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The War Books Boom in Britain, 1928–1930

Frayn, Andrew; Houston, Fiona


Fiona Houston


Based on a dataset of unparalleled extent containing nearly 1500 books, this article for the first time offers an analysis of the War Books Boom that combines the qualitative and quantitative. The Boom did not simply rise and fall; an early peak in publication in 1928 was followed by a dip in 1929, as huge successes like R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End and Erich Maria Remarque’s Im Westen Nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) dominated the market and were successful in the subsequent two years in a variety of media. The major peak, far exceeding that of 1928, was in 1930, as both publication and commentary trends spiked. The Boom was understood in commentary as such at the time, and the surrounding discourse saw this moment as a battle for the enduring memory of the conflict between the brutal realism of works such as Remarque’s, his followers and imitators, and a more conservative focus on courage, fortitude and honour. We enrich the existing scholarly understanding of the cultural history of the War Books Boom, drawing on our dataset and the interwar journalism collected in the British Newspaper Archive, and situating these findings among existing scholarship. Taking as starting points Sherriff’s and Remarque’s texts, we identify key publication trends, drawing particular attention to the dominance by publication numbers of non-fiction texts, particularly in life-writing, history and regimental history. We conclude by suggesting further lines along which our method might be used to develop the scholarly understanding of this moment.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 21, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 16, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Sep 5, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 16, 2022
Print ISSN 1947-5020
Electronic ISSN 1947-5039
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 1
Pages 25-45
Keywords First World War, war books boom, memory, journalism, publishing history, Sherriff, Remarque
Public URL


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