If someone less distinguished than Niall Ferguson--a fellow and tutor in Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford--had written The Pity of War
you could be forgiven for thinking that he was a man in search of a few cheap headlines by contradicting almost every accepted orthodoxy about World War I.
Ferguson argues that Britain was as much to blame for the start of the war as was German militarism, and that had Britain sacrificed Belgium to Germany, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution would never have happened, Germany would have created a united European state, and Britain could have remained a superpower. He also contends that there was little enthusiasm for the war in Britain in 1914, but equally he claims that it was not prolonged by clever manipulation of the media. Instead, he purports that the reason men fought was because they enjoyed it. He also maintains that it wasn't the severity of the conditions imposed on Germany at Versailles in 1919 that led inexorably to World War II; rather it was the comparative leniency and the failure to collect reparations in full.
The Pity of War has no pretensions to offering the grand narrative of World War I. Instead it reads like a polemical tract; as such it is immensely readable, well-researched, and controversial. You may not end up agreeing with all of Ferguson's arguments, but that should not deter you from reading it. All of us need our deeply-held views challenged from time to time; if only to remind us why we've got them. --John Crace
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The most challenging and provocative analysis of the First World War to date (Ian Kershaw)
Must take a permanent place at the top of the War's historiography. It is one of the very few books whose own scale matches that of the events it describes (Alan Clark Daily Telegraph
Brilliant and stimulating ... radical, readable and convincing (The Times
Possibly the most important book to appear in years both on the origins of the First World War ... Ferguson can confidently claim to have inherited A. J. P. Taylor's mantle (Paul Kennedy New York Review of Books
At one massive stroke, Niall Ferguson has transformed the intellectual landscape (Economist