Tolkien researcher John Garth is the author of Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Michael Martinez, who describes it as “a great biographical portrait of a young man who sees his world divided between life and death” chats with the author over on Xenite.org about how Tolkien’s experiences of war might have influenced his fiction.
From almost as early as [Tolkien] could remember he had lived in and around Birmingham, one of the biggest industrial cities of the era, and as a lover both of nature and of rural life he was acutely aware of the encroachment of the town. He was also well aware of the Arts & Crafts Movement spearheaded by William Morris, one of his favourite authors (The House of the Wolfings, The Roots of the Mountains, etc.), and I’m sure his own views on the alienating effects of ‘mechanical’ labour were considerably shaped by those of Morris and his followers.