The majority of the books we profile on New Books in Military History are traditional research narratives, monographs written by historians and authors seeking to present a particular campaign, organization, battle, or individual in detail. Once in a while, though, we take pride in introducing our listeners to projects that are more focused on how memory and history are intertwined, bringing the past to the present. In this episode, we speak with New York Times
travel writer and amateur historian Richard Rubin
about his own thoughts on the First World War and how it shaped a special relationship between many Frenchmen and the ideal of America that survives to this day. His most recent book, Back Over There: One American Time-Traveler, 100 Years Since the Great War, 500 Miles of Battle-Scarred French Countryside, and Too Many Trenches, Shells, Legends, and Ghosts to Count
(St. Martins Press, 2017), is a deeply personal account of Rubin's many walks across the Western Front and his encounters with local caretakers, fellow tourists and pilgrims, and everyday people in Belgium and France. Our discussion is more of a conversation about the state of memory and the daily encounters with history that, prior to this point, remained largely unknown to so many people. The interview, and Rubin's book, are tactile reminders of the history that lies, quite literally, just beneath our feet . . . if we know how and where to look for it.