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25 of 25 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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and engaging, answers a few very important and controversial issues., 12 Feb 2013
By 
D. Schotman "D.E.B. Schotman" (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Pity of War (Paperback)
My first book of Niall Ferguson, who is claimed by some to have inherited Taylor's mantle and would in fact be a good book to read after The Struggle for Mastery of Europe. In the Pity of War, Ferguson attempts to re-assess several we'll established paradigm's and tried to investigate to what extend there is sufficient evidence for this claims. As such the book is separated into several chapters that all together try to answer 10 of these questions. Some, I think highly controversial and most have (what do you expect from someone who openly supported Mitt Romney) stirred a lot of controversy. Especially the first 100 pages which tries to give a new perspective on the Role of GB in WW1, and comes to the conclusion that Germany was not the aggressor but Britain was so by taking the blame, Germany was perhaps `Self-Flagellating' herself. Another one was about the overall idea that men were proud, happy and willing to go to war to fight for their country. Time after time Ferguson, comes with a ton of references, documents, and interestingly books, that nearly almost prove exactly the opposite. Considering the fact that in the beginning of the book he takes a clear stance against Fischer, one could argue that even if history is written by the loser, they still have it wrong, and if it is written by the winner, it can sometimes take a long time before they eventually got it right. A very good book to read along other books on WW1, which can keep you sharp and remind you that no matter how persuasive what is been presented does not always mean it is also true. As such we can actually wonder the same about this book too. History is indeed a never ending and never finishing process.
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45 of 69 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Is this book really necessary?, 12 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Pity of War (Paperback)
This work gives the impression of being the result of a very long literature search, undertaken in conditions far removed from the battlefield, and conducive to wisdom after the event, and with little feeling or understanding for the passions, good and bad, that actually motivate flesh and blood people. The writer has obviously trawled through forests of data and statistics and is determined to get as much of them as possible on to the printed page, ideally to support "controversial" viewpoints. Despite this repeated emphasis on provision of "shocking" theses, the effect is in the end somewhat predictable and indeed boring. No matter how the statistics are piled up, arguments that make Britain as culpable as Germany for the escalation, if not indeed the origin, of the war, or that a German victory might have brought about something like the current European Union, are hard to swallow. The arguments around casualty statistics as a rationale for who should have been the final victor have an uncomfortable affinity with Falkenhayn's Verdun strategy and demonstrate a lack of feeling for factors such as morale and commitment. The uncomfortable reality for those who argue as the present author is that in the end it was these factors - as summarised in Haig's "backs to the wall" order of 1918 and embodied in the bloody-minded determination of thousands of ordinary men - that led to the German defeat. The sections of the book that discuss behaviour in the field, and particularly the decision whether to surrender, fail to convey any convincing understanding for how men act in extremis, and though many individual memoirs are quoted one suspects that another selection might have as easily supported an alternative view. Readers who feel as dissatisfied with this book as the present reviewer - who can only ask if it was needed in the first place - may enjoy John Terraine's splendid 1980 study "The Smoke and the Fire", subtitled "Myths and Anti-Myths of War, 1865-1945", which addresses some of the same issues. On the British role in WWI Robin Neillands' recently published "The Great War Generals on the Western Front" cannot be praised highly enough.
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4 of 7 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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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
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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7 of 13 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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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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