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Introduction: Battles, Society and Entertainment

Abstract : Introduction: Battles, society and entertainment What were British people like when they went out on a Saturday night to have a good time during the Great War? The ordinary people of the time loved above all the music-hall: they knew nothing of exotic holidays, and radio and television were still a long way off. The British music hall was quite different from the more sophisticated Parisian version: it was more knockabout, with no room for tragic love themes, and often taking inspiration from circus acts. The aim of this book is to give a taste of the atmosphere and a glimpse at the meaning of British entertainment during the First World War. It is a period very distant from us in two senses. First, so much has changed in technology, ideology and psychology over the last hundred years, and secondly, very few of us have lived the traumatic, extreme experience of total war. I hope to be able to put across a little of the magic of the Saturday night out, as well as explaining the themes of the songs and why they were important to our ancestors. In order to do this, I have collected over a thousand songs and tried to analyse the reasons for their success. Their context: the life of British people during the war, in the trenches or in Britain, will also be presented. So as not to base my study only on a small number of emblematic hit songs, I will be quoting hundreds of songs in the coming chapters. The reader will be able to hear original recordings of several dozen of the most popular ones-almost all forgotten today-by following the internet links provided. Our journey will begin (Chapter 1) with a portrait of the entertainment industry in Britain in 1914.
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John Mullen. Introduction: Battles, Society and Entertainment. ‘The Show Must Go On’ : Popular Song in Britain during the First World War, 2016. ⟨hal-02521005⟩

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