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Thomas Brandtner "Hobbyhistoriker" (Brüssel)
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The Western Question: In Greece and Turkey, a Study in the Contact of Civilisations (Classic Reprint)
The Western Question: In Greece and Turkey, a Study in the Contact of Civilisations (Classic Reprint)
by Arnold J. Toynbee
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.22

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of timeless actuality - a true classic, 27 May 2014
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When writing this book, Arnold Toynbee was not yet the world-famous philosopher of history and civilisation. He was a young strategy expert turned university professor turned newspaper correspondent, with a sharp eye, an independent mind, an ability for dispassionate and even cold analysis combined with a very real compassion for human suffering. He had worked as an analyist for British intelligence in World War One, and as a backroom advisor to the British government during the Paris peace conferences. He also was a historian of rare vision and erudition. Like the equally brilliant economist John Meynard Keynes, Toynbee rapidly became completely disillusioned with British post-war policy (not to speak of the poliicies of the other victorious nations). When confronted with the tragedy of the ultimately disastrous Greek attempt to bring her "Great Idea" into reality and carve out a Greek enclave in Asia minor from the wreckage of the Ottoman empire, Toynbee was able to see the ensuing struggle with the Turkish national movement under Mustapha Kemal in a wider global perspective: in his analysis, Greece had become first a pawn and then a victim of Western policies that had no clear aim or purpose, but were simply pursued because of the perception that the West had overwhelming force and could impose any solution it liked on the unfortunate rest of the world. These policies had a tendency to always fail in mid-stream because the West, when confronted with some difficulties, discovered it had no real interest in the region in question and abandoned both its ambitious ventures and its unfortunate client states. Replace "Greece" with "Kosovo", "Georgia", "Libya", "Syria" or "Ukraine", "Turkey" with "Serbia" or "Russia", and "Britain" with "the USA", and you can see a pattern repeating itself. But apart from this geopolitical angle and its deep insights into the meaning of "civilisation", this book contains a wealth of fascinating facts about the momentous events it is describing: on Greece, Turkey, Ionia, World War One and the unenlightened post-war settlements that made World War II possible and have been fittingly described by David Fromkin (in his book about the demise of the Ottoman empire) as "A peace to end all peace".


The Russian Origins of the First World War
The Russian Origins of the First World War
by Sean Mcmeekin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.50

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and courageous, 23 July 2012
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Sean McMeekin has done the history of World War One a great favour by adopting a resolutely Eastern perspective on it: for him, not unlike David Fromkin in his famous "A Peace to End All Peace", World War One should actually be called "the War of the Ottoman Succession". While this leads to a certain underestimation of the responsibility of the other European players for the outbreak of the war, as well as a clear underestimation of the Serbian role, it throws the Russian part into sharp perspective. It is important to learn that Russia had in fact implemented a partial mobilisation already in early 1914, as it is interesting to note that the annexation of Istanbul and the Straits was a Russian war aim even when Turkey was still neutral. In fact, McMeekin makes a plausible case that German support for the tumbling Ottoman empire in the years before World War One more than any other factor contributed to Russian hostility against Germany. What McMeekin fails to explain, however, is why Russian operations in World War One never actually included a strategic offensive with the aim of capturing "Tsargrad" (which would have certainly made more sense than the Kerensky offensive in July 1917). As it was, Russian offensives were mainly directed against Austria-Hungary, with an only secondary emphasis against Germany. It seems that the influence on the "Western Front school" was fully as important in Russia as it was in Great Britain and France, and the highest Russian military decision-makers seem to have been convinced that "the shortest road to Constantinople runs via Berlin".
One issue that is certain to touch many a raw nerve is Dr. McMeekin's treatment of the Armenian massacres of 1915, which he strictly puts into the perspective of the Armenian uprising (aided and abetted, but finally betrayed by Czarist Russia) against Turkey. While it studiously avoids the question whether this was a "genocide" or not (Dr. McMeeking is teaching at a Turkish university), this part at least contributes to a better understanding of both sides of the current controversy by elucidating the historical context of the massacres.


The Real German War Plan, 1904-14
The Real German War Plan, 1904-14
by Terence Zuber
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.94

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing and convincing, 23 July 2012
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In this book, written on the basis of all surviving evidence about German war planning, Terence Zuber shows convincingly that German strategy on the Western front did not include a plan for a decisive strategic victory against France in 1914, period. This was because the German General Staff was convinced that Germany lacked the numerical superiority required for such an attempt. Zuber shows that the famous "Schlieffen Plan" was in fact a theoretical study which contained a proof of its own impossibility, because Schlieffen included more than twenty non-existing German divisions in his "plan". This was a desperate, and ultimately unsuccessful, plea for Germany to introduce a more complete system of conscription and to raise the units Schlieffen believed were necessary for achieving a rapid victory against France. The actual German war plan, put into effect by Schlieffen's successor, the younger Moltke, is shown by Zuber to have been based on the concept of the counterstroke, waiting for the French to take the offensive first and thus reveal their forces. The result of this sober approach to the realities rather than the mythology of German strategic planning in 1914 is a reappraisal that may be disappointing not only to many armchair strategists but was something most actors on both sides wanted to hide after the final German defeat in World War One: namely, that there was no "failure of the Schlieffen plan" in 1914, simply because there was no "Schlieffen plan" in the first place, and, as a consequence, there also was no "miracle on the Marne", as the German offensive had already run out of steam when the Allied counterattack happened. Zuber concludes that there only was a very fleeting chance for a decisive German victory in the West, which came because of French tactical inferiority and occurred much earlier than the battle of the Marne, already during the "battle of the frontiers". This unique chance was missed by faulty German operational staff work. This is a theme expanded upon in Zuber's other works on "The Mons Myth" and "Ardennes 1914". At the same time, Zuber shows that the battle of Tannenberg was essentially a well-rehearsed, standard German riposte to the suicidally predictable Russian attack by the armies of Samsonov and Rennenkampf. Confirming the earlier research results by Aleksandr Solshenizyn, Zuber shows that the greatest personal merit for the victory at Tannenberg is due neither to Hindenburg nor to Ludendorff but to Hermann von François, commander of I German army corps, who delayed his counterattack sufficiently long to hit not the Russian flank, but their rear, thus leading to the complete disintegration of Samsonov's army.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2014 8:34 PM BST


The Battle of the Frontiers: Ardenne (Battles & Campaigns)
The Battle of the Frontiers: Ardenne (Battles & Campaigns)
by Terence Zuber
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock-solid, and highly fascinating, 23 July 2012
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Terence Zuber has used all available German sources meticulously and intelligently, and has then confronted them with the Allied standard literature on the war of movement on the Western front in 1914. That means he is better documented with regard to the German side of things, but his knowledge of Allied affairs is detailed enough to provide a balanced picture. As a former active U.S. army officer, his main points are that an army cannot expect to perform in war what it has not trained in peacetime, that courage is no substitute for competence, and that wars are finally decided by fighting, not by maneuver, which is why tactics is ultimately more decisive than the operational or strategic arts. All these points are obviously valid, and are often conveniently forgotten. But theory apart, Terence Zuber excels in bringing the mobile warfare in 1914 back to life in its full horror and glory. He is also debunking joyfully all the rubbish that has been written about French bayonet charges against German trenches and barbed wire in August 1914. For the wargamer, this book is a treasure-trove of interesting scenarios with fog-of-war and confusion playing their proper parts.

I have also read his book on "The Mons Myth", which is equally excellent, and would sincerely hope that Mr. Zuber will one day publish a sequel covering the remaining part of the Western front fighting in 1914, that is, the battle of the Marne until the point when trench warfare set in.


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