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Bloomsbury attitudes to the Great War

The Great War still haunts us. This book draws together examples of the ‘aesthetic pacifism’ practised during the Great War by such celebrated individuals as Virginia Woolf, Siegfried Sassoon and Bertrand Russell. It also tells the stories of those less well known who shared the attitudes of the Bloomsbury Group when it came to facing the first ‘total war’. The five-year research for this study gathered evidence from all the major archives in Great Britain and abroad in order to paint a complete picture of this unique form of anti-war expression. The narrative begins with the Great War's effect on philosopher-pacifist Bertrand Russell and Cambridge University.

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any existing moral, humanistic or aesthetic anti-war feeling – reactions that, as we will see, were as valid and real as any of a religious or political nature. I felt it was time to set the record straight. Very occasionally, this humanistic anti-war feeling has been noted in ‘official’ studies. In his Pacifism in Britain 1914–1945: The Defining of a Faith, the historian Martin Ceadel singles out what he terms ‘humanitarian pacifism’ as a valid form of anti-war feeling, stating that it is ‘no less a dogma’ than religious or political pacifism. However, in Ceadel

in A war of individuals
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to the destructive ‘fiery conviction’ of the war years. In addition, Russell’s concerns were echoed, often independently, by other individuals, whether celebrated or obscure. The ground was being laid for the organised voice of historian Martin Ceadel’s ‘humanitarian pacifism’ of the 1920s and 1930s.16 It is clear that aesthetic and 228 A war of individuals humanistic anti-war feeling was not simply an inter-war ‘innovation’, but existed much earlier during the actual conflict and emanated from differing sources on an individual basis in its expression. The

in A war of individuals
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doubt and uncertainty thrown across page and canvas by the conflict. Despite their notoriety, the reactions of the Bloomsbury individuals are important both in their own right and as a mirror to the similar reactions of obscurer individuals from differing circumstances and backgrounds. In the origins of Bloomsbury – well known as one of the foremost cultural groups of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods – is to be found the moral and aesthetic core for some of the most significant humanistic reactions to the war. The small circle of Cambridge undergraduates whose

in A war of individuals

), and the Quaker J.W. Graham, the author of Conscription and Conscience (1922), to individuals such as the conscientious objector Howard Marten, mentioned in the Introduction. Crucially, these observations included (as will be seen) some evidence of contemporary recognition of aesthetic, humanistic and moral objections. While religion of all denominations played a large part in determining responses to the war, both for and against, in many cases the boundaries between ‘recognised’ opposition and humanistic anti-war reaction could become blurred. Strong religious

in A war of individuals
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’, according to the captain of his regiment – a regiment in which he had become something of an institution by the time of his death. Keeling mixed in various circles and recognised from personal experience (in common with Bertrand Russell) that there was little common ground between the ‘demagogic Socialists’ and the ‘Hypersensitive aesthetic intellectuals’. He knew Rupert Brooke and, like him, had started to drill with the Artists’ Rifles in August 1914 though, unlike Brooke, Keeling refused a commission, deciding instead to enlist in the 6th Battalion, the Duke of York

in A war of individuals
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6 Women and the war The Great War, most people would have agreed at the time, was a male creation. Politicians, statesmen and kings bred it and soldiers fought and fed it. Thus far, this study has regarded those women within Bloomsbury whose aesthetic reactions to the conflict provide such a good starting point when examining the war in this context. What of other women, existing independently from that hot-house of creativity, but who felt similarly? Due to their status in society as a whole, women necessarily operated within a different cultural milieu to

in A war of individuals

7 Obscurer individuals and their themes of response The destruction of nature as reality and metaphor This chapter casts the net wider. Following the responses of the small but influential Bloomsbury circle, the earlier chapters have encompassed the experiences of other celebrated thinkers and writers (especially Bertrand Russell), some of whom donned uniform, and also certain women, well-known and otherwise, some of whom travelled to the war-zone as nurses or observers. It has became clear that similar aesthetic–humanistic responses occurred outside the

in A war of individuals
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Reading Tomb Raider

wise-cracks that pass for humour in the action movies of Arnold Schwarzenneger, Bruce Willis etc. In some ways they are similar to those often tiresome pauses between frenetic action in which plot is explained slowly and carefully to both protagonist and audience in a certain kind of action movie. In addition there is often evidence of a display of the programmer’s technical virtuosity, an attempt to push the limits of what is realisable within the technology of the moment that generates the same aesthetic appreciation as the finely realised illusion of the skilled

in More than a game
Between humanitarianism and pragmatism

literature, as an aesthetic experience, are connected to perceptions and the emotions connected to perceptions are another way to make sense of international politics. Emotions have a social character and can construct communities of understandings and like-mindedness and in this way can play an important role in political events. In this case sentiment for those suffering was the basis for the construction of a community of saviours of the Balkan Slavs, stirred by images of

in Humanitarian intervention in the long nineteenth century