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  • Published: 19 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473555969
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 928

Staring at God

Britain in the Great War

The latest volume in Simon Heffer's critically acclaimed history of modern Britain

Drawing heavily on original material – letters, diaries, official papers – Simon Heffer's hugely ambitious new book follows Britain's path from the day the fatal shots were fired at Sarajevo in June 1914 to the moment the guns finally fell silent on 11 November 1918. He painstakingly examines the increasingly frantic conversations between Whitehall and Britain's embassies across Europe as civil servants and ministers sought to understand and control the slide towards war. He explains how a government so keen to avoid conflict found itself not only championing it but seeking to transform the country to fight it – and how, in the process, Britain was irrevocably changed. He looks at the high politics and low skulduggery that saw the principled but passive Asquith replaced as Prime Minister by the unscrupulous but energetic Lloyd George, and he assesses the furious arguments between politicians and generals about how best to prosecute the war that persisted until the final offensive on the Western Front. And he considers the impact of the First World War on everyday life as people sought to cope with dwindling stocks of food and essential supplies, with conscription into the army or wartime industries, with the ever-present threat of family loss and, in Ireland, with the aftermath of the Easter Uprising. Throughout he creates vivid portraits of the era's key protagonists – from Lord Kitchener to Winston Churchill and from the pacifist Lady Ottoline Morrell to the press magnate Lord Northcliffe – building a rich and varied account of a period in which Britain's very existence seemed in question.

  • Published: 19 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781473555969
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 928

About the author

Simon Heffer

Simon Heffer was born in 1960. He read English at Cambridge and took a PhD in modern history at that university. His previous books include: Moral Desperado: A Life of Thomas Carlyle, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell, Power and Place: The Political Consequences of King Edward VII, Nor Shall My Sword: The Reinvention of England, Vaughan Williams, Strictly English, A Short History of Power, Simply English and High Minds: The Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain. In a thirty-year career in Fleet Street, he has held senior editorial positions on The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, and is now a columnist for The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph.

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Praise for Staring at God

Simon Heffer’s latest hefty volume of 20th-century history tackles the high politics and muddy misery of the First World War.

The Times, 50 Best Books for Autumn

A brilliant history: The first serious and really wide-ranging history of the Home Front during the Great War for decades. Scholarly, objective and extremely well-written. A masterclass […] that ought to be taught in schools. It is filled with surprising revelations […] and empathy. Heffer’s eye for the telling detail is evident on almost every page. A remarkable intellectual and literary achievement.


Staring at God is a vast compendium of atrocious political conduct. Refreshing. […] The author does indulge his delightful addiction to quirky facts. [The book]’s length is due to the author’s enormous enthusiasm. A trenchant history.

The Times

Fresh insights, vast scope and caustic judgement. Possibly the finest, most comprehensive analysis of the home front in the Great War ever produced. Compelling reading.

Literary Review

The book stands out for its humanity as well as its breadth and detail

Allan Mallinson, Books of the Year, The Spectator

The book I read with the most profit this year was the absorbing Staring at God: Britain in the Great War...A particular strength of the book is Heffer's understanding - as befits a former deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph - of the role of the press; this was the great age of newspaper proprietors

Brendam Simms, Books of the Year, The Spectator

Gloriously rich and spirited[…] colourful, character-driven history […] it zips along, leavened by so many wonderful cultural and social details.

Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times

A magisterial history.

Melanie McDonagh, Daily Mail

An epic history of Britain. It is every bit as good as its two predecessors. Illuminating. *****

Daily Express

Enlightening . . . Robust opinion, an eye for telling detail and a gift for bringing historical figures alive.

History Books of the Year, Daily Mail

[An] admirable book . . . ambitious in its scope, content and approach . . . Heffer's understanding of the personalities and the issues is comprehensive

Charles Vyvyan, Standpoint

Fascinating stuff.


This is a very detailed and well-researched book about the First World War . . . The author graphically describes the austerity of life at home.

Country Life

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