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January 23 , 2011

The Great War: 1914, The British Campaign in France and Flanders, Vol. 1


Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle was one of the greatest narrative writers in English history.

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Most famous for his Sherlock Holmes stories, he was incapable of penning a dull word.

Nowhere is that more true than in his 'History of the Great War', now re-published as a series of e-books, with an introduction by the leading historian of the First World War, Nigel Jones.

The first volume of his magisterial history of the war deals with the events of 1914, and covers the British war effort in Belgium and France.

Doyle had a personal stake in the war - as well as being deeply patriotic.

His son Kingsley and his brother Innes both served in the Army, and his brother-in-law Malcolm Leckie disappeared early in the war, and was later confirmed killed.

When the war broke out, Doyle wrote to the War Office offering his services in any capacity. He found it in Wellington House, writing anti-German propaganda. He swiftly churned out two penny pamphlets 'To Arms!' and 'The German War' which blamed the 'barbarian Huns' for engineering the war and urged all civilised people to support the Allied cause.

He moved on to research and publish his full length histories, detailing the battles and campaigns of the Great War.

He built up his narrative from letters, diaries, and ‘interviews from the hand or lips of men who have been soldiers in our armies, the deeds of which it was my ambition to understand and to chronicle’.

As well as interviewing ordinary soldiers, Doyle managed to get Haig and fourteen other generals to give him access to their diaries and papers, allowing him to create a full and informed overview of the Great War.

Doyle remained sturdily patriotic throughout the war despite experiencing personal tragedies and yet his narrative could not remain untouched by the horrors of what he described.

'The Great War, Vol 1' is a rich, extensively researched account of the early battles, chronicling the reasons for the outbreak of war through to the ‘Winter lull’ at the end of 1914.

It is certain to fascinate a new generation of readers.

Endeavour Press is the UK's leading independent publisher of digital books.

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