The Pity of War
Explaining World War I New edition
By (author) Niall Ferguson
Pity of War by Niall Ferguson
Book DescriptionIn The Pity of War, Niall Ferguson makes a simple and provocative argument: that the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely Englands fault. Britain, according to Ferguson, entered into war based on nave assumptions of German aimsand Englands entry into the war transformed a Continental conflict into a world war, which they then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement. The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather the result of the mistaken decisions of individuals who would later claim to have been in the grip of huge impersonal forces. That the war was wicked, horrific, inhuman,is memorialized in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by cold statistics. More British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam War; indeed, the total British fatalities in that single battlesome 420,000exceeds the entire American fatalities for both World Wars. And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with enthusiasm. Ferguson vividly brings back to life this terrifying period, not through dry citation of chronological chapter and verse but through a series of brilliant chapters focusing on key ways in which we now view the First World War. For anyone wanting to understand why wars are fought, why men are willing to fight them, and why the world is as it is today, there is no sharper nor more stimulating guide than Niall Fergusons The Pity of War.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780465057122
(204mm x 135mm x 33mm)
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 11-Feb-2000
Country of Publication: United States
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US Kirkus Review » As the 20th century draws to a close, Ferguson (Modern History/Oxford Univ.; The House of Rothschild, 1998) renders a brilliant reassessment of one of the century's most far-reaching and tragic wars, the First World War. Ferguson unpacks the terror and tragedy of the war while demolishing widely held beliefs about it. One of these was that the war was an inevitable result of regnant imperialism and militarism: Ferguson argues trenchantly that the trend in Europe in 1914 was away from militarism and that German feedings of growing military weakness started the war. Ferguson also contends that equivocal British policies in Europe and failure to maintain a credible army to back up its continental commitments, among other factors, led Britain needlessly to transform a continental conflict into a world war. Ferguson also establishes that until the collapse of the German leadership's morale in late 1918, Germany was actually winning the war by any important measure - though vastly economically inferior to Britain, Germany had defeated three of the Entente powers and came close to defeating France, Britain, and Italy. Moreover, Ferguson contends, because of the tactical excellence of its armies, Germany was far more efficient then the Entente powers at inflicting casualties on its enemies until the very end of its failed 1918 offensive. The author also attacks the common view that the masses greeted the war enthusiastically in 1914. He scrutinizes in depth the propaganda war, the often draconian suppression of dissent in the belligerent countries, the soldiers' diverse and often banal motives for fighting, and shifting combatant attitudes toward surrender, which, he asserts, was a risky act, since both sides routinely killed surrendering men. Changing attitudes toward surrender may have contributed to the final collapse of German form. In the end, Ferguson concludes, WWI was not unavoidable, but "the greatest error of modern history." Moving, penetrating, eye-opening, and lucidly reasoned. An important work of historical analysis. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Niall Ferguson
Niall Ferguson is Fellow and Tutor in Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford. He is the author of "Paper and Iron, The House of Rothschilds," and "The Pity of War" ). He writes regularly for the "Times Literary Supplement," and lives in Oxford.
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