World War One Personal Narratives
Thousands of combatants and non-combatants in the Great War wrote and published memoirs, diaries and letters about their experiences. Many other personal narratives and letter collections were published posthumously. These accounts provide historians with valuable personal descriptions of battles and wartime institutions as well as important insights into the individual emotional responses to the war. They cover the full range of people and activities from soldiers, doctors, nurses and diplomats to munitions workers and land girls, from combat on many fronts to the home front.
People began writing about their experiences on the battlefield and on the home front shortly after the war began in 1914. During the course of the war and shortly after the Armistice of November 1918 many hundreds of books were published. Another large group of personal narratives appeared in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These often displayed bitter and negative sentiments about the war. Today memoirs, diaries, and letter collections are still being published as they are discovered in libraries and archives, and among the remains of now dead grandfathers and great-grandfathers. These accounts of individual experiences continue to enrich our understanding of the “Great War”.
A small selection of World War I personal narratives in English is on display for this exhibit. We encourage you to browse and to check out any titles you may find interesting. The University of Kansas Libraries has thousands more such titles in its collections. Many can be found by searching the online catalog under the subject heading “World War, 1914-1918 – Personal Narratives”.
Bibliographer to History
University of Kansas Libraries