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With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 by [Stevenson, David]
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With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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An immensely useful study, emphasizing the crucial importance of morale, political stability and trust.--Max Egremont"Literary Review" (05/01/2011)

What David Stevenson achieves is a magisterial single volume synthesis of all the themes to deliver a punchy, incisive reboot of WWI history that is never a dull read...In saluting the unsung elements of victory, Stevenson ensures his big themes book is myth-busting in its small detail, too.--Charles Strathdee"Warships" (07/01/2011)

While the Great War is hardly a neglected subject, its final phase has not previously been the subject of a single-author study that gives equal attention to both sides of the conflict. This book fills that void. Drawing on archival research in several countries, Stevenson explores the events and decisions that led to Germany's defeat in 1918, analyzing the reasons for Allied success and the collapse of the Central Powers. The strength of the book lies in his ability to weave together astute analysis of the antagonists' abilities and weaknesses, from food supply to finance, strategy to technology, and logistics to morale...Stevenson delivers on his promise to write a definitive account of the military history of the Great War's endgame.--Robert Gerwarth"Irish Times" (05/28/2011)

Stevenson brings to his study a formidable authority and mastery of the sources, and judgments that seem admirably measured and nuanced.--Max Hastings"Sunday Times" (05/15/2011)

Wide-ranging and clearly argued...This is, as one would expect from a historian of Stevenson's great learning and analytical power, a masterly study of the year that began with Allied demoralization and defeat, yet ended with the complete collapse of the Central Powers. Dragged down by the desertion of its allies, undermined from within by strikes, pacifist propaganda, mutinies and finally red revolution, Germany's tired, hungry and overstretched front-line armies were in no state--physically or psychologically--to resist superior Allied technology and numbers. Allied victory ended the war--but, as Stevenson brilliantly shows, it could have had a very different outcome.--Nigel Jones"The Telegraph" (06/07/2011)

Brilliant and comprehensive...One of the many merits of Stevenson's book is his analysis of the sustainability of the war efforts of both sides in terms of the development and production of weaponry, food supplies, finance and morale, and the way resources interacted with, and weakened or strengthened, the ability of armies...What weight should be given to the failure of the German offensive as opposed to other, more long-term considerations in determining the defeat of the Central powers? A major debate among historians of the "total wars" of the 20th century concerns where the balance lies between the battlefield and the strength of combatants' economies in determining the eventual victors, and Stevenson's comprehensive study is a major contribution to this debate.--A. W. Purdue"Times Higher Education" (05/26/2011)

A fascinating military narrative...One lesson of "With Our Backs" to the Wall is that a war ends less than "cleanly" when one side, instead of overcoming the enemy, mostly outlasts it...[A] masterly study.--William Anthony Hay"Wall Street Journal" (09/17/2011)

While most accounts of World War I focus on the precipitating events at the beginning, with the complex network of entangled alliances, Stevenson instead offers a "comprehensive investigation" into the final year of the war. He presents readers with an account that judiciously balances narrative and analysis, beginning not with Russian/Austrian posturing in the Balkans, but with offensive maneuvering on both sides in 1918. Stevenson also considers events on the home fronts, technological innovations that industrialized mass slaughter, and the economies of scale that withstood the strains produced by war. This is a monumental study deserving of a wide readership by scholars and generalists alike.--Brian Odom"Library Journal (starred review)" (10/15/2011)

Stevenson's book is a masterful, lucid analysis that does not simply tell the tale [of World War I]. It also considers in detail the factors of technology, morale, supply, economics, and politics that contributed to Germany's defeat.--Lawrence D. Freedman"Foreign Affairs" (03/01/2012)

Although the tragedy of the "lights going out" has been endlessly examined since the summer of 1914, the end of the Great War has received considerably less attention. Stevenson does much to rectify this imbalance in his brilliant new study, an analysis-cum-narrative of the epochal events of 1918. He draws on the most important academic studies of the war, personal memoirs, printed primary sources, and his own expertise, honed over almost 30 years of work, to craft a sweeping, comprehensive explanation of how and why the war turned, and turned so suddenly, from stalemate and even possible German victory to triumph for the Western Allies. Following two finely wrought narrative chapters detailing the end of the war, Stevenson examines in rich detail the "new warfare," personnel and morale, control of the seas, wartime economies, and the home fronts. In every area--the volume is superbly researched--the liberal-socialist hybrid systems of the West proved superior to the more traditional and authoritarian Central Powers, which exhausted their remaining resources in the reckless German offensives of 1918.--G. P. Cox"Choice" (04/01/2012)

Stevenson makes an important contribution to our understanding of the events of 1918. This is a major scholarly achievement, bringing together an analysis of the events of 1918 unlike any other book available.--Michael S. Neiberg, Author Of "dance Of The Furies: Europe And The Outbreak Of World War I"

A magnificent and exhaustive account of the war's final year...Stevenson has a deserved reputation as one of the world's leading authorities on the war...Drawing on numerous original sources in French, German, Italian and English, Stevenson displays masterly scholarship and his prose is crisp and vivid throughout...A book that promises to be the outstanding military history published in 2011.--Tony Barber"Financial Times" (05/27/2011)

About the Author

David K. Stevenson, MD is Vice Dean, Senior Associate Dean, and Harold K. Faber Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine; and Director, Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford, CA.
Philip Sunshine, MD, is Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA.
Ronald Cohen, MD, is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 38357 KB
  • Print Length: 696 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (26 May 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052RHI2Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #312,712 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For those who are familiar with 1914-1918: The History of the First World WarStevenson's book on the last year of the First World War is another example of this historian's scholarship and research. The subject-matter had been well-trawled by almost every writer on this period. But what sets this book apart is the treatment that he gives to other aspects of the war such as the economy,the home fronts and the human factor which underpin the war. This is not another re-hash of the well-worn battles; this is a sensitive and scholarly analysis of the subject and wins a deserving place in the historiography of the First World War. 1918 was certainly a turning-point in the history of the world, and Stevenson explains why.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has changed my perspective of the First Worl War.
It brought home to me the enormous scale of logistical problems. The movements of divisions by sea, by rail, the importance of rivers and canals and the part played by tanks and aircraft, much greater thaan I had imagined.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has joined my small library of books on the Great War.

There are some military accounts - particularly the more recent revisionist histories that emphasise the difficulties that the generals faced in commanding and winning battles, and their flexibility in adopting new solutions.

This book is different.

The first third gives an overview of the fighting during 1918.

The rest of the book analyses the technical, economic and political background that stood behind the military effort.

Highly recommended for this detailed analysis.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading many books on the Great War it is not often that a volume such as this appears which is so thought-provoking and informative. 1918 is still, in many ways, the poor relation in terms of First World War literature but David Stevenson has written a stunning account relating not only the military history of the final year of the conflict, but describing how this was inevitably linked to the total war which matched economy against economy. I could almost hear the creaking as countries strained to overcome their opponents. Not only this, but the political manoeuvring behind the scenes aimed, not only at undermining enemy regimes, but also in promoting national interests with a view to the post-war world, is spelled out clearly. The internal stresses between the Central Powers has been mentioned by other authors before but those relating to the Allies are here given an emphasis which is particularly enlightening. Tremendous.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the title of my review suggests, after reading this book I came away with the belief that there was nothing left to know about how, why and where the Great War ended. I've read altogether well over 50 books on the subject and my facination never falters. While I would recommend a whole host of other authors, from Gary Sheffield, Prior & Wilson, John Terraine, for me the man of the moment on this subject has to be David Stevenson. His grasp of the vastness of the subject has been shown previously in his broader 1914-1918 book, but this really nails down to the detail and full analysis that seems to lack in most other books on the closing stages of the war.
Stevenson covers the actual military aspect rather quickly than most would like but really this is because Germany was only defeated militarilly when all of the other facets that enable nations to survive such a calamity are met and overcome, and sometimes then it is still not clear such as it was in 1918.
For me this is why 1918 is far more interesting than 1945, because of this historical ambiguity and the relative swiftness of the ending after 4 years of stalemate.
Stevenson explains piece by piece how the war affected the social, political, economic, logistical, tactical & technological developments of each warring nation, and right across to the Balkans and also Turkey whose involvement you are able to see in the complete picture of events as they unfold. Some of the details on shipping etc are quite dry to read but its not long before you are brought back to the mayhem of the front line to put it all in context.
This is a must for students and those interested in the subject that want to know detail, its so much more than military history, it should be seen as a bookend on the 1914-1918 conflict to sit there with Tuchman's 'Guns of August' at the other end. Although totally different in their format, they are the best on the years that they cover for different reasons.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is beyond doubt the most detailed Great War work that I have ever read.
It covers every conceivable aspect of the war in 1918 from the point of view of each of the belligerents. A very academic work that shows the immense amount of research and hard work that must have gone into producing what I believe will be essential reading for serious students of the war.
This is not the easiest of books to read, however it will certainly be one that I will dip into again and again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At the end of 1917 France and Great Britain were facing a strategical nightmare: their several offensives on the Western Front on 1916-1917 had been just a continuous series of crushing defeats; Russia was out of the war because of the October's Revolution; Italy's Army had just been routed with the loss of her North-eastern provinces; US Army arrival , on the Western Front, was scheduled to be on Spring-Summer 1918, and however it was an untried army for this kind of war.
The author tells you the history of this last year of war that could have bring the victory to the Central Empires and instead, it brought to them a total defeat..
This book take care to talk to you about all the aspects of this war , including the war at sea and its effects on the home fronts.
A wonderful book.
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