in 1914 was one of ‘a strange combination of psychological preparedness and material unpreparedness’. The French made no special plans to protect the Briey area, which produced 75 per cent of their iron ore, and this fell to the Germans without fighting in the first week of August 1914. There is little cheer to be found in ‘The Twenty-Year Truce, 1919-39’: ‘Britain’s central dilemma was strictly insoluble; she was a declining economic power with world-wide responsibilities faced by three potential enemies in Germany, Japan and Italy.’ The tragedy on the outbreak of war was that the Allies’ ‘unpreparedness to wage a limited war in the short term meant that they could only hope for victory in a long and total war.’ But for Bond, there was no alternative to that long and total war: ‘the Second World War drives home the lesson that there are causes worthy of such sacrifices.’ Furthermore it is ‘cynical or careless’ to say that wars settle nothing: the Nazis and their Fascist allies were beaten. Since the final chapter, on ‘Post-War Europe’, ends at 1970, it does not engage with the new debate over nuclear weaponry which the unsettling of earlier assumptions by technological innovation has instigated in the last few years. The European powers have reached a kind of civilisation, in that the calculations which all of the powers were prepared to make in 1914 simply would not obtain today; unhappily that is not true for vast sectors of the rest of the world.

Bond feels that for the Second World War the distinction between war and society can scarcely be maintained. He suggests ‘war in European society’. I believe that the distinction which should be drawn is between ‘society at war’ and ‘society not at war’; only by a careful analysis of the pressures, necessities and circumstances operating on ‘society at war’ which do not operate on ‘society not at war’ can we begin to understand the social consequences of war. Bond recognises that there are social consequences, but goes into little detail. This may be a drawback for some ‘War and Society’ syllabuses, where the issue is still very much on the agenda. Feminist and socialist historians, recently, have been very active in denying any great significance to war in, say, bringing about any alleged emancipation of women or movement towards social welfare. In effect, Bond has nothing to say on these issues.

To go back to the four topics featured in the 1973 ‘War and Society’ course, it would be proper to recognise that Bond deals with the causes of the two total wars (though, perhaps wisely, he doesn’t go into any general theories), with consequences (though more in geo-political than in social terms), with the technological context of war, with civil-military relations, and with attempts to control war. To these topics he adds excellent material on strategic and military planning, and on the relationship of armies to their host societies. I still crave a more analytical and a more social approach: but if Geoffrey Best is the Schlieffen in this case, Dr Bond has proved infinitely more successful than the younger Moltke.

The non-military historians of war and society aimed at a total history which would bring out the social consequences of war. Yet, sitting on the edge of nuclear holocaust, do we really care about the precise significance of modern war in challenging the patriarchal family or dislocating existing social structures? Michael Howard, with that clean self-deprecating wit, the authentic méthode champenoise he applies to all his writings, admits, when speaking of his essay on ‘The Causes of Wars’, that ‘no one can describe the topic... as a neglected and understudied one.’ Clearly, in our current predicament, it is a vital one; and this paperback reprint of The Causes of Wars, and Other Essays, a collection of lectures and articles first published last year, is very welcome, not least for the additional essay ‘Weapons and Peace’ which effectively challenges the facile analogue, much in fashion today, between our situation and the arms race of the years before 1914. From his specialist standpoint in military history, Professor Howard shows that only by grappling with the totality of history can we attempt to understand the problems which currently face us. I’d make him set reading for any course on War and Society or on the Nuclear Debate.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.