Memoirs: Negotiating the Great War’s Social Memory

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Department 1

Interdisciplinary Studies


The First World War led to the largest boom in published American war books since the Civil War. War memoirs were popular with both publishers and readers alike. Hundreds of returning doughboys took to their pens and published accounts of fighting in France. Joining them were books by nurses and canteen workers who also told stories of their experiences at the front supporting the Allied war effort. This chapter examines war memoirs published both during and after the war. It considers trends in martial publishing and argues that the wealth of war-relating writing created a cultural footprint of American war books that rested somewhat uneasily as feelings about the First World War changed in the 1920s. Moreover, the variety of war memoirs released further complicates notions of a uniform American experience in print. Rather, there is tension between books celebrating American and Allied victory with those that emphasize the hard-fought realities of combat on the western front.

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