Priestley's Wars

Priestley's Wars

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Soldier, writer, broadcaster and peace campaigner. This book tells the untold story of J B Priestley's role at the centre of British 20th century history.It is timed with the 90th anniversary of the end of WW1 and the 50th anniversary of the formation of CND.It provides a unique insight into the two world wars and the foundation of the CND movement through the eyes of one of the century's greatest writers.It contains previously un-published letters from the WW1 battlefields, and the 'Postscripts' broadcasts that Churchill tried to ban."I came out of [the 1914-1918 war] with a chip on my shoulder...probably some friend's thigh-bone."This major historical work by the acclaimed historian, Neil Hanson, traces the personal odyssey of one of Britain's greatest and best-loved literary figures, JB Priestley. This revealing book opens with Priestley as an enthusiastic volunteer in the First World War. Published here for the first time are the letters he wrote while serving on the Somme, which vividly evoke the full horrors of trench warfare and which also mark the start of a transformation that would ultimately make Priestley one of the most influential voices for peace and disarmament.In the inter-war years, Priestley became a hugely successful author, playwright and broadcaster, and in the early years of the Second World War, his 'Postscripts' radio broadcasts, immediately following Winston Churchill's addresses to the nation, attracted an audience of 16 million listeners.
However, Priestley's appeals to ensure that, this time, Britain's troops really should come home to a transformed land "fit for heroes" infuriated Churchill and the broadcasts were abruptly dropped. This book includes copies of the 'Postscripts' that have never previously been published and which shed light not only on Priestley social and political concerns but also on the growing tide of national feeling that swept the Labour Party to power after the war.In the 1950s, Priestley's journey from youthful soldier to passionate opponent of the horror of nuclear war was completed when he became one of the cofounders of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) launched with the famous London to Aldermaston march in 1958.Written with the full co-operation of JB Priestley's sons, Tom Priestley and Nicholas Hawkes, and beautifully illustrated, including images from the J B Priestley Archives, "Priestley's Wars" tells the full story of one of the literary giants of the 20th century, and his role in the military conflict and social change that defined the 'Great War to Cold War' era.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 384 pages
  • 190 x 248 x 37mm | 663g
  • Ilkley, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Illustrations, maps
  • 1905080360
  • 9781905080366
  • 1,586,051

Review quote

"'Priestley shaped the political thinking of a whole generation and contributed to the postwar consensus around the creation of the Welfare State and the search for world peace after the bloodshed of that war.' Tony Benn"
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About Neil Hanson

Neil Hanson is the author of an acclaimed series of narrative histories: The Custom of the Sea; The Dreadful Judgement; The Confident Hope of a Miracle; The Unknown Soldier: The Story of the Missing of the Great War; and, most recently, First Blitz: The Secret German Plan to Firebomb London and Paris in 1918. They have been hailed by critics on four continents as "brilliant", "stunning", "haunting", "exceptional", "magnificent", "superlative", "unforgettable", "a triumph" and "a masterpiece", and led one critic and professor of history to compare him to "Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves and a dozen other immortals". He was appointed to a Fellowship of the Royal Literary Fund in 2007. Tom Priestley is the son of J.B. Priestley. He forged a highly successful career as a film editor having worked on such well-known movies as Deliverance, The Great Gatsby, Tess and 1984. He is president of the JB Priestley Society. Nicholas Hawkes is the son of Jacquetta Hawkes, J.B. Priestley's third wife. He has carried out first-hand research of his mother's and step father's correspondence and other archives relating to Priestley's 'postscripts' broadcasts. John Boynton Priestley (1894-1984) was pre-eminently a dramatist and a novelist. Many of his works have become 20th century literary classics, among them 'The Good Companions', 'Angel Pavement', 'Bright Day', 'An Inspector Calls' and 'Time and the Conways'. He was the most versatile writer of his time, producing essays, short stories, verse, literary criticism, social histories, travel books and film scripts, as well as an opera libretto and an autobiography. During the 1939 - 1945 world war, his short radio talks, the famous 'Postscripts' established Priestley as a wartime broadcaster second only to Winston Churchill in importance and influence. These broadcasts were listened to by millions of people. Priestley also played many roles as a political activist and commentator. He was a founder of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and a champion of public lending rights. In literary, social and political terms he was very much 'a man for all seasons'.
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