Staring at God: Britain in the Great War


This work follows Britain’s path from the day the fatal shots were fired at Sarajevo in June 1914 to the moment the guns finally fell silent on 11th November, 1918. Simon Heffer examines the increasingly frantic conversations between Whitehall and Britain’s embassies across Europe as civil servants and ministers sought to understand and control the slide towards war. He explains how a government so keen to avoid conflict found itself not only championing it but seeking to transform the country to fight it – and how, in the process, Britain was irrevocably changed. He looks at the high politics and low skulduggery that saw the principled but passive Asquith replaced as Prime Minister by the unscrupulous but energetic Lloyd George, and he assesses the arguments between politicians and generals about how to prosecute the war that persisted until the final offensive on the Western Front.

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A brilliant history: The first serious and really wide-ranging history of the Home Front during the Great War for decades. Scholarly, objective and extremely well-written. Filled with surprising revelations and empathy. Heffer’s eye for the telling detail is evident on almost every page. A remarkable intellectual and literary achievement.’ – ANDREW ROBERTS, TELEGRAPH
A major new work of history on the profound changes in British society during the First World War

The Great War saw millions of men volunteer for or be recruited into the Army, their lives either cut short or overturned. Women were bereaved, enlisted to work in agriculture, government and engineering, yet still expected to hold together homes and families. But while the conflict caused social, economic and political devastation, it also provoked revolutionary change on the home front.

Simon Heffer uses vivid portraits to present a nuanced picture of a pivotal era. While the Great War caused loss on an appalling scale, it also advanced the emancipation of women, brought notions of better health care and education, and pointed the way to a less deferential, more democratic future.
Staring at God is a vast compendium of atrocious political conduct. Refreshing. A trenchant history.’ – GERARD DE GROOT, THE TIMES

A magisterial history’ – MELANIE MCDONAGH, DAILY MAIL

Gloriously rich and spirited [?] it zips along, leavened by so many wonderful cultural and social details.’ – DOMINIC SOUTHBROOK, SUNDAY TIMES

‘Ambitious in its scope, content and approach. Masterly.’ – CHARLES VYVYAN, STANDPOINT

‘Fascinating stuff.’ – SPECTATOR

Possibly the finest, most comprehensive analysis of the home front in the Great War ever produced.’ – LITERARY REVIEW

‘Every bit as good as its two predecessors. Illuminating.’ – EXPRESS

‘Absorbing’ – NEW STATESMAN

Additional information

Weight 0.687 kg
Dimensions 19.7 × 12.9 × 4.7 cm






xiv, 914 , 16 unnumbered of plates




941.083 (edition:23)


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