The pity of war [explaining World War I]

Niall Ferguson

Book - 1999

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

940.3/Ferguson
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 940.3/Ferguson Checked In
Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Basic Books c1999.
Language
English
Item Description
Subtitle from jacket.
Physical Description
xliii, 563 p., [32] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. 517-541) and index.
ISBN
0465057128
046505711X
Main Author
Niall Ferguson (-)
Review by Choice Reviews

Every decade or so, historians have produced important works that challenge the understanding of one of the century's most important events, the Great War. Ferguson (Oxford) offers a major reassessment of many of this great conflict's crucial issues. He addresses eight of the war's more significant questions: Was it inevitable? Why did the Germans take such a gamble in 1914? Why did Britain intervene? Was there really an outbreak of popular enthusiasm for the war? How did the powers' military and economic efficiency influence the war's outcome? Why did the men keep fighting? Why did the war end? Who won the peace? He then provides answers that are provocative and important. Ferguson's dissection of British foreign minister Sir Edward Grey and his comparative analysis of the German and Allied war economies will produce real debate in the historical community. His assertion of Germany's ability to pay the postwar indemnity levied by the Allies is a welcome rejoinder to the old mantra of a "Carthaginian peace." Suitable for every level of interest, The Pity of War is indispensable for all modern European history collections. Copyright 1999 American Library Association

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Ferguson's controversial reexamination of The Great War--which drew some harsh criticism in Britain as revisionist history--forces the reader to take a fresh look at that now mythologized event. Organized around themes such as public financing, the press response, and "why men fought," this is not a history of the war (see Keegan, below, for that) but a provocation to rethink its causes and effects. (LJ 3/15/99) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Ferguson (Jesus Coll., Oxford) challenges much of the dominant historiography of World War I by redirecting questions from the traditional approach, such as whether the Schlieffen plan could have worked, to more complex issues, such as why German military superiority failed to achieve victory on the Western Front. His analysis and his multinational approach make for gripping reading; he is not afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom about the war, considering, for instance, whether Britain might have acted to avoid a worldwide conflict. His analysis of war literature and propaganda raises important issues regarding why men continue to fight despite having to endure horrifying conditions. While scholars focusing on a single nation might disagree with some of his specific conclusions, Ferguson has made an important contribution to our understanding of the long-term impact of the Great War. His book will also spark serious discussion about the nature of war in the modern world. Recommended for all libraries. Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 1999 Library Journal Reviews

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Many readers will disagree with Oxford historian Ferguson's (Paper and Iron) daring revisionist account of the Great War as presented in this superbly illustrated book, but none will be bored by his elegant marshaling of facts to support his case. Ferguson argues that Germany had a justifiable fear of Russian and French militarism and was merely making a preemptive strike in August 1914. He suggests that Britain forced the escalation of what could have been a limited continental war by entering on the side of the Allies and then increased the body count on both sides through sheer ineptitude. An economic historian, Ferguson explains that Germany was efficient at inflicting "maximum slaughter at minimum expense," paying just $5133 to kill each Allied serviceman. The bungling but economically advantaged Allies, on the other hand, paid $16,754 for each German head. For all the book's strengths, however, Ferguson comes up short in his flawed, briefly sketched analyses of the ebb and flow of diplomatic and battlefield events. Grand strategy goes unstudied. Ferguson's war is, in the end, simply an economic problem. Scarcity equals loss, and whoever has the most supplies will prevail. Ultimately, it is hard to feel satisfied with Ferguson's narrow analysis of what is surely a far more complex equation. (Apr.) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Studies the origins, financing, and outcome of World War I, and discusses public support, recruiting and retention of soldiers, treatment of prisoners, and related issues

Review by Publisher Summary 2

From a bestselling historian, a daringly revisionist history of World War IThe Pity of War makes a simple and provocative argument: the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England's fault. According to Niall Ferguson, England entered into war based on naive assumptions of German aims, thereby transforming a Continental conflict into a world war, which it then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement. The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather was 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, and inhuman is memorialized in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by cold statistics. Indeed, more British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam War. And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with little reluctance and with some enthusiasm. 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 or more stimulating guide than Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A landmark work of history. An explosive and argumentative new book that rewrites our most basic assumptions about the causes and consequences of the First World War.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From a bestselling historian, a daringly revisionist history of World War IThe Pity of War makes a simple and provocative argument: the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England's fault. According to Niall Ferguson, England entered into war based on naive assumptions of German aims, thereby transforming a Continental conflict into a world war, which it then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement. The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather was 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, and inhuman is memorialized in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by cold statistics. Indeed, more British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam War. And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with little reluctance and with some enthusiasm. 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 or more stimulating guide than Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War.