Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy

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Basic Books, Mar 25, 2009 - History - 624 pages
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David Stevenson’s widely acclaimed history of World War I changes forever our understanding of that pivotal conflict. Countering the commonplace assumption that politicians lost control of events, and that the war, once it began, quickly became an unstoppable machine, Stevenson contends that politicians deliberately took risks that led to war in July 1914. Far from being overwhelmed by the unprecedented scale and brutality of the bloodshed, political leaders on both sides remained very much in control of events throughout. According to Stevenson, the disturbing reality is that the course of the war was the result of conscious choices—including the continued acceptance of astronomical casualties. In fluid prose, Stevenson has written a definitive history of the man-made catastrophe that left lasting scars on the twentieth century. Cataclysm is a truly international history, incorporating new research on previously undisclosed records from governments in Europe and across the world. From the complex network of secret treaties and alliances that eventually drew all of Europe into the war, through the bloodbaths of Gallipoli and the Somme, to the arrival of American forces, and the massive political, economic, and cultural shifts the conflict left in its wake, Cataclysm is a major revision of World War I history.
 

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Cataclysm: the First World War as political tragedy

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Stevenson (international history, London Sch. of Economics; Armaments and the Coming of War, 1904-1914) argues that the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 resulted not from inexorable forces beyond ... Read full review

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The best summation of WWI, I have ever read, and dispells many of the myths and lies. This is not about the battles, and soldiers, but about how and why. It is a bit dense and slightly tough to get through, but well worth the effort. A must for anyone interested in WWI.

Contents

The Destruction of Peace
3
The Failure of the War of Movement Summer Winter 1914
37
ESCALATION
79
Making a New World Spring 1915 Spring 1917
81
The Widening of the War
87
War Aims and Peace Negotiations
103
The Land War in Europe Strategy
123
Technology Logistics and Tactics
145
The February Revolution and American Intervention Spring 1917
247
Towards Exhaustion Summer Autumn 1917
263
The Central Powers Last Throw Autumn 1917 Summer 1918
303
The Turn of the Tide Summer Autumn 1918
343
Ceasefire
379
LEGACY
407
Peacemaking 19191920
409
Rebuilding 19201929
431

Manpower and Morale
161
Armaments and Economics
179
Naval Warfare and Blockade
199
The Politics of the Home Fronts
215
OUTCOME
241
The Third Phase Spring 1917 Autumn 1918
243
Demolition 19291945
457
Conclusion The War Becomes History
477
Bibliography
489
Notes
511
Index
549
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About the author (2009)

David Stevenson is Professor of International History at the London School of Economics. He is the author of numerous publications on this subject, including The First World War and International Politics and The Outbreak of the First World War: 1914 in Perspective. He lives in London.

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