It was, there's no doubt about it, something of a mouthful.
"The significance of honour within Britain's entry into the First World War."
I hated that title, and I still do. It was, so I was told, necessary to convey to the examiner all that I had done and what I was about during this series, but I honestly thought it was super awkward, and it still super grinds my gears. When I was handing it in, I remember looking at the cover one last time before it fall into the hands of the examiner and groaning. It looked, I felt, really amateurish. In retrospect, this was probably because I'd spent so much time with this stupid thing that I would hate it even if it was made of gold and cured world hunger. It's underrated just how sick of a dissertation one can get. At the same time though, somehow, it was this thin hardback book, containing information I had collected and clipped together over the last year, which helped me progress forward in life. It was this work which brought me the First Class Honours that I wanted, and the award that I didn't even know existed. It was this work that now makes me proud, because even though I hated it at the time, I am so, so happy I stuck with it. It was a labour of necessity, not love, but I do feel quite nostalgic about it all now, especially since I haven't been in college in a while and I mostly forget how freaking hard it all is.
So what can you hope to gain from it? Well, aside from it being a highly significant chapter of my life, and the first work I ever won something for, this is the place where my life went in a certain direction. Before I got my results I wasn't quite sure where I was going, but a month afterwards I had decided what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and I was determined to go to Cambridge in order to do it. You could say then that this little booklet gave the confidence, gave me the kick I needed, to realise that I could in fact do something as incredible as a PhD in History at the greatest University in the world for that subject, because why not?!
If you like your narratives of the First World War to be filled with battles and carnage, this isn't the dissertation for you. However, if you want a new perspective on why the war broke out, and if you feel like the traditional narratives of the balance of power or evil Germany doesn't quite gel with your sensibilities, I would encourage you to start here with my humble thesis. My whole dissertation revolves around national honour - what this concept was, what it meant to people in the late 19th/early 20th century and how it pushed them to do incredible things, such as make war on Germany (!!) are issues I seek to unravel here. In a sense it is a kind of expose on the issue of national honour, one of those concepts that has always been in the background of history, and which has never really been given the credit, I feel, for its incredible impact and weight it had with individuals. As a work it furthers my interest and expertise on why the First World War happened - I am now convinced not only of national honour's importance, but also the fact that you cannot even begin to explain much of what happened in the world - before or after the July Crisis - without delving into national honour and what it meant.
I would hope that this dissertation educates you on what the war was all about. I hope it will further your knowledge on why the war happened, since even though Britain is my focus here, national honour was a critical concept to all powers involved, from the Imperialist Russians to the declining Habsburgs. Nobody could claim that they cared nothing for national honour; everyone feared what would happen if they lost it, and everyone went to great lengths to hold onto some semblance of it. Its significance is something which I could only scratch the surface of in the 20,000 or so words I had, but if it serves to pique your interest, to show you that there's more to the war than what meets the eye, then I will have felt as though I've made my contribution to the era's literature in a positive way, which of course is the dream for any historian.
If you want more from the dissertation - if you want a PDF copy for yourself to read, or if you want the book 'Matter of Honour' which was loosely based upon this dissertation, then please become a Patron, whereby you can have access not just to this dissertation, but also a load more goodies too! The current plan is that Tier 3 Patrons (Ambassador) will get an e-book copy of the dissertation to download, while Tier 4 Patrons (Foreign Secretary) will get signed copies of each book that is released.