Dr Jonathan Boff’s talk to the History Society last week outlined the myths of the First World War, from Blackadder to John Maynard Keynes.
He argued that famous war poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Owen were not in fact anti-war, rather disappointed with a world that was created by the chaos and inhumanity of a global conflict. Indeed, many people believed that the war was a morally dubious and futile conflict, even if there was an accepted argument that war was necessary to resist German expansionism.
Dr Boff also described the incredible life of John Maynard Keynes from his time at Eton, where he won 63 different school prizes, to his involvement in the Versailles Peace Conference of 1919. His book on the economic consequences of the peace outlined the futility of the war, the unstable nature of the post-war period and the end of a golden age of personal freedom.
He concluded by pointing out that the moral necessity of the Second World War made the First appear more futile in comparison, a fascinating ethical perspective that led to a lively conversation with boys in the audience.