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World War One: A Short History Kindle Edition
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But this book has flaws. There remain irritating inaccuracies (eg he refers to the infamous Zimmerman telegram inviting the Mexicans to involve 'the Mikado of Japan' in their anti-US alliance - this is not a term generally used by any reputable academic to describe the Japanese emperor). But the biggest and most jaw-dropping failure of this book is the way it glosses over the murder of over half a million - and possibly as many as a million - Armenians in 1915. Stone has always been an apologist for Turkey, which is of course where he lives part of the time, but to describe the Armenian 'genocide' (I use this word advisedly) as a "few massacres of deportees" (my paraphrase of his position) without giving any degree of the scale of the atrocity is shocking in my view.
Nonetheless, the book is entertaining and Stone is not necessarily wrong. We are certainly offered many new insights and some fascinating new evidence. We learn a lot about Turkey - unsurprisingly, since Stone has lived (and been a professor) there for almost twenty years now.
There have been many books about what our grandparents called `the Great War': by Churchill, Lloyd George, John Terraine, A.J.P.Taylor, Garry Sheffield and a host of others. There are many lively controversies, though the debate may be somewhat less bitter than it used to be. It is doubtful if anything that academics write can dispel some of the more popular myths; but it is worth asking where Stone stands. The answer is that he doesn't really get involved in the debate. He has no time to do other than state the facts as he sees them; but of course, in doing so, he takes a position nonetheless.
He is firmly of the view that the war was of Germany's making - and even that she would have taken another opportunity to provoke one in 1914, if the Archduke had not been assassinated. He does not think that it was the fault of international anarchy, or international capital, or Imperialism, or the railway timetables. He does not think (pace Churchill) that the Central Powers ever had a `soft-underbelly', which could have been attacked at less cost than the Western Front. He does not think, pace Siegfried Sassoon, that there was ever a realistic chance of a negotiated peace with Imperial Germany: she was determined to deal with Russia before she got too powerful to be defeated (and she nearly succeeded at Brest-Litovsk). But he does think that German morale collapsed in 1918 and that the Germans were defeated in the field: the `stab in the back' was an invention of Ludendorff's, mistaken even at the time.
In my view, his judgements are sound, except that I fail to understand why he is so acerbic about the Treaty of Versailles. He clearly takes the conventional view that the Treaty sowed the seeds of the Second World War; but does he think that the peace terms were too punitive, or not punitive enough? It seems as if he thinks the former, but on the other hand, the terms were not nearly as harsh as those imposed by the Soviet Union in 1945, which (after 40 years of Soviet tyranny in the East) made Germany into the pacific economic superpower, and leader of the European Union, that she is today.
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