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RE: World War I Books

 
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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 12:03:00 PM   
micha1100

 

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Since I read several positive reviews about Tuchman's "Guns of August" I feel compelled to add my own opinion: the book is well-written but should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Tuchman is no historian and it shows. Time and again she makes factual mistakes and misrepresentations. For example a recurring theme is that the French cause is just because they were fighting to "free" the French province of Alsace-Lorraine that had been occupied by Germany after the war 1870/71. Tuchman somehow fails to mention that the region had been German for many centuries and had only been annexed by France after the Thirty-Years-War, and in 1871 still more than half of the inhabitants were native German speakers, so the issue is by no means as clear-cut as one is led to believe by this book. Also, the fact that after the end of the war France not only took back Alsace-Lorraine but also original German territories (and would have liked to annex still more) does not exactly prove the French cause a noble one.
One also does not learn from this book that both sides wanted the war, and Germany only was the aggressor because it had to strike quickly to have any chance (btw the French had no qualms to invade German territory at the start of the war, they just were not very successful doing it).
But the worst for me was that Germans are always described as blood-thirsty, uncivilised ogres. I understand that Tuchman, being Jewish and writing a relatively short time after WWII, had no love for Germany but her obvious bias completely spoiled the book for me.

Btw I am German myself so I guess I'm somewhat more sensitive in that respect but I do believe that while "Guns of August" makes for an interesting read it should not be used to form one's opinion about the conflict. Actually, to really understand what happened in 1914 one has to know the European history of the decades or even centuries before, but I think not many historians disagree with the short version that the Great war was simply a struggle between two power blocs for control, with no side unilaterally to blame.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 12:53:43 PM   
Jestre

 

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Totally agree about GOA, it is pretty much just the official British propaganda line taken during the war and wrapped up in the pretty package of Tuchmans writing ability. Extremely biased as is many British authors views of WWI. Churchill and Liddell Hart were two of the more fair British historians of the War prior to the modern day writers.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 5:35:18 PM   
jwduquette1

 

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This title may have been mentioned above already, but a month or so ago I finished reading "Three Armies on the Somme" by William Philpott. It may have contributed to me buying CtGW. It's not the page turner that "Castles of Steel" is, but it's good coverage of the Somme as well as an in-depth assessment of "attrition" as a national strategy. Perhaps Philpott is a little too cold blooded in his treatment of attrition as a viable strategy. His points are probably mostly valid or perhaps even all valid in this regard. But I must admit that I found the author's disassociation with the human element associated with an "attritional strategy" a little disconcerting.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 7:09:06 PM   
Aurelian

 

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I liked Toland's 1918. Silly me lost it years ago.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 8:19:47 PM   
warspite1


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Thanks for all the advice. I have got two books recommended above (I don't think one was mentioned).

I have bought Martin Gilbert's The First World War - A Complete History, for the overview. I also got Niall Fergusson's The Pity of War. I like the work he has done for TV so thought this might be interesting. As my first love is the navy, I also got Castles of Steel. Just need to finish the last two chapters of Churchill & Sea Power, and then I'll attack WWI. Lots of reading ahead

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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 9:04:41 PM   
wodin


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Supposed to be abit one sided the Martin Gilbert book.Think you should have gone for A World Undone. The Pity of War is a good book though.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 11:01:12 PM   
CLEVELAND

 

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I'm currently reading A Naval History of World War I and even though I'm only a couple dozen pages in, it's been an interesting read. Especially since it covers all the navies and gives some insight into Austrian/Italian/Greek/Turk/Russian naval strategy.

http://www.amazon.com/Naval-History-World-War-Warfare/dp/1857284984


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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 11:06:20 PM   
CLEVELAND

 

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This looks interesting as well, and is available at my local library.

http://www.amazon.com/Pyrrhic-Victory-French-Strategy-Operations/dp/0674027264

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RE: World War I Books - 12/4/2012 11:10:07 PM   
Johnnie

 

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Jestre:

The Guns of August is NOT British propaganda, nor is it even pro-British. Tuchman goes out of her way to critisize the way the 1914 campaign has been remembered in Britain. I quote: [F.E. Smith "laid the foundations of a myth. . . . It was as if the French Army had been an adjunct somewhere in the offing. In fact the BEF was never at any time in the first month in contact with more than three German corps out of a total of over thirty. . . . but the idea that it 'bore the weight of the blow' was perpetuated in all subsequent British accounts . . ." She is particularly critical of Sir John French.

micha1100:

Ms. Tuchman ridiculed all of the principals for their stupidity, where they deserved it, no matter their nationality. Nor did I come away with the impression that she thought the French had a better claim to Alsace. I agree that she was toughest of all on the Germans. This was, however, written in 1962, before the age of political correctness. And, you must admit, that this era was not Germany's finest hour. This was a different age and the leading figures look, from our perspective, somewhat like figures from a comic opera. The Germans behaved and and spoke the most ridiculously of all. (Don't feel too bad. I'm of Italian descent and I cringe at some of the tape of Il Duce's speaches.) The war may have been the result of an old fashioned power struggle and not, of course, a contest between good and evil. But Germany's leaders were incompetent (and ruthless) and the results were catastropic for Germany.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/5/2012 12:53:44 AM   
Bossy573


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quote:

ORIGINAL: micha1100

Since I read several positive reviews about Tuchman's "Guns of August" I feel compelled to add my own opinion: the book is well-written but should be taken with a huge grain of salt. Tuchman is no historian and it shows. Time and again she makes factual mistakes and misrepresentations. For example a recurring theme is that the French cause is just because they were fighting to "free" the French province of Alsace-Lorraine that had been occupied by Germany after the war 1870/71. Tuchman somehow fails to mention that the region had been German for many centuries and had only been annexed by France after the Thirty-Years-War, and in 1871 still more than half of the inhabitants were native German speakers, so the issue is by no means as clear-cut as one is led to believe by this book. Also, the fact that after the end of the war France not only took back Alsace-Lorraine but also original German territories (and would have liked to annex still more) does not exactly prove the French cause a noble one.


Tuchman reviews France's motivations from France's perspective - and there is not a single shred of doubt that France was resolved, almost to a man to recover the "lost" provinces. The historical background you provide is completely irrelevant to the subject matter of the book.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/5/2012 12:57:06 AM   
Bossy573


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quote:

ORIGINAL: micha1100

But the worst for me was that Germans are always described as blood-thirsty, uncivilised ogres. I understand that Tuchman, being Jewish and writing a relatively short time after WWII, had no love for Germany but her obvious bias completely spoiled the book for me.


Germany was the aggressor, and in Belgium in particular there were atrocities.

You clearly read a different book than I.

BTW, what was the "bias" driving Fritz Fischer?

< Message edited by Bossy573 -- 12/5/2012 1:06:03 AM >

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RE: World War I Books - 12/5/2012 7:07:33 AM   
rogo727


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Bossy573

quote:

ORIGINAL: micha1100

But the worst for me was that Germans are always described as blood-thirsty, uncivilised ogres. I understand that Tuchman, being Jewish and writing a relatively short time after WWII, had no love for Germany but her obvious bias completely spoiled the book for me.


Germany was the aggressor, and in Belgium in particular there were atrocities.

You clearly read a different book than I.

BTW, what was the "bias" driving Fritz Fischer?

I have read this book twice....I agree her bias against the Germans is comical at best...

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RE: World War I Books - 12/5/2012 7:21:24 AM   
rogo727


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Paris 1919. It's a must read. I learned so much from this book. I wish I would have read this book first before any other WW1 book.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/5/2012 12:14:03 PM   
Jestre

 

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I have noticed when reviewing WWI books that if you criticize certain anglo-centric authors you will be called on the carpet, Tuchman's criticism of some English Commanders for not doing a better job does not excuse her blatant anti German bias, or her POV entirely from one side.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/7/2012 11:00:33 AM   
soldier1

 

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Havn't actually read any books on WW1 but i did buy the DVD series "The First World War " which is apparently based on Hew Strachan book. I really enjoyed it and it was a real eye opener for me. I've read extensively about WW2 but never really thought of WW1 as being truly global and didn't understand the huge link between the 2 conflicts until i watched this series. There are 10 disks so its fairly extensive but a bit light on figures and technical details and they could have crammed a lot more stuff into the series. I think the first episode is actually the worst but they get better and "Global War" and "Revolution" are excellent. It's also very sad toward the end even for a hard bloke.

I know a DVD is no book, but if you prefer to sit back and watch a series and don't know everything about WW1 this might be worth it

< Message edited by soldier1 -- 12/7/2012 11:04:05 AM >

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RE: World War I Books - 12/7/2012 11:31:52 AM   
Empire101


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quote:

ORIGINAL: soldier1

Havn't actually read any books on WW1 but i did buy the DVD series "The First World War " which is apparently based on Hew Strachan book. I really enjoyed it and it was a real eye opener for me. I've read extensively about WW2 but never really thought of WW1 as being truly global and didn't understand the huge link between the 2 conflicts until i watched this series. There are 10 disks so its fairly extensive but a bit light on figures and technical details and they could have crammed a lot more stuff into the series. I think the first episode is actually the worst but they get better and "Global War" and "Revolution" are excellent. It's also very sad toward the end even for a hard bloke.

I know a DVD is no book, but if you prefer to sit back and watch a series and don't know everything about WW1 this might be worth it


That's a great series. I've got it too!


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RE: World War I Books - 12/7/2012 1:19:50 PM   
wodin


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As I said before if you only can get one WW1 series it has to be The Great War by BBC from the sixties...I have it on my HD all the time..it's something I never take off...



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RE: World War I Books - 12/11/2012 8:57:59 PM   
warspite1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: wodin

Supposed to be abit one sided the Martin Gilbert book.Think you should have gone for A World Undone. The Pity of War is a good book though.
warspite1

A bit one sided? That's an understatement!!

However, for the purposes of what I want the book for i.e. an overview of the war, of what happened and when (before drilling down into more detail) I think it's perfect - after all it is at least one sided in the right way

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RE: World War I Books - 12/11/2012 10:07:05 PM   
7th Somersets

 

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Micha1100
quote:

For example a recurring theme is that the French cause is just because they were fighting to "free" the French province of Alsace-Lorraine that had been occupied by Germany after the war 1870/71. Tuchman somehow fails to mention that the region had been German for many centuries and had only been annexed by France after the Thirty-Years-War, and in 1871 still more than half of the inhabitants were native German speakers, so the issue is by no means as clear-cut as one is led to believe by this book.


Are you seriously suggesting that all of the lands of the Holy Roman Empire are 'German'? - 'had been German for many centuries'?!

quote:

Jestre
Totally agree about GOA, it is pretty much just the official British propaganda line taken during the war and wrapped up in the pretty package of Tuchmans writing ability. Extremely biased as is many British authors views of WWI.


Tuchman was American - born in NY and died in Conneticut.

I suppose that both of your arguments have a certain consistency if you were to say that American's are actually British because Britain owned America a few hundred years ago for a few centuries...

It is obvious that the real lessons of WW1 have yet to be learned...

< Message edited by 7th Somersets -- 12/11/2012 10:28:51 PM >

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RE: World War I Books - 12/12/2012 12:19:42 PM   
Jestre

 

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I wasn't aware that a person's nationality had anything to do with bias...... I guess by your logic David Irving can't possibly have a pro Nazi bias because he was English?????

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RE: World War I Books - 12/12/2012 4:42:57 PM   
7th Somersets

 

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quote:

I wasn't aware that a person's nationality had anything to do with bias......


I was not saying this at all... in fact my comments were prompted in part by the following comment by you...

quote:

Extremely biased as is many British authors views of WWI.


My mistake - I read your comment as lumping Tuchman's account in with 'many British authors views' ...



< Message edited by 7th Somersets -- 12/12/2012 5:00:48 PM >

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RE: World War I Books - 12/12/2012 7:14:14 PM   
ulver

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: micha1100

Btw I am German myself so I guess I'm somewhat more sensitive in that respect but I do believe that while "Guns of August" makes for an interesting read it should not be used to form one's opinion about the conflict. Actually, to really understand what happened in 1914 one has to know the European history of the decades or even centuries before, but I think not many historians disagree with the short version that the Great war was simply a struggle between two power blocs for control, with no side unilaterally to blame.


Guns of August is a great piece of narrative history and an exciting read but as has been pointed out quite dated. Read it for the same reasons you would read “decline and fall of the Roman Empire” or Churchill’s “The Second World War.” A good, even a great, read but don’t let it form the basis of your understanding of what actually happened.

That being said I strongly disagree with your assertion that modern scholarship holds both sides more or less equally at fault for causing the war. David Fromkin’s “Europe’s Last Summer” is a terrific synthesis of the conclusions made in the last decades and totally rejects the “accidental train wreak” or “Historical Inevitability” thesis we grew up with.

The Great War was deliberately and carefully precipitated by a handful of officials in Austria and Germany lead by Franz Conrad von Hötzendor who wanted a war against Serbia and Moltke who wanted one against Russia. I find the evidence that they set about getting their war deliberately very convincing. None of this means that “Germany” as a nation or people was at fault – it was basically a conspiracy of less the 10 people who managed to bring it about behind the back of their nominal superiors

To keep the post on tropic “Europe’s last summer” as a great read for someone interested in the July crises of 1914. Well written and gives you a real feel for the scale of the tragic about to unfold.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/12/2012 9:00:19 PM   
Jestre

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: ulver


quote:

ORIGINAL: micha1100

Btw I am German myself so I guess I'm somewhat more sensitive in that respect but I do believe that while "Guns of August" makes for an interesting read it should not be used to form one's opinion about the conflict. Actually, to really understand what happened in 1914 one has to know the European history of the decades or even centuries before, but I think not many historians disagree with the short version that the Great war was simply a struggle between two power blocs for control, with no side unilaterally to blame.


Guns of August is a great piece of narrative history and an exciting read but as has been pointed out quite dated. Read it for the same reasons you would read “decline and fall of the Roman Empire” or Churchill’s “The Second World War.” A good, even a great, read but don’t let it form the basis of your understanding of what actually happened.

That being said I strongly disagree with your assertion that modern scholarship holds both sides more or less equally at fault for causing the war. David Fromkin’s “Europe’s Last Summer” is a terrific synthesis of the conclusions made in the last decades and totally rejects the “accidental train wreak” or “Historical Inevitability” thesis we grew up with.

The Great War was deliberately and carefully precipitated by a handful of officials in Austria and Germany lead by Franz Conrad von Hötzendor who wanted a war against Serbia and Moltke who wanted one against Russia. I find the evidence that they set about getting their war deliberately very convincing. None of this means that “Germany” as a nation or people was at fault – it was basically a conspiracy of less the 10 people who managed to bring it about behind the back of their nominal superiors

To keep the post on tropic “Europe’s last summer” as a great read for someone interested in the July crises of 1914. Well written and gives you a real feel for the scale of the tragic about to unfold.




One could just as easily point the finger at Paleologue and Sasanov and the British fear of German Naval growth for the kindling that led to war.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/12/2012 9:27:21 PM   
ulver

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Jestre

One could just as easily point the finger at Paleologue and Sasanov and the British fear of German Naval growth for the kindling that led to war.


Lots of factors and people were responsible for stacking up the kindling and dosing it with petrol but the people who made a conscious, deliberate and premeditated decision to thrown a match were in Berlin and Vienna.

What you mention were factors in creating the general climate that made the war possible, certainly but in none of these cases is there any evidence to suggest a deliberate intention go to war.

I would also argue that the Anglo-British navy race was pretty much over by 1914 – Britain had won and Germany had conceded that. It played no real part in the July crisis.

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RE: World War I Books - 12/12/2012 11:55:23 PM   
Jestre

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: ulver


quote:

ORIGINAL: Jestre

One could just as easily point the finger at Paleologue and Sasanov and the British fear of German Naval growth for the kindling that led to war.


What you mention were factors in creating the general climate that made the war possible, certainly but in none of these cases is there any evidence to suggest a deliberate intention go to war..




Paleologue and Sazanov deliberately kept German/AH peace overtures from reaching the Tsar and the Poincare, England was virtually silent during the whole Serbian crisis with Lord Gray giving Litnovsky mixed messages on Britains intentions. Germany tried several times to keep Russia from mobilizing and forcing the issue but Sazanov sat on the messages til it was too late. It may have been German stupidity in their "mobilization means war" planning but Germany did not go into the Serbian crisis with the intent to start a World War. It took the machinations of all parties to accomplish that.

I guess some of us get our information from different sources....

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RE: World War I Books - 12/13/2012 4:54:34 PM   
ulver

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Jestre


quote:

ORIGINAL: ulver


quote:

ORIGINAL: Jestre

One could just as easily point the finger at Paleologue and Sasanov and the British fear of German Naval growth for the kindling that led to war.


What you mention were factors in creating the general climate that made the war possible, certainly but in none of these cases is there any evidence to suggest a deliberate intention go to war..




Paleologue and Sazanov deliberately kept German/AH peace overtures from reaching the Tsar and the Poincare, England was virtually silent during the whole Serbian crisis with Lord Gray giving Litnovsky mixed messages on Britains intentions. Germany tried several times to keep Russia from mobilizing and forcing the issue but Sazanov sat on the messages til it was too late. It may have been German stupidity in their "mobilization means war" planning but Germany did not go into the Serbian crisis with the intent to start a World War. It took the machinations of all parties to accomplish that.

I guess some of us get our information from different sources....

quote:

Paleologue and Sazanov


I’m not sure what you mean. I flatter myself I have consulted a representative selection of works on the causes of the Great War. The literature on the war’s origins is immense and would take much more than a single lifetime to digest thorough but I would be very interested if you can point me to scholarship the calls the basic facts into question

The points you raise are irrelevant. True enough but irrelevant unless you are seriously proposing that either Paleologue, Sazanov or Grey deliberate set out to cause the war as a policy objective in itself.

You are right about the long-term or structural reasons for the conflict, primarily the ambitions and fears of the great powers and the dangers of opposing alliances. In that sense everyone really was guilty but when it comes the immediate or contingent causes, the events of June-August 1914 you are simply dead wrong.

It took a deliberate act of wanting the war to push the European Civilisation over the edge. You can argue that the long term trends would have caused it eventually even with no one explicitly wanting a war but that is not what happened.

The “we-all-slithered-into-war ” thesis was comprehensively demolishe in 1961 when Fritz Fischer published his seminal study ‘Deutschland’s Griff Nach der Weltmacht’ (literally ‘Germany’s Grab for World Power’ though the abridged British translation bore the far blander title ‘Germany’s Aims in the First World War’). For the first time, Fischer opened archives in both West and East Germany to prove that Germany had used the crisis triggered by the pistol shots in Sarajevo quite deliberately to spark a war. Irresponsibly, indeed monstrously, elements of Germany’s ruling elite had gambled with the lives of millions to engineer a conflict that it hoped to win in weeks.

Fischer was furiously assailed by Germany’s ultra-conservative historical establishment as a ‘Marxist’ and even a ‘traitor’ for demonstrating the culpability of Wilhelmine Germany so conclusively. Despite the attacks on Fischer’s integrity, the evidence for his thesis was so overwhelming that it gradually found acceptance among virtually all serious historians of the period, both outside Germany and within it.

The old innocence thesis from 1914-60 is dead. The predominant part of the German Reich in the outbreak of the First World War and the offensive character of German war aims is no longer debated and no longer deniable.

I just read Christopher Clark's “The Sleepwalkers” where he makes the best possible case for your standpoint that everyone was guilty and even he does not deny what Fischer concluded . He gets around the tricky question of German war guilt by the novel expedient of virtually ignoring it throughout almost all the 700 pages of his mighty tome. But when he finally deigns to notice Fischer in his conclusion he is swatted away like irritating insects, on the surprising grounds that responsibility for the war is neither here nor there: ‘Do we really need to make the case against a single guilty state, or to rank the states according to their respective share of responsibility for the outbreak of war?’ Clark asks rhetorically.

I would answer with a resounding ‘Yes!’

Historians are not shy about saddling Hitler’s Germany with prime responsibility for causing World War Two, so why should they shrink from pointing the finger at Wilhelmine Germany for the outbreak of World War One?

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RE: World War I Books - 12/15/2012 5:16:20 PM   
micha1100

 

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I did not intend to spark such a discussion, but want to reply once more:

quote:

ORIGINAL: Bossy573
there is not a single shred of doubt that France was resolved, almost to a man to recover the "lost" provinces. ...

Germany was the aggressor, and in Belgium in particular there were atrocities.


The fact that someone wants something back that had been taken from him by force does not prove he had an indisputable claim to it in the first place. The French actually aimed to extend their territory to the Rhine, trying to take areas that were undoubtedly German.

And I do not deny that Germany struck first and there were some atrocities in Belgium, but Germany was forced to strike first once war was inevitable and the atrocities were mostly overreactions due to the fear of a guerilla warfare that the German army had experienced in the 1870/1871 war. I'm not at all saying that what happened was okay but there is no reason to attribute it to an inherent brutality in the german nature, as Tuchman implied.

< Message edited by micha1100 -- 12/15/2012 5:17:42 PM >

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RE: World War I Books - 12/15/2012 5:17:00 PM   
micha1100

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: 7th Somersets
Are you seriously suggesting that all of the lands of the Holy Roman Empire are 'German'? - 'had been German for many centuries'?!


Of course not. But I do believe that when the population of a certain province speaks predominantly German it's hard to prove an indisputable French claim to that province.

(in reply to 7th Somersets)
Post #: 58
RE: World War I Books - 12/15/2012 5:17:12 PM   
micha1100

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: ulver
...That being said I strongly disagree with your assertion that modern scholarship holds both sides more or less equally at fault for causing the war. David Fromkin’s “Europe’s Last Summer” is a terrific synthesis of the conclusions made in the last decades and totally rejects the “accidental train wreak” or “Historical Inevitability” thesis we grew up with.

The Great War was deliberately and carefully precipitated by a handful of officials in Austria and Germany lead by Franz Conrad von Hötzendor who wanted a war against Serbia and Moltke who wanted one against Russia.

The “we-all-slithered-into-war ” thesis was comprehensively demolishe in 1961 when Fritz Fischer published his seminal study ‘Deutschland’s Griff Nach der Weltmacht’ (literally ‘Germany’s Grab for World Power’ though the abridged British translation bore the far blander title ‘Germany’s Aims in the First World War’). For the first time, Fischer opened archives in both West and East Germany to prove that Germany had used the crisis triggered by the pistol shots in Sarajevo quite deliberately to spark a war. ... the evidence for his thesis was so overwhelming that it gradually found acceptance among virtually all serious historians of the period, both outside Germany and within it.


It's true that AH wanted war with Serbia, hoping to quell unrest in their slawonic provinces that threatened to collapse the whole empire. It's also true that the German military thought it best to force the issue. But if you only look at that you take a much too narrow point of view. Even Fischer does not put all the blame on Germany. He says in his book is that the German leaders bear a significant part of the historical responsibility for the outbreak of the war, not more and not less.
And the German military did not want war for the sake of it. They realised that with France, Britain and Russia allied and Russia making great efforts to enlarge and improve their army Germany would soon be hopelessly outnumbered (especially as the only true Ally Austria-Hungary was ever weakening from their Balkan problems). As war at some point in the future seemed inevitable, not least because of growing French belligerence, they believed that it would be prudent to fight it out while the odds still seemed manageable.

So yes, the final spark that exploded the situation probably came from the Central Powers, but the overall crisis was by no means only one side's fault, and I know that the vast majority of historians agrees with me (or rather I with them).

(in reply to ulver)
Post #: 59
RE: World War I Books - 12/15/2012 6:52:11 PM   
7th Somersets

 

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ORIGINAL: 7th Somersets
Are you seriously suggesting that all of the lands of the Holy Roman Empire are 'German'? - 'had been German for many centuries'?!


quote:

Of course not. But I do believe that when the population of a certain province speaks predominantly German it's hard to prove an indisputable French claim to that province.


Perhaps you will forgive the rest of us Europeans who are concerned and offended by such comments and justifications. Millions of people died in the last century from such attitudes.

< Message edited by 7th Somersets -- 12/15/2012 6:54:38 PM >

(in reply to micha1100)
Post #: 60
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