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Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War
11pm, Tuesday 4 August 1914: with the declaration of war London becomes one of the greatest killing machines in human history. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers pass through the capital on their way to the front; wounded men are brought back to be treated in London’s hospitals; and millions of shells are produced in its factories.
The war changes London life for ever. Women escape the drudgery of domestic service to work as munitionettes. Full employment puts money into the pockets of the London poor for the first time. Self-appointed moral guardians seize the chance to clamp down on drink, frivolous entertainment and licentious behaviour. As the war drags on, gloom often descends on the capital. And at night London is plunged into darkness for fear of German bombers and Zeppelins that continue to raid the city.
Yet despite daily casualty lists, food shortages and enemy bombing, Londoners are determined to get on with their lives and flock to cinemas and theatres, dance halls and shebeens, firmly resolved not to let Germans or puritans spoil their enjoyment.
Peopled with patriots and pacifists, clergymen and thieves, bluestockings and prostitutes, Jerry White’s magnificent panorama reveals a struggling yet flourishing city.
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Zeppelin Nights is social history at its best… White creates a vivid picture of a city changed for ever by war - The Times
Jerry White's name on a title page is a guarantee of a lively, compassionate book full of striking incidents and memorable images… This is a fast-paced social history that never stumbles… A well-orchestrated polyphony of voices that brings history alive - Guardian
White delivers in brilliant time-eclipsing detail an evolving and often deeply moving portrait of a city that became gradually squeezed to its limits - Sunday Telegraph
A superbly detailed account… Professor White has written a fine social history that portrays London as a teeming nerve centre of the Allied war effort - Financial Times
If you only read one [book about the First World War], choose Zeppelin Nights, which is packed with new information and avoids the clichés that are wearying us all - Tablet
A fascinating study - Sunday Times
An extraordinary tale… [White] tells it with gusto, nuance and panache - Evening Standard
Intriguing and often surprising - Sunday Times
[A] timely book… Fascinating - Times Higher Education
White is London’s foremost historian - Church Times
In a hectic history, teeming with life at all levels, from West End to East End, from music hall to munitions factories, from society balls to sweatshops, the voices of wounded soldiers, dazed refugees, liberated women and sharp-witted Londoners sing and weep throughout this constantly surprising story - Saga
A rich social history… White is as adept with individual characters as he is with the statistics of munitions production - New Statesman
Few people have a better grasp of the history of London than Professor Jerry White - Daily Mail
Fresh, interesting… Vivid and often moving - UK Press Syndication
A first-rate social history - Guardian
As ever with Jerry White, the broader themes are peppered with wonderful, throwaway trivia, while the main thrust is both meticulously researched and highly readable - Londonist
Professor Jerry White teaches London history at Birkbeck, University of London. His acclaimed trilogy on London, from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, is an unparalleled narrative of the capital, and London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People won the Wolfson History Prize in 2001. His most recent book was London in the Eighteenth Century: A Great and Monstrous Thing, first published in 2012. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature by the University of London in 2005 and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.