Latest Issue

The summer of 1939

Contemporary records from the start of the second world war

By Ian Irvine   September 2009

Virginia Woolf, novelist, 57. Monday, 28th August 1939, at her cottage in Sussex

“I stay out here, after bowls, to say—what? on this possibly last night of peace. Will the 9 o’clock bulletin end it all?—our lives, oh yes, and everything for the next fifty years? Everyone’s writing I suppose about this last day. I walked on the downs, lay under a cornstack and looked at the empty land and the pinkish clouds in a perfect blue summer afternoon sky. Not a sound. Workmen discussing war on the road—one for it, one against. For us it’s like being on a…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect