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Conclusion

from Part III - Crisis and Morale

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 April 2024

Alex Mayhew
Affiliation:
London School of Economics and Political Science
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Summary

Perception, habit, and innate coping mechanisms are important features of military morale. Soldiers during the Great War relied, like anybody, on the information available to them as they made sense of their experiences. Their sensemaking was constrained by what they could see, what they could hear, and what they were told. Subtler influences also informed how they navigated the world, and these were often drawn from their cultural and social context, not to mention their surroundings. In this way, morale was nurtured (and sometimes destroyed) at the confluence of men’s physical world, their social groups, and their psychologies. Some of the components of morale morphed as time passed, but military morale rested, to a great extent, on the ability of individuals to cope with great stresses and unimaginable horrors. The army provided them with many of the tools, resources, and mechanisms that helped them to do so but, significantly, it appears that so long as victorious peace appeared likely (and necessary) men were willing to confront crisis, both acute and chronic. Of course, individuals had their breaking points, but resilience and endurance were the norm. Whilst this narrative hinges on the power of the human spirit, there were features of English infantrymen’s morale that were unique to them: their very specific local identities and patriotism, and their lack of a explicit political identity, which was a key feature of their sensemaking. English infantrymen’s perception of military service was not interwoven with their sense of citizenship. These parochial patriotisms were potentially less vulnerable to change than more pronounced political identities.

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Making Sense of the Great War
Crisis, Englishness, and Morale on the Western Front
, pp. 282 - 296
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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  • Conclusion
  • Alex Mayhew, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Book: Making Sense of the Great War
  • Online publication: 11 April 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009168762.014
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  • Conclusion
  • Alex Mayhew, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Book: Making Sense of the Great War
  • Online publication: 11 April 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009168762.014
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Conclusion
  • Alex Mayhew, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Book: Making Sense of the Great War
  • Online publication: 11 April 2024
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009168762.014
Available formats
×