First of all a Merry Christmas and happy new year to all. The centenary of the Christmas Truce of 1914 is naturally in the news right now. While Canadian units were not involved it has brought up an interesting question. Why is their cultural memory about certain events and not about others?
For the Christmas Truce, it probably has something to do with the traditional view of WWI as an annihilation of a generation to little purpose. There is an often quoted line about lions led by donkeys; laying aside whether or not this is accurate and has sparked debate amongst historians in the last couple of decades. The events also make for a good story. Humanity even between combatants.
As for the wider question as a publisher, one of the things we consider as we look at areas to publish is the balance between what is popular and what is militarily relevant. Sometimes these are the same. It’s hard to underestimate the impact of say Waterloo on 19 century European and therefore world history. What about an example that’s less clear cut?
Compare the Battle of Gettysburg and fall of Vicksburg from the American Civil War. Many more books have been written about Gettysburg. Some of this naturally has to do with the wealth of primary material to go on. Which one was more militarily significance? If the second invasion of the north hadn’t been launched at all would the North still would’ve triumphed after seizing the Mississippi? In all likelihood yes it would have simply made Grant’s movement South even bloodier. The only way Gettysburg becomes more significant is in an alternate history scenario. The Army of the Potomac is defeated, leading to the capture of Washington or enough of a disruption to the northern government and economy to demand piece negotiations.
So where does this leave us as a publisher? Simply put, we’re happy to consider both possibilities. However, if a work is going to go over well tilled soil, we are looking for something different. This can be on a level of analysis or use of unexploited sources.