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To End All Wars: How the First World War Divided Britain Hardcover – Unabridged, 20 May 2011


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; Unabridged edition (20 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230013961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230013964
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 5.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 452,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'World War I remains the quintessential war -- unequalled in concentrated slaughter, patriotic fervor during the fighting, and bitter disillusion afterward, writes Hochschild. Many opposed it and historians mention this in passing, but Hochschild, winner of an L.A. Times Book Award for Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, has written an original, engrossing account that gives the war's opponents (largely English) prominent place. These mostly admirable activists include some veteran social reformers like the formidable Pankhursts, who led violent prosuffrage demonstrations from 1898 until 1914, and two members of which enthusiastically supported the war while one, Sylvia, opposed it, causing a permanent, bitter split. Sylvia worked with, and was probably the lover of, Keir Hardie, a Scotsman who rose from poverty to found the British Labour party. Except for Bertrand Russell, famous opponents are scarce because most supported the war. Hochschild vividly evokes the jingoism of even such leading men of letters as Kipling, Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and John Galsworthy. By contrast, Hochschild paints equally vivid, painful portraits of now obscure civilians and soldiers who waged a bitter, often heroic, and, Hochschild admits, unsuccessful antiwar struggle.' --Publishers' Weekly

`charged and moving ... thoroughly researched, wide-ranging in its curiosities, and always compassionate and sympathetic' --Andrew Motion, Guardian, 7 May 2011

`We think of anti-war movements as a recent phenomenon, born amid the controversies of Vietnam and Iraq. But, as Hochschild, the author of terrific books on the Belgian Congo and the slave trade, points out in this lively narrative, the British peace movement during the First World War was one of the bravest and most outspoken in history ... fast-moving and entertaining' --Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times, 8 May 2011

`Hochschild has done his level best to build a memorial to these dissenters, and is hugely to be congratulated on his hard work ... This is a book to make one feel deeply and painfully, and also to think hard.'
--Christopher Hitchens,New York Times Book Review, May 2011

'...it is the day-to-day details about individual lives that makes this account stand out....what makes this such a good read is that, throughout, the focus is on private as much as public lives, and especially on how war sowed deep, often irreconcilable divisions within families.' --BBC History Magazine's Jon Lawrence

About the Author

Adam Hochschild is an award-winning author of six books, mostly on subjects related to human rights. King Leopold's Ghost was the winner of the prestigious Duff Cooper Prize and Bury the Chains was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. He lives in San Francisco and teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm a bit late in reading and reviewing Adam Hochschild's book about WW1, "To End All Wars", but it is one of the best of the many books I've read on the subject. A relatively short book - 375 pages of text - Hochschild writes mainly about the Home Front and how military and political and personal decisions together made a 4-1/2 year war-to-end-all-wars a living hell for most people involved.

Hochschild does write about some of the battles; his writing about the Battle of Passchendaele in low-lying Flanders (Belgium), where many of the casualties were literally killed by drowning in the water-soaked lowlands of the battlefield gives new meaning to the word "futile". The hundreds of thousands of casualties at the Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1915 and ended 4 months later, was the result of bad leadership by British Commander Sir Douglas Haig. Hochschild's book is a litany of bad decisions made by military leaders on both sides.

But if Adam Hochschild writes about the military side of the war, he's excellent in covering the political and societal sides of the war, in both Britain and Germany. He writes about how people found common ground in both prosecuting the war and others in objecting to it. Families which were split apart; some members favored the war, while others rallied against it. This is a great, well-rounded look at that "War to End All Wars".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By oto_jo on 11 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is an excellent review in Amazon titled 'not what it says on the the tin' I read it and initially chuntered because at start the book seemed to be very much about the dissenters. However, by the end of reading the book I very much agreed with the author of that review. In someways it is a bit hard to classify what the book is about. It is more a broad history of the first world war and its consequences with emphasis on some unusual protagonists. It is not a massively detailed history and it is largely told from the perspective of the Brits.

Adam Hochschild is a brilliant writer. This is the second book of his that I have read. The first being King Leopold's Ghost. In my opinion King Leopold's ghost is perfect, while to End of All Wars is very good but has small flaws.

As noted in other reviews, the book starts more or less with the Boer war. This was a perfect place to start because it introduces the rapid repeat machine gun and how it changed modern warfare (something the wwI generals did not ever seem to get to grips with). It also introduces and establishes the main protagonists for the book.

Adam Hochschild clearly did a lot of research in writing the book, but with his journalist's eye he knows what to tell and what to leave out and he always finds the interesting details to tell which make you sit up. I never really thought about the legacy of metal and bombs left in the fields of Flanders. I had only ever known of Emmaline Pankhurst as a heroine of women's equality. The picture AH paints is much more complex.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By MarkK TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 May 2011
Format: Hardcover
The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 was greeted in Great Britain with a massive show of unity. Men of fighting age rushed to enlist, while organizations and factions set aside their differences in order to face their new common enemy. Yet such support was not universal. As widespread as the demonstration of enthusiasm for the war was, a committed handful stood in stubborn defiance against the conflict. Adam Hochschild's book details their often lonely struggle against the backdrop of the war they so passionately opposed. In it, he attempts to provide an understanding of the choices they made, showing why they refused to subordinate their conscience to the war effort and the prices they paid for their stance.

The people Hochschild focuses on are a select group, men and women who are bound by family and personal ties to the British elite. He starts by charting the origin of the opposition of some of them to war by detailing their opposition to an earlier conflict, the Boer War. The fighting there led people such as Charlotte Despard, Emily Hobhouse, and the Pankhursts to campaign against the British war effort. For them, opposing the war was just one of many causes they undertook, as the activists Hochschild highlights were often at the forefront of radical reform in Edwardian Britain. Yet the outbreak of the war against Germany created deep divisions among their ranks, even to the point of tearing apart families such as the Pankhursts. Their stand provoked considerable public derision, and most of them were subjected to surveillance and obstruction by the authorities. Yet Hochschild sees their fight as all the more noble for its futility, ultimately granting them the larger moral victory despite the hopelessness of their cause.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first saw this book on a warm Saturday afternoon when I chanced upon a rally in Glasgow by the Scottish Socialists protesting the recent decision to bomb ISIS bases in Iraq. The book was part of a swag of Socialist books and pamphlets and it was the title and blurb that drew me in. Here it seemed was a history of World War One that wouldn't focus solely on the bloody carnage on the Western Front, nor the more familiar, to my Australian upbringing the useless slaughter of Gallipoli. I couldn't afford the price of the hard copy but the Kindle edition is much cheaper and so I downloaded it that night.
I wasn't disappointed, even though the price is far higher than other e-books. Hochschild's history of the war does indeed chronicle the savagery of trench warfare but it also covers in great deal the heroic work of anti war agitators and draft resistors who, against overwhelming odds, went to war against a government determined it seemed to embark on a campaign of mass slaughter of its own people. One interesting feature of this work is the fact he starts not with the assassination in Sarajevo but with the Boer War where one of the most powerful armies in the world was tied down for three years by a ragtag guerilla army. Britain won that war not through military success but because it utilised a particularly vile battle tactic, the concentration camp, which would be borrowed and refined by Nazi Germany forty years later. This blurring of the lines between combatant and non-combatant he argues was the first sign that war as the world knew it was rapidly changing, and that's without mentioning the the most obvious changes, machine guns and barbed wire.
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