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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > July 2016 > The day that killed optimism

The day that killed optimism

A century after the Battle of the Somme a new collection of images shows the First World War as we have never seen it before

The morning of 1st July, 1916, the opening of the Battle of the Somme, “marked the end of an age of optimism in British life that has never been restored,” as historian John Keegan puts it. But the four years of the First World War also marked one of the greatest leaps forward in technological innovation that the world has seen. Some forces went into the war in 1914 with horses and swords; four years later, the tank had been invented, reliable machine guns, and aircraft capable of firing forwards through their propellers. It was one of the most fertile periods of innovation, contributing to the growth and inventions of the 20th century—Prospecthas explored the question of whether we have now reached the end of thatperiod of innovation and economic expansion. In this essay, prompted by a new collection of rarely seen photographs, GeoffDyer, the novelist and writer, reflects on the transformation from pastoral scenes of 1914 to desolation.

The First World War: “The ‘glory’ that is celebrated lies not in the magnitude of victory but in the scale of loss”
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In Prospect’s July issue: In her final issue as Editor Bronwen Maddox explores the legacy of former Prime Minister Tony Blair having spoken with him at a Prospect event on 24th May. She examines his domestic policy, the lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan and what the future holds for the Labour Party. The Chancellor George Osborne lays down his view on why the public should to “Remain” in the EU, and Ian Hargreaves takes a close look at what is happening at the BBC. Also in this issue: Former Conservative leader David Davis suggests he can see a very narrow set of circumstances that might push him towards running for the party leadership again, William Skidelsky writes about why tennis is the best sport and Vanora Bennett looks at Svetlana Alexievich’s extraordinary work recording Russia’s lost voices.