An Englishwoman living in World War I Brussels started a secret diary in September 1916. The diary, which survived the war and whose author remained anonymous, ended up in a Belgian archive. This book brings to light both the diary and the story of the woman who wrote it: a middle-aged English governess working for a Belgian-Russian family in German-occupied Brussels. Mary Thorp (1864 -1945) grew up in London and in Bruges. Like many educated young women of
impoverished middle-class backgrounds, she worked as a governess. Neither a servant nor a member of the upper classes that employed her, she harbored a sturdy middle-class outlook stressing self-reliance and responsibility for others - the very attitude that underlay societies' resilience in the face of war.
Her diary expresses this attitude but also the strains on it as the war wore on.
Thorp did not only crossed classes; she crossed national borders as well. Her diary's perspective is transnational. She followed the wartime fate of her widely dispersed friends and family. She tracked military news from theaters both far-flung and nearby. And, because of her privileged access to diplomats from Spain, the Netherlands, the US, Persia, and Japan, she tallied wider war news - on peace overtures, the Russian Revolution, and discontent in Germany. At the same time, Thorp remained
attuned to local dynamics in Brussels, the First World War's largest occupied city. Alert to both structural constraints and individual stories, she showed how the occupying army sought to exploit Belgium, but also how this rebutted some in the German military. Uniquely, her diary also documents the
Armistice and its immediate aftermath, for she kept it up until January 1919. In this volume, Tammy M. Proctor and Sophie De Schaepdrijver provide a biographical introduction on Thorp, an overview of the war in occupied Belgium, and detailed annotations to the diary.
Sophie De Schaepdrijver is Walter L. and Helen P. Ferree Professor of Modern European History at Penn State University. She has written on First World War Europe, with a focus on military occupations. Her latest books are Bastion: Occupied Bruges in the First World War and Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War. She has co-written and presented a television documentary, Brave Little Belgium. Tammy M. Proctor is Professor of History at Utah State University. She is the author of several books on the history of gender, youth, and war in modern Europe, including Civilians in a World at War, Scouting for Girls: A Century of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts, and Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War.