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Throughout the First World War, newspapers around the world mocked the British state for its lavish spending on captured German officers kept at Donington Hall, a refurbished English estate. Why was this camp such a controversial space of perceived decadence? I argue that its comforts seemed to linger from an earlier era, one in which military men exuded genteel civility as integral to their supposedly heroic service. The British state essentially enabled such treatment, and the public decried this space for sustaining the anachronism of aristocratic privilege in the face of a globalized total war. However, the German inmates expected such dignified conditions because they sought to live in-between the categories of combatants and older notions of what it meant to be civil élites. By navigating through these categories, the prisoners tried to abide by traditional notions of gentlemanly warriors amid the unprecedented carnage of the First World War. This article discusses clashing wartime mentalities by juxtaposing intimate writings of individuals connected to Donington Hall with official reports recorded on both sides of the Atlantic.



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