100 Days to Victory: How the Great War was Fought and Won, with Saul David

One of our most exciting and innovative historians and broadcasters, much acclaimed for his BBC series, Bullets, Boots & Bandages


Saul David will be talking about his new book, a selection of 100 momentous days covering the whole of the First World War from the perspective of all the belligerents: not only those who fought for each side – on the ground, in the air and at sea – but also those who played a vital role on the home front.

The result is a history with a wonderfully eclectic cast of characters that includes emperors, politicians, generals, volunteer soldiers, journalists, suffragettes, munitions workers, nurses, conscientious objectors, mutineers, spies, secret agents, revolutionaries and freedom fighters.

Today the popular perception of the fighting – particularly on the Western Front where more than two million British soldiers were killed or wounded – is still one of futility and waste, a case of ‘Lions led by Donkeys’. In fact, the truth is much more nuanced:-

Many mistakes were made by senior commanders but, far from all being ‘Donkeys’, some like Generals Haig, Allenby, Plumer and Byng made a positive contribution in very difficult circumstances; battles like the Somme and Passchendaele exacted a terrible cost in lost lives, but they also played a vital role in wearing the Germans down in a long war of attrition; and the trench warfare on the Western Front was not simply a case of two sides banging their heads unimaginatively against a brick wall, but rather an extraordinarily fertile period of military innovation in terms of weapons, tactics, training, logistics and the treatment of casualties – innovations that in 1918 would help the Allies to pierce the German lines and win the war.

Moreover the vast majority of ordinary soldiers never stopped believing in the need to keep fighting. The trenches were for many a brutal and inhuman experience. But even combat soldiers – a small proportion of the total number in uniform – spent only a third of their time in the front line, with the remainder spent training, resting and in reserve; and some were even invigorated by the comradeship and excitement of ever-present danger.

All of these themes are covered by Saul’s choice of the key dates and events – some directly involving his own family – that best illustrate the lasting and irrevocable impact the war had on civilians and soldiers across the globe. By combining a variety of first-hand sources with the most recent scholarship, Saul will unravel this highly complex and much misunderstood conflict.

Saul David's vivid grasp of his subject combines the imaginative insight of a novelist with the cutting edge scholarship of a greatly admired historian, and will be a real treat for all historically minded Ebenezers.


Saul David

Saul is an historian, novelist and broadcaster.

His many history books include: The Indian Mutiny:1857; Zulu: The Heroism and Tragedy of the Zulu War of 1879 (2004); Victoria’s Wars: The Rise of Empire (2006); and All the King’s Men: The British Redcoat in the Age of Sword and Musket (2012).

Saul has also written two bestselling historical novels set in the late Victorian period. The first, Zulu Hart (2009), was described by The Times as a ‘rattling good yarn’ with ‘a compelling, sexy hero who could give Cornwell’s Sharpe a run for his money’.

Saul appears often on British television and radio and has presented history programmes for all the major TV channels, including his own series, Bullets, Boots and Bandages: How Wars are Really Won for BBC4.

He is Professor of War Studies at the University of Buckingham


Independent: 'Better than Simon Schama, Saul David has recast history as addictive narrative.'

Bernard Cornwell: 'Saul David has already shown himself to be a first rate historian, now he proves to be a masterly story-teller.'

2014Martin Keeley