Saturday, April 30, 2011

Review: To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild

To End All Wars I received this book from Amazon Vine, chosen because although I've read much about World War II and have long known its cause was directly related to the first world war, I didn't actually know much about World War I. I also have a personal connection in that my husband's father was in the British Army, a veteran of the Boer War and World War I who apparently was emotionally as well as physically wounded in both. Now I understand his story much better.

One caveat I must point out is that Hochschild wrote this book with an agenda. He believes WW I was unnecessarily provoked, accomplished nothing but the destruction of Europe and loss of a generation of young men, and that it caused WW II. For that reason, his book relates British military issues before and during the war. The concentration here is not on battles, military maneuvers, etc. but predominantly the people, the hawks and the anti-war protestors. Even though he is admittedly biased in his narration, he does have the facts to back up his beliefs and therefore the book is well worth reading.

One revelation that bothered me, but didn't surprise me, was that when Great Britain desperately needed the type of high grade optical instruments (binoculars, gunsites, etc.) that they had previously purchased from Germany, they approached the enemy through a neutral country and set up a deal to buy them. In return, Germany got the rubber it desperately needed for tires but hadn't been able to smuggle through the British blockade. Astounding!

Another point is that simple barbed wire invented by an Illinois farmer was the best military weapon used in the war. That explains why for two years plus the two sides sat in waterlogged trenches in Flanders unable to advance. It was only the invention of tanks that overcame this obstacle.

There is an excellent discussion of why Germany felt compelled to conduct a U-boat (submarine) war on merchant ships despite the knowledge that it would surely bring the U.S. into the war. Also, the effect of the Russian Revolution on the war.

I found this to be a very readable book and fascinating in its dissection of British Army intransigence in the face of changing warfare. I highly recommend To End All Wars.

1 comment:

  1. This does sound rather fascinating. I recently read UNBROKEN; Hilderbrand which was wonderful and one I think you might enjoy as well.