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59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very thorough account of the first 5 months of the war., 21 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914 (Hardcover)
I have always found the events leading up to WW1 more than a tad tiresome, with issues such as the Balkan Wars, the arms race, German militarism etc wearing down the reader. This book, however, has managed to lend these events a fresh feel that can appeal to those not keen to investigate the minutiae of such detail. Most of the book, in fact, deals primarily with the military campaigns of the first 5 months, with coverage of huge battles in Serbia, Poland and the Western Front. Mr Hastings also includes the war at sea and the fledgling struggles of airmen to show the worth of their machines. The brutality of the Germans in Belgium is correctly documented and the treatment of prisoners also gets a mention. Lastly, the home front gets coverage, alongside tales of women giving out the 'white feather' to men who had not joined up. In short, this is an admirable book that never loses sight of the human cost of war, with some often poignant and moving excerpts from letters used to illustrate the sacrifice of the men at the front.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Dec 2013 14:44:04 GMT
ben g says:
I can understand the bit about readers not being too keen to investigate all the details of the war, but I'm not sure that following the Daily Mail will get them any closer to the truth.

Posted on 14 Dec 2013 06:37:08 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Dec 2013 06:37:38 GMT
Some of the other pluses of the book is that Hastings comes out fairly decisively on where principal responsibility lies for actually starting the war. This is an issue that many historians try to fudge. He's also pretty clear about the realism of Haig's strategic judgment that Northern France and Belgium were the decisive theater and the consequent inevitability of attritional warfare. He also gives more coverage to events in Eastern Europe once the war started than one usually finds in general books about the war other than narratives that are devoted to individual theaters. Finally, he recognizes the immense effort made by France in the opening stages of the war...ultimately it was the French who stopped the Germans in 1914.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2013 07:09:39 GMT
Bobby Smith says:
Good points. In many ways the French in WW1 served the same purpose as the Russians did for the Allies in WW2; blood on the soil.

Posted on 9 Jan 2014 17:38:19 GMT
Mr. D. Bain says:
Thanks for a very good review, of an exceptional book. Hastings does his usual exemplary job of approaching old material from new directions, and in so doing gives the reader new insights into how awful this conflict actually was for the millions who were caught up in it. My one and only gripe with this otherwise perfect tome is Hastings' habit of throwing in numerous quotes in French, seemingly on the understanding that his readers are familiar with the language (I myself am not). By contrast, when he quotes phrases in German (which I actually do understand to a fair degree) he offers a translation. I have read many books over the years that also assume the reader to understand French. Most however, were written in bygone times when virtually all 'educated' English speakers would have recieved some French language instruction as part of their formal education. In today's multicultural UK society French is merely one of a number of languages taught in schools.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jan 2014 20:09:15 GMT
Bobby Smith says:
Sehr gut, ich liebe die Deutschpunk! Thanks for your kind comments, I share your opinion re French, a language that has always escaped me. May I also point you in the direction of any book by Robert Kershaw, another top rate writer.

Posted on 19 Jan 2014 19:33:56 GMT
Bobby, when Foreign Secretary E. Grey announced the government's position in his House of Commons speech of 3 August 1914, he failed to explain to parliament what the 1839 Treaty of London was all about. Instead, quoting former Prime Minister Gladstone, he said: "There is, I admit, the obligation of the Treaty. It is not necessary, nor would time permit me, to enter into the complicated question of the nature of the obligations of that treaty."

If the "obligations" allegedly established under that treaty were so clear-cut as to warrant going to war, why was it so complicated to spell them out? Because they were more fictitious than factual, that's why.

Don't you think it's time to tell people that the war was not over Belgian neutrality but over Anglo-American interests in Africa and other parts of the world?

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Oct 2014 10:53:16 GMT
Last edited by the author on 30 Oct 2014 10:53:27 GMT
Tim62 says:
@Political Dissident
"Don't you think it's time to tell people that the war was not over Belgian neutrality but over Anglo-American interests in Africa and other parts of the world?"

That would be No - because it wasn't
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