This is a fantastic blog post warning of the perils that lie in wait for the unwary historian. Indeed, we could argue that The Great War was being mythologised even as it was happening. This is just such an example, and beautifully illustrates how events become history, and how history transforms over time. Especially in memory and in the public consciousness.
The image above is frequently circulated on social media, usually accompanied with a caption such as ‘1916 – soldiers pay tribute to the horses who died in the Great War’ which, whilst a lovely idea, is a bit of duff history I’m afraid. I’m fed up of seeing it do the rounds, so thought I’d explain a little about the real story behind the photo…
The photo is actually part of a series of shots taken by Michigan photographer, Almeron Newman. Newman was born in Portland in 1875 and began professionally taking photos in 1899. By 1918 he was living in New Mexico, where he registered for the draft for the First World War. Newman had developed a reputation as a specialist in panoramic and forced perspective photography, which suited the fashion at the time for ‘living photography’ – the technique of using people to create scenes and objects. In…
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4 thoughts on “Hold your horses and check your sources”
Thanks for the kind comments, Jane! Very much appreciated. The mythologising of horses in the Great War is simply fascinating. Just as Samuel Hynes suggests a ‘war imagined’ I think there is clear evidence of the ‘war horse imagined’!
A pleasure. You might be interested in my forthcoming book. ‘Soldiers and their Horses: Sense, Sentimentality and the Soldier-Horse Relationship in The Great War’. The later chapters would maybe be most relevant. I’m fascinated by myth.
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I would be for sure but expect it’s a little out of my grasp price wise at the moment (and behind a stack of less interesting but necessary MA reads!) it’s on my list though as have read your thesis and really enjoyed it! ☺️ looking to do my diss on something horse related, still to settle on the exact topic though.
The ebook is significantly less expensive. Maybe your Uni will help you to purchase more cheaply? Glad you liked my thesis.
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