In ‘East Coker’ (1940), T S Eliot looked back at the period from 1918 to 1939 in melancholy, regretful terms as ‘the years of l’entre deux guerres’: a sad, possibly wasted time, rather than a terrible one. His mood of gentle resignation seems apt, not only for his personal and spiritual life but also for the general tenor of those days as experienced by the people of his recently adopted country. By and large, the twenty-year breather between the two periods of mass slaughter was fairly cushy for the British. For us, gloom and grumbling; for others, atrocity.
To be sure, there was hunger, unemployment and despair in the north of the country, but not the death of countless millions as a result of government-made famines, as in the USSR under Stalin. Priests and congregations could gather without fear of being locked in their churches and burned alive – a favourite trick of the Spanish