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The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama During World War I

By Martin Olliff, ed.
The University of Alabama Press, 2008
$29.95, Paper

Reviewed by Julia Oliver

Although World Wars I and II and the Civil War have been eulogized, excoriated, and expounded upon in numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, the attraction of serious readers to these immense, history-making-and-altering subjects does not abate. Subtitled Alabama During World War I, this book contains well-written essays by authors with scholarly credentials. Editor Martin T. Olliff, director of the Archives of Wiregrass History and Culture and a faculty member at Troy University-Dothan Campus, acknowledges that “these chapters examine how Alabamians responded to the pressures and changes brought on by the Great War, but with a single caveat: singly and collectively, they are not the final word on any of the points raised.”

Contributors include David Alsobrook, director of the Museum of Mobile; Wilson Fallin Jr., faculty member of the University of Montevallo and author of several books; Dowe Littleton, reading clerk for the State of Alabama Senate; Robert Saunders Jr., department head at TSUD; Michael V. R. Thomason, professor emeritus at the University of South Alabama; and Ruth Smith Truss, who teaches at the University of Montevallo. Contributor Victoria Ott of Birmingham-Southern College’s faculty is the author of Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War and Wesley Newton has published several books, including one about Montgomery in World War II.

Former editor of The Alabama Review and manager of the online Encyclopedia of Alabama, Robert J. Jakeman reminds us in the final essay that Alabama became the first to enact legislation (February 3, 1919) to create a statewide memorial to the service of its citizens in the Great War. The project to erect a commemorative building that would house the Alabama Department of Archives and History, which when founded in 1901 was the first government archival agency in the nation, got off to a great start, but did not come to fruition until 1940.

The cover photograph of an attractive young woman resting on a bench “while visiting Fort Sheridan, Montgomery” and the centerpiece of vintage photographs add a touch of nostalgia that will seem appropriate to anyone whose father or grandfather served in World War I. Oct 2008

Julia Oliver will talk about her novel Devotion, recently reissued in paperback by the University of Georgia Press, on December 18 at the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s noontime lecture series.

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