The Pity of War

The Pity of War

Book - 1999
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"In The Pity of War, Niall Ferguson explodes the myths of 1914-18. He argues that the fatal conflict between Britain and Germany was far from inevitable. It was Britain's declaration of war that needlessly turned a continental conflict into a world war, and it was Britain's economic mismanagement and military inferiority that necessitated American involvement, forever altering the global balance of power." "Ferguson vividly brings back to life one of the seminal catastrophes of the century, not through a dry citation of chronological chapter and verse, but through a series of chapters that answer the key questions: Why did the war start? Why did it continue? And why did it stop? How did the Germans manage to kill more soldiers than they lost but still end up defeated in November 1918? Above all, why did men fight?"--Jacket.
Publisher: New York, NY : Basic Books, [1999]
Copyright Date: ©1999
ISBN: 9780465057122
Branch Call Number: History 940.3 Fer


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May 28, 2016

I have not read this book, but I noticed an error in the "blurb" above: it incorrectly asserts that 420,000 British soldiers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (a number greater than all American soldiers who died during the Vietnam War). As a matter of fact, official tallies suggest only 19,240 killed the first day of the battle, with total casualties (wounded and dead combined) around 350,000. Sources: ,

RickUWS Apr 25, 2014

Here's the catch: for anyone who has not read a background on the war, this is not the one to read, because it is so dense with detail and the conclusions so controversial it's not fair to read just it; for anyone who has read about the war you can skip to the last chapter where the controversial conclusion lies, not having read 95% of the book.

The conclusion is intriguing that Germany began a continental war for whatever reason, and Britain made it into a world war by entering on the side of France, which on its own would have lost. That's not much fun, since the preceding information does not explain very well what was going on in the Germanic mind in the years leading up, so we don't really learn how the war came about except for the usual discussions of the naval race and faulty diplomacy. For a clearer analysis read Margaret MacMillan's "The War That Ended Peace," a brilliant and more readable work.

One nutty part is where he says one reason the war went on was that soldiers actually liked fighting. Another is where Ferguson projects that Germany would have created a European Union 80 years ahead of when it actually came about, and there would be the British Empire more or less intact. Keep in mind that comes from a scholar whose most recent work finds the British Empire the best way to run the world.


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