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When the Lamps Went Out

Nigel Fountain

Drawn from the Guardian‘s coverage of the first world war, When the Lamps Went Out portrays a society in cataclysm and proves the adage that journalism is the ‘first draft of history’.

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‘The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.’ Sir Edward Grey, British foreign secretary, 3 August 1914.

Drawing on a wealth of material from the Guardian archives When the Lamps Went Out presents a surprising, immediate, sometimes bleakly humorous, sometimes horrifying insight into life during the Great War.

We see Boy Scouts patrolling the British coasts, David Lloyd George addressing women war workers, Charlie Chaplin impersonators on the Euston Road and Vesta Tilley at the Ardwick Empire. We see suffragist nurses on the Western Front and Bolsheviks in Glasgow, Pathan soldiers in Flanders and Anglo-Japanese armies in China. Small countries are saved – and aliens persecuted.New technologies – from picture houses to the first reports of gas weapons – are reported upon, as well as movie stars and John Buchan’s bestsellers.

The bloody battles, defeats, and victories are all here but When the Lamps Went Out focuses on the women, men and children who lived, loved, defied, perished, and survived in the war to end all wars.