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Franschhoek Literary Festival

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Historians to Commemorate World War I Centenary at Franschhoek Literary Festival

In July 1914, the world went to war, ending 85 years of peace between the great powers in Europe. Writing in the Washington Post, Gerard de Groot noted: “A century after its outbreak, Europeans remain obsessed with the 1914-18 war; they still find it difficult to shoulder its heavy burden. The deluge of books that will mark the war’s centenary is proof of this obsession. A market for these books exists because the war bewilders, frustrates and angers those who seek understanding.

We are delighted to announce that two eminent historians – Margaret MacMillan and Norman Stone – will join us at the 2014 Franschhoek Literary Festival, where the centenary of World War One will be commemorated in a number of events.

Was the ‘war to end all wars’ caused by weak leaders and poor decisions, and could it have been avoided if even one of them had been strong enough to say no? One of the most highly-respected historians in this field and winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for a previous book, Margaret MacMillan’s latest work, The War that Ended Peace, considers the socio-economic conditions that existed in Europe in the first decade of the 20th century, and examines the role played by Europe’s leaders in the build-up to war. Her critical analysis of the period and its leaders not only lends insights into the past but also offers much to consider today. A Canadian by birth, Professor MacMillan is the Warden of St Antony’s College and a Professor of International History at the University of Oxford.

Norman Stone breaks the mould of traditional historians, being described variously as ‘notorious’, someone who ‘always avoids the obvious’, and a ‘fearsome foe of drippy-liberal state culture’. Once an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Stone is a provocative historian and an engaging writer and speaker. He knocks on its head the notion that history is boring; he’s witty opinionated and, as a fellow historian puts it, ‘relishes in giving it a tonk’. Professor Stone brings with him to Franschhoek his extensive knowledge of European history represented in numerous books, including World War One: A Short History (which ‘remains the best since AJP Taylor’, says local historian Bill Nasson, who will chair a number of the history events at the festival), and his latest, World War Two: A Short History.

The War at HomeSouth African BattlesThe Concentration Camps of the Anglo-Boer War

A number of local historians who have published new books in the past year will also be present at the FLF this year, including Elizabeth van Heyningen, (The Concentration Camps of the Anglo-Boer War), Albert Grundlingh and Bill Nasson (The War at Home: Women and Families in the Anglo-Boer War), and Tim Couzens (South African Battles).

The full programme for FLF 2014 will be posted on by mid-March.
Tickets can be booked thereafter on

For information on the Franschhoek Literary Festival, contact Ann Donald at

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