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Hardcover World War One: A Short History Book

ISBN: 0465013686

ISBN13: 9780465013685

World War One: A Short History

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

In 1914, a new kind of war came about, bringing with it a new kind of world. World War One began on horseback, with generals employing bayonet charges to gain ground, and ended with attacks resembling the Nazi blitzkriegs . The scale of devastation was unlike anything the world had seen before: Fourteen million combatants died, a further twenty million were wounded, and four empires were destroyed. Even the victors' empires were fatally damaged. An...

Customer Reviews

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World War One is a short introduction to the horrors of World War I by eminent historian Norman Ston

World War I killed eleven million combatants; twenty million civilians and served as the beginning of the horrible "thirty year's war" period which ended only with Hiroshima and the fall of Germany in the final apocalypse of World War II. The twentieth century is the bloodiest century in recorded human history. It all began with the military industrialists of the pre-1914 era who engaged (on a massive scale) in colony acquisitions and the construction of huge naval fleets. Norman Stone's formidable task was to tell the sanguinary tale of the Great War in less than 200 pages. He does so by giving the general reader a good idea of what happened in each of the war's years-1914-1918. For a more complete history the student of the war should turn to the large histories of the conflict authored by such giants as Hew Weldon, John Keegan, Niall Ferguson and others. This little book is "just getting your feet wet" with the fascinating subject under study. As one who is widely read in World War I history, I will use this book frequently for the quotations the author provides which cuts the verbiage and strikes paydirt in describing a person, battle or situation in the war. Among the best quotes I marked were these: With the Ukraine, Russia is a USA;without she is Canada...-p. 6 In four years the world went from 1870 to 1940-p. 35 (Stone is discussing advances in military technology-the war saw the first use of tanks, planes, radio communication and heavy cannon such as the German's Big Bertha). On the whole the Germans were better prepared-p. 40 ...the Germans had done well...mainly because the blockade had given them the will and the way for a proper war economy...-p. 74 Not many of the commanders were at all bright, and some were downright dim.-p. 77 Verdun...broke the French army...When she did fall in 1940 this was partly because her people did not want to go through Verdun again.-pp. 96-97 Tanks developed a certain mythology but they had their limits-p.105 Great wars develop a momentum of their own.-p. 117 Arthur Zimmerman's telegram was Germany's suicide note, written in farce-p. 125 (German foreign secretary Zimmerman sought to entice Mexico to declare war on the USA; in return they would be rewarded with territory seized by the Yankees in the Mexican War). There were now thousands of guns and millions of shells-p. 126 Lenin had an extraordinary powerful character... His charisma does not show up in his writings, which are is difficult to see how Russians could be held captive by his oratory.-p. 135 The way was open for a second World War even more terrible than the First.-p. 190 Stone does not limit himself to discussions of battle and trench warfare on the Western Front. He briefly comments on battles between the Austrians and the Russians and Italians. As a scholar living in Turkey he discusses the Gallipoli Campaign and how Turkey was an important player in the war. If you have a long afternoon ahead of you on a plane or

An exceptionally well-written overview of the war

This truly short history of World War I--about forty thousand words--is a clever and eminently accessible account by a respected scholar who reads all the necessary languages, including Russian, Italian, and Turkish. Stone's scholarly colleagues will probably grumble about his emphasis on the East and, even more likely, will be disturbed by his ability to attract readers with his lapidary prose. There are few footnotes, but they too are worth reading. It is unfortunate that the seven small-scale maps are placed at the rear of the book.

A highly readable short history of World War One

In 190 pages plus maps, Prof. Norman Stone summarizes World War One, variously and erroneously know as "The Great War" and the "War To End All Wars". It was, in fact, a grandiose display of human stupidity. All the "great powers" were involved with perhaps 70 million men putting on uniforms and taking up arms. In the end, 15 million were dead and the stage was set for an even bloodier world conflict in less than a generation. WWI is boring to most people. The Western Front was largely static, with no grand advances or retreats by either side after the first few months. The Eastern Front, while it laid the groundwork for the cataclysmic collapse of Tsarist Russia was more dynamic, but also more remote to most readers. The peripheral fronts along the Italian border and in the Middle East are scarcely known, though the events in the latter laid the foundation for the world situation today. Thus, this very concise history by Prof. Stone should be greeted with delight by the casual student of history attempting to grasp how the 20th Century became the most deadly time in history. Stone's command of the subject is complete. His vast knowledge is demonstrated by his judicious omission of details that would be vital in a more specialized history. Stone provides the outline of how the war came to be after one of the most peaceful and inventive eras of European history. He is unsparing in his treatment of the politicians of the major players and their grasping for greater power, wealth and territory. The scale of the war, which could have been prevented by any of several "leaders", was made possible by the increased production capability and wealth of each of the belligerents. Stone does an excellent job of explaining how national cultures shaped the military strategy and tactics of each nation. For the British and French, the Napoleonic wars of the 19th Century provided the model, a state of mind that literally murdered millions of young men. The Germans, ironically, had greater faith in their individual citizens and produced a stronger army with more innovative tactics. The Russians were simply hopeless, with only a few rare exceptions. Stone explains how the Western Front ossified into trench warfare, with one bloodletting after another because military leaders in general failed to recognize the reality of industrial age warfare. (Stone touches upon, but does not go into detail about, the sophistication of the trench systems, which is a worthy subject in its own right.) Each of the major battles is analyzed, which is quite a feat in so few pages. Overall, Professor Stone has produced a highly readable short history which will fill in the blanks for many about World War I. Jerry


To make the events that resulted in and from the complexities of World War One comprehensible is a remarkable accomplishment. Stone puts the governmental, military and business shortsightedness, hubris, greed and nationalist sensibilities on display, delineating the ideologies whose clash resulted in millions of deaths while only truly succeeding in setting the stage for millions more to die in World War Two and beyond. Within the first chapter alone, the "strategic thinking" invented to induce WWI displays frightful symmetries with the "necessities" invented to impel forward more recent conflicts like those in Vietnam and Iraq. For that reason alone -- the persistence of various governments to resort to false justifications -- it is frankly painful and disheartening to read as a witness to so much contemporary belligerence, nearly 100 years later. Also painful and obvious is the fact that the actions which decided the first World War continue to resonate today -- from Iraq through the Balkan states and beyond -- and proves the point that we seem still compelled to repeat these patterns, perhaps because too many people today operate under the notion that history began with their own birth. So exceptional thanks to Norman Stone for reducing the excuses one might have for being ignorant of these events and their effect. His writing is fast-paced, saturated with facts and presented with an eye towards those tiny details and ironic congruences that often seem so unlikely and just as often set the most terrifying wheels in motion. While there are many more comprehensive works and the subject, it's hard to think many could be more comprehensible to the lay reader.

World War One

Although he has a reputation for being provocative I find Prof. Stone insightful with a gift for looking at a subject from a different perspective. This book while far from comprehensive gives a brief overview of the war that ended the Edwardian Golden Age. It confirms my suspicions that WWI was an exercise in Prussian adventurism. A pre-emptive war aimed primarily at the Russians, by whom they felt they would be overshadowed by 1920 and in the West to knock out the French as quickly as possible. A situation that would be repeated 25 years later. For Britain, fighting initially followed the tradition the Thirty Years War, the Seven Years War, etc, where it would subsidise its Continental Allies to fight for it using its trade surplus (1916 is the only year Britain sold more goods abroad than it earned). Russia for example, before being knocked out of the war, received £800 million; multiply that by forty for today's value (ironically, they only finished paying it off in 1985 at the height of the Cold War). Not kind to the personalities involved but pragmatic, he reasserts the view of Haig as a creature of his time and his dogged determination to carry on regardless of the evidence and who was intent on "hammering in a screw and when it resisted, trying to hammer it harder". (The best Scotch general in history in that he killed more Englishmen than any other.) He shows how so many clever people were wrong; Churchill and Haskey over Gallipoli and blockading Germany; Weber over Nationalism. While for Britain, the first shots of the war were fired in Sydney Harbour on August 4th and were warning shots over the bows of a German trader attempting to flee he devotes equal time to the war in the East, an often-neglected area where the treaty of Brest-Litovsk drew up a map of Eastern Europe that looks remarkably similar to that of today. Facts like that, along with his pared down narrative style make for a absorbing read. If you want proof that reality can be as strange as fiction try the amazing fact that the private secretary of Bethmann-Hollwegg ended up working at the University of Chicago and was on the panel that advised Truman in favour of dropping the A-Bomb. A very good read
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