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Covid-19: Why the true historical comparator is not the Second World War but the First

The Great War and its aftermath hold lessons for the post-coronavirus age

By Norma Cohen  

Crowds in London celebrate the end of the First World War. But . Photo: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

Comparing Britain’s current battle to stamp out the spread of Covid-19 to that of the nation at war is becoming a common trope; people are dying by the thousands, there is no clear path to victory nor any clear consensus on what “victory” might be.

And, like wartime, this battle is about survival, not just of people but of the state. History teaches that…

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