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With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 Hardcover – 26 May 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 26 May 2011
£99.02 £11.30
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780713998405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713998405
  • ASIN: 0713998407
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.8 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 105,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


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 ... [With Our Backs to the Wall] promises to be the outstanding military history published in 2011 (Tony Barber Financial Times)

This is a familiar enough story, but it can never have been so authoritatively told as it is here. It is impossible, in fact, to exaggerate how impressive this book is ... A grasp of issues and a mastery of detail that builds into an irrefutable analysis of not just why the war was won and lost, but why both sides were prepared to end it when they did (David Crane The Spectator)

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)

Brilliant and comprehensive ... a major contribution (A. W. Purdue Times Higher Education)

An immensely useful study, emphasising the crucial importance of morale, political stability and trust (Max Egremont Literary Review)

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 (The Sunday Telegraph)

The strength of the book lies in his ability to weave together astute analysis of the antagonists' abilities and weaknesses ... Told with verve and analytical vigour, Stevenson's book is a compelling and authoritative study of one of the most significant turning points in 20th-century military history (Robert Gerwath The Irish Times)

What David Stevenson achieves is a magisterial single volume synthesis of all the themes to deliver a punchy, incisive reboot of WW1 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 (Warships International Fleet Review)

An outstanding contribution ... Stevenson analyses in great depth and detail the reasons why the Western Allies, having survived in a series of disasters, were able finally to turn the table on the Central Powers, effectively Germany, in 1918 (Frank Ellis Quarterly Review)

A monumental study deserving of a wide readership by scholars and generalists alike (Library Journal)

From the Inside Flap

Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in 1940, 'During the first four years of the last war the Allies experienced nothing but disaster and disappointment. That was our constant fear: one blow after another, terrible losses, frightful dangers... we repeatedly asked ourselves the question: How are we going to win?'.

At the end of 1917 Britain and France faced a strategic nightmare. Their great offensives against Germany had been calamitous, leaving hundreds of thousands of young men dead and wounded for negligible territorial gains. Despite America's entry into the war the US army remained tiny, the Italian army had been routed, and Russia had dropped out of the conflict. The Central Powers now dominated Central and Eastern Europe, and Germany could move more than forty divisions to the Western Front. Yet only one year later, on 11 November 1918, the fighting ended in a decisive Allied victory.

In his new book David Stevenson retells the story of the final year of the First World War. Drawing on original research in the archives of seven countries, he goes to the roots of this dramatic reversal of fortune, analysing the reasons for Allied success and the collapse of Germany and its partners. Everything from food supply to finance, strategy to technology, logistics to morale, is explored in an assessment that lays bare the nerve-racking decisions taken on both sides and the sheer uncertainty faced by their leaders. Ironically Stevenson traces Germany's 1918 disaster to 'Operation Michael', the great spring offensive that tested the British army to the uttermost and led to Field Marshal Haig's famous 'With our backs to the wall' order to his troops to fight to the last man.

Global in its canvas and examining every fighting theatre, this is a compelling study of one of the most significant turning points in modern history.

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21 customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

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