4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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".
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2013
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. Douglas Hird came across to me as one of the greatest mass murders in the 20th century, though AH does make the case that his sheer pigheadedness probably contributed to the Allies winning the war at a point when Germany looked like they could win the field.
The Germans struck me as vastly more intelligent and creative in trying to solve the deadlock of trench warfare. I never realized how close they came to winning the war. All in all by the end of the book, I felt I needed to learn more and have just bought 'The Great War' DVDs as the next easy step in my education.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
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.
All of this Hochschild describes in an engrossing narrative that conveys well the drama and tragedy of his subject. He is especially good at detailing the relationships between his characters, such as that between Despard and her brother John French, the first commander of the British Expeditionary Force. If there is a villain in his account it is Douglas Haig, whose obstinacy Hochschild savages for fueling the bloodshed. Yet for all of its strengths Hochschild's book suffers from a lack of focus. Often his subjects disappear for pages as he describes the more familiar tale of the overall course of the war; while this can illustrate what excited the passions of its opponents, the considerable amount of space the author devotes to it distracts more often than it enhances his story. While the strengths of Hochschild's narrative outweigh this deficiency, it does limit his achievement with this book, which offers an interesting look at an aspect of the First World War often ignored by other chroniclers.
on 30 November 2014
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.
He faithfully recounts the events leading up to the war, the frenetic arms race and the clash of empires, the British, German, Belgian, Russian and Ottoman, who were all nibbling at each other's 'possessions,' for want of a better word. His history also records the rise of the suffragettes with such heroic characters as the Pankhurst family, who would be splintered by the war. Other notable heroes and heroines in no particular order are: Keir Hardie, Bertrand Russell, Charlotte Despard, sister of General John French, Stephen Hobhouse, John S Clarke, Alice Wheeldon and her family, and Albert Rochester. These are but a few of the brave souls who stood against the tide of xenophobic hatred sweeping through Britain and Europe at the time.
Thus this book is about a war on two fronts, the more traditional front line and the home front but where other military histories merely assign a chapter to the home front as a kind of admission that, "we're very grateful for your support," Hochschild has made the home front such a major part of the book that it's impossible to separate the two fronts without cutting the book in two. Divided into six parts and an introduction, parts two through six follow the progress of the war with the introduction laying out the background with part one introducing the dramatis personae and part seven the aftermath of the war and the fate of the major characters. Haig comes under particular fire from Hochschild who singles him out in particular for his incompetence although French, Foch and Hindenburg are no less a target. The rise of the propaganda machine is also covered in detail. Arguably it was the efficiency of the propaganda machine along with its twisted co-conspirator the military censor that helped keep the war dragging on for four years. In this aspect Hochschild exposes men like Kipling and John Buchan, who wilfully prostituted their writing talent for the benefit of the war department.
As war histories go there are probably more detailed blow by blow books but in this centenary of the start of the 'War to End All Wars,' Hochschild's history is a vital counterpoint to the cowardly Conservative ministers and revisionist historians who wish to rewrite the history of the Great War and make it seem like a fight for democracy and free will, which is all the more dubious after reading this book. That it has a Socialist slant is beyond dispute but he doesn't shirk from exposing the betrayal of the Socialist cause by the Bolsheviks and the great retreat of the Labour party from Bolshevism. I thought the last comment particularly summed up my feelings towards that war and all the wars since then when Alice Wheeldon, wrote from her prison cell. "The world is my country."
“To End All Wars” is a history of World War I from an alternative perspective. It provides a rare blend of warriors and pacifists, Western Front and home front, generals and conscientious objectors. Set mostly in England, it makes rare forays into the American socialist and pacifist movements, marvels at the triumph of the Russian workers and, in the end, chronicles the desertions and revolutionary movements in Germany.
Like all successful alternative views, “To End All Wars” raises questions, explicitly on its pages and in the readers’ minds. Who were the heroic and wise, the men who fought the war or the pacifists who opposed it? Who were the patriots, the soldiers in the trenches or the draft resisters in prisons? Where did the real interests of the masses lie, with their countries or with their fellow proletariat across Europe? Were they inspired or duped? Depending on their points of view, readers will answer those questions differently, and will raise others. I am left with one question in my mind. Was it military victory and the influx of American troops that brought an end to the war or the socialist ideology that spread from revolutionary Russia into Germany and was seeping into the Allied Armies? Ultimately was it the blowback from the sealed train that took Lenin to Russia that eroded public support for the war in Germany? That is a question that I will be exploring as we progress through the Great War Centennial. This book is not a starting point or a general history of the war but it is a thought provoking work for anyone who wonders why and how the Great War developed as it did.
on 9 October 2013
Many books have been written during span of one hundred years of Great War, and many would be written in future also.
why this war named to be ^Great War^ because Britain fought it for noble cause- for the noble cause of Belgium and France resulting disaster for the Great Britain. It was premonition at the death of Queen Victoria that it is doubtful if the Great Britain would continue to enjoy the days as enjoyed by her during heyday of Victoria. The Britain suffered a lot, lost the3 great empire due to this war, 192000 women became widowed and 400000 children orphaned. Even then P M lost his elder son, future PM lost his son every high and low participated in this war not for one year but for more than 4 years. Rudyard Kipling lost his only son John Kipling^ He was John to all the world , but he was all world to us^ This is why this book is unique. It is good that a chapter has been inserted in it namely ^Not this tide^
^Has anyone else has world of him
Not this tide
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing and this tide^ Rudyard Kipling from My boy Jack
This book is well researched and written in simple language showing how harmful this War was for Great Britain and how the people differed. It was the greatness of its people who endured the pain with fortitude, courage and dignity even other countries left in mid as Russia. I enjoyed the book and recommend that those who have literally taste should compulsorily read it
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 November 2014
Excellent book that I strongly recommend
Hugely demoralising to read though - how few intellectuals and political figures/parties stood by their professed principles when the war drums sounded. The Pankursts exhibited both extremes - one assumes the Establishment culture is so deeply rooted in the like
And as for the 'masses'.....
But wonderful to read of those (very few) who did have principles, clear sightedness and fought for them, albeit to great personal loss.
on 5 January 2014
I found this a refreshingly different approach to dealing with complexities of the causes and effects of the first World War. It was fascinating to view the war from the perspective of key individuals such as Charlotte Despard, her brother Sir John French, the Pankhursts and Rudyard Kipling. The relevance of background events such as the Boer War was something I had not thought about. The industrial unrest that was going on though-out Europe and troubles in the Suffragette Movement were also new to me. Adam Hochschild has written a most thought- provoking book which exposes in lucid and well-written prose the horrors of this war.
on 12 February 2014
This book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the history of resistance to World War 1. Hochschild is an American historian with a deep knowledge of resistance in Britain. He combines stories of those who opposed the war with stories of passionate advocates for war. Sometimes these are from the same families, for example Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst. The book contains many photographs and is very much the story of personalities. All of these people, whether conscientious objectors or those who supported them, show great courage and fortitude.
Hochschild shows scholarship and sympathy in this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 December 2012
Spellbinding! A truly great read and very informative. It gives an incredible perspective on the impact of the First World War and the shaping of our current society.