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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking if a bit suspect in detail
I read this interesting and thought-provoking book when it was first published, and revisited it last weekend when I needed to look up some data. It's spoiled a bit for me by his chapter on tactics and the body count, where a lot of his writing strikes me as suspect in detail.

He lists as "Excuses" for high Allied casualties the fact that the Germans were...
Published on 11 July 2011 by MR. PAUL J. BARTON

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting evaluation but not his best work
The Pity of War seems like a good idea, re-evaluating the First World War and challenging the pre-conceived ideas. However, it is let down by a problematic structure which doesn't make it very readable and the fact that his arguments do not seem fully developed and all seem to point towards an already decided conclusion.
Published on 9 May 2007 by HBH


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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Such bias and lack of objectivity, 24 Feb 2013
This review is from: The Pity of War (Paperback)
The good points in this book are the photos, the lists and the maps. The bad points all fall within the overly subjective narrative style of Ferguson himself.
I've seen him on television documentaries and he makes the odd insightful conclusion and he is the darling of Channel 4 and the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 but he seems to write for that certain demographic and doesn't seem to want to balance his arguments with any opposing viewpoint (rather the job of an objestive history).
In "Pity of War" he seems a throwback to the opinions of A.J.P. Taylor (whom he greatly admires) and seems to shoehorn statistics and facts to fit his overarching thesis: The Germans had the best troops, tactics and generals. Most of these opinions stem from the histories published in the 60s-80s when Ferguson would have been forming his viewpoints and many of which are now discredited.
Unlike Peter Hart, for instance, Ferguson seems to forget that the allies actually won the war and would prefer to dwell on statistical comparisons of casualties and war materials to prove otherwise.
Provocative - yes, thought provoking - yes. Reliable and unbiased - ???
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More essays than a book, 10 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pity of War (Hardcover)
This is a rather strange book. It is like a series of essays on various aspects of the First World War. The author aims at dispelling several of what he sees as myths about the conflict. These are (1)That Militarism played a big part in the war breaking out. (2)That the war was popular (3)That Germany wanted the war (4)That Germany used its economic resources badly in the war (5)That starvation led to the collapse of the central powers (6)That fighting men found their life intolerable
Some of the book is interesting and well argued. Some of it now is reasonably well accepted generally. For instance a number of commentators have accepted that the weakness of Germany was one reason for the war. Russia at the time of the war was completing an armaments program and a railway system which would bring its armies to Germanys borders within a short time. War for Germany in 1914 was seen as regrettable but better than facing a much stronger army in a few more years.The arguments about the amount of money that each of the nations spent on arms is interesting. The author suggests strongly that if any country was obsessed with the military it was France rather than Germany.
Other parts of the book are less well argued. It is clear that the war led to a mixed response from those who fought in it. Some such as Ernst Junger found it the most important experience in their life. In England it has generally been accepted that the high casualties brought widespread disillusionment. The book tries to argue that most who served in the war either enjoyed it or where not to negatively effected. To do this the writer lists a number of books that came out of he war which were jingoistic and patriotic.
This however is superficial. Germans emerged from the war feeling reasonably positive about it. They had generally been successful. After the war large numbers of Germans joined the Friekorps units putting down left wing rebellions and trying to preserve the German borders against the newly independent states set up after the war. The allies however had spent most of the war losing.
If one reads any account of the Second World War the it is clear the effect that the First had on military thought. Canada who as a dominion sent the largest contingent to Europe in the First War refused to send a significant number of troops in the second. They instead assisted England by the provision of convey escorts. England itself built up its air force as an alternative to fighting a land war in Europe. If one reads the biographies of English military commanders there was a real fear of putting their men through the sorts of experiences that they as junior officers had gone through in the first war.
The book is interesting to anyone who is familiar with the war but would probably be incomprehensible to someone who picks it up as their first book on the war.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hard work but very rewarding, 3 Mar 2002
This review is from: The Pity of War (Paperback)
This book is well written although hard to read at times; it is an academic study of socio-political sides of the Great War, but the authors extensive research comes through well. It is quite refreshing to read about the War from a different perspective, in so much as there are not that many books of this genre. Worth sticking at and I feel a valuable addition to any collection on the First World War.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another Academic Wonderland, 7 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pity of War (Hardcover)
To make a reputation in the world, one has to come up with new ideas. Sometimes they are closer to Hitler's BIG LIE than anything else.
While there is much interesting in the book, he fails to convince. After all, the Germans still invaded a neutral country. This area was also one that England had fought for before. I could go on but one more point must be presented.
Perhaps it was destiny that Germany become the dominant nation of Europe and the First World War only delayed the results. But the liberal, democratic society of today is better than the aggressive, insecure German nation that existed in 1914.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dense, difficult and not wholly convincing, 23 Nov 2011
By 
oldhasbeen (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pity of War (Paperback)
The Pity of War is another WW1 "revisionist" book, albeit one with a very different agenda and conclusions from the revisionist works of authors such as Richard Holmes, Gordon Corrigan & Trevor Wilson.

It starts off well, with some quite moving writing about his family and WW1, but subsequent chapters are mostly disappointing - I found his arguments were frequently superficial and muddled. I must confess I gave up on a few chapters. He scored a few points in the chapter about German repayments on reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles ("Can't Pay! Won't Pay.")

One of the big problems with this book is that Niall Ferguson is not primarily a military historian - he writes from quite a lofty perspective, but he doesn't have the understanding of the nitty-gritty on the battlefield *read Richard Holmes, or Gary Sheffield for this.)
The author obviously intended to write a controversial book; in this he succeeded, but whether he's written a good book is another question.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and well presented., 17 Feb 2002
This review is from: The Pity of War (Paperback)
...This is an important book in its genre and contains a wealth of good information and insight to the period. I was particularly impressed with his analysis of Grey's pre-war policies as this provided a fresh insight into his thinking and Liberal policies in the pre-war period. Any book which seeks to make us think is invaluable, and Ferguson has certainly provided that.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a sane view of an insane war, 28 Jun 2013
By 
Mrs. P. Czyzak-dannenbaum "Peggy" (London, Miami and roving) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pity of War (Kindle Edition)
While slightly academic in style, this is nonetheless a compelling, clear and logical analysis of the events leading up to the First World War and the very horrible mistakes that were made on all sides. It is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how very bad events are the results of often very small, stupid mistakes. And if you think this could not happen again, compare the rise of China and the skirmishes over some of the off shore islands and ask yourselves how like Sarajevo this could be.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 7 May 2013
This review is from: The Pity of War (Paperback)
A wonderful read, detailed when necessary and the author's extensive knowledge and research offer a unique insight. A must read for anyone interested in World War One.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Pity of War, 5 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Pity of War (Paperback)
Brilliantly considered revision of WW1. Made me think about everything I previously had thought about the Great War and had been taught in school.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killing became an end in itself., 26 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pity of War (Hardcover)
Ferguson's courageous history of the first world war explains how sadistic, relentless killing quickly became an end in itself. And WWI led directly to worse barbarity and terror, so that in 1999 the world faces virtually the same problem in the Balkans which existed in 1914. In explaing how the first great war came about Ferguson stands head and shoulders above the "victor's historians" who fill the textbooks and befuddle political leaders. He finds much to blame conservative British leadership for. And nothing kind to say about America's role. Unfortunately - and this is not Ferguson's fault - he cannot explain how the pointless savagery could have been avoided or cut short. Senseless murder may simply be an instinct; if so, it's time for all of us to face up to that. Forget heroics; war, like all murder, is failure. There are no "good wars." The value of Ferguson's effort cannot be overstated, but it is only a beginning.
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The Pity of War
The Pity of War by Niall Ferguson (Paperback - 26 Mar 2009)
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