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Our Waterloo

Is it too early to comment on the centenary of the First World War? Perhaps not. Many of the books being published to cash in on it have been on the shelves for more than year now. It must be a delicate balancing act for publishers. They want to be among the first to take advantage of the interest generated by a centenary but they also have to wait until the centenary generates some interest. Books these days literally have a short shelf life. If they don't sell, they're gone pretty quickly. Most publishers and organisations certainly haven't waited until the centenary of the outbreak of the war arrives in August to get their contribution out there. I just wonder if the centenary is going to catch the public imagination. Here in Canada the bi-centenary of the War of 1812, in which an American invasion was repelled, was a bit of bust. The First World War may be too controversial. The slaughter of the cream of British manhood on the battlefields of Europe, Turkey and the Middle East was followed by something almost as painful - a war on the poor. Before 1914 the poor were seen as people who needed help. After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the poor of Britain were seen as potential Bolsheviks. Was it really necessary to put tanks on the streets of Glasgow in 1919? So much for the promised Land Fit for Heroes. It will be interesting to see if the bi-centenary of Waterloo next year generates more interest than say the centenary of the battles at Neuve Chapelle or Loos.

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