To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

by Adam Hochschild


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"This is the kind of investigatory history Hochschild pulls off like no one else . . . Hochschild is a master at chronicling how prevailing cultural opinion is formed and, less frequently, how it's challenged." — Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

World War I was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.” Over four long years, nations around the globe were sucked into the tempest, and millions of men died on the battlefields. To this day, the war stands as one of history’s most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation.

To End All Wars focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the war’s critics, alongside its generals and heroes. Many of these dissenters were thrown in jail for their opposition to the war, from a future Nobel Prize winner to an editor behind bars who distributed a clandestine newspaper on toilet paper. These critics were sometimes intimately connected to their enemy hawks: one of Britain’s most prominent women pacifist campaigners had a brother who was commander in chief on the Western Front. Two well-known sisters split so bitterly over the war that they ended up publishing newspapers that attacked each other.

As Adam Hochschild brings the Great War to life as never before, he forces us to confront the big questions: Why did so many nations get so swept up in the violence? Why couldn’t cooler heads prevail? And can we ever avoid repeating history?

"Hochschild brings fresh drama to the story and explores it in provocative ways . . . Exemplary in all respects." — Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"Superb . . . Brilliantly written and reads like a novel . . . [Hochschild] gives us yet another absorbing chronicle of the redeeming power of protest." — Minneapolis Star Tribune

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547750316
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 03/06/2012
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 301,875
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.17(d)

About the Author

In King Leopold’s Ghost, Bury the Chains, and other books, ADAM HOCHSCHILD has won a reputation as a master of suspense and vivid character portrayal. His skill at evoking such struggles for justice has made him a finalist for the National Book Award and won him a host of other prizes.


San Francisco, California

Date of Birth:

October 5, 1942

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


A.B., Harvard College, 1963

Read an Excerpt

An early autumn bite is in the air as a gold-tinged late afternoon falls over the rolling countryside of northern France. Where the land dips between gentle rises, it is already in shadow. Dotting the fields are machine-packed rolls, high as a person’s head, of the year’s final hay crop. Massive tractors pull boxcar-sized cartloads of potatoes, or corn chopped up for cattle feed. Up a low hill, a grove of trees screens the evidence of another kind of harvest, reaped on this spot nearly a century ago. Each gravestone in the small cemetery has a name, rank, and serial number; 162 have crosses, and one has a Star of David. When known, a man’s age is engraved on the stone as well: 19, 22, 23, 26, 34, 21, 20. Ten of the graves simply say, “A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God.” Almost all the dead are from Britain’s Devonshire Regiment, the date on their gravestones July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Most were casualties of a single German machine gun several hundred yards from this spot, and were buried here in a section of the front-line trench they had climbed out of that morning. Captain Duncan Martin, 30, a company commander and an artist in civilian life, had made a clay model of the battlefield across which the British planned to attack. He predicted to his fellow officers the exact place at which he and his men would come under fire from the nearby German machine gun as they emerged onto an exposed hillside. He, too, is buried here, one of some 21,000 British soldiers killed or fatally wounded on the day of greatest bloodshed in the history of their country’s military, before or since.
 On a stone plaque next to the graves are the words this regiment’s survivors carved on a wooden sign when they buried their dead:

The devonshires held this trench
The devonshires hold it still
 The comments in the cemetery’s visitors’ book are almost all from England: Bournemouth, London, Hampshire, Devon. “Paid our respects to 3 of our townsfolk.” “Sleep on, boys.” “Lest we forget.” “Thanks, lads.” “Gt. Uncle thanks, rest in peace.” Why does it bring a lump to the throat to see words like sleep, rest, sacrifice, when my reason for being here is the belief that this war was needless folly and madness? Only one visitor strikes a different note: “Never again.” On a few pages the ink of the names and remarks has been smeared by raindrops — or was it tears?
 The bodies of soldiers of the British Empire lie in 400 cemeteries in the Somme battlefield region alone, a rough crescent of territory less than 20 miles long, but graves are not the only mark the war has made on the land. Here and there, a patch of ground gouged by thousands of shell craters has been left alone; decades of erosion have softened the scarring, but what was once a flat field now looks like rugged, grassed-over sand dunes. On the fields that have been smoothed out again, like those surrounding the Devonshires’ cemetery, some of the tractors have armor plating beneath the driver’s seat, because harvesting machinery cannot distinguish between potatoes, sugar beets, and live shells. More than 700 million artillery and mortar rounds were fired on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918, of which an estimated 15 percent failed to explode. Every year these leftover shells kill people — 36 in 1991 alone, for instance, when France excavated the track bed for a new high-speed rail line. Dotted throughout the region are patches of uncleared forest or scrub surrounded by yellow danger signs in French and English warning hikers away. The French government employs teams of démineurs, roving bomb-disposal specialists, who respond to calls when villagers discover shells; they collect and destroy 900 tons of unexploded munitions each year. More than 630 French démineurs have died in the line of duty since 1946. Like those shells, the First World War itself has remained in our lives, below the surface, because we live in a world that was so much formed by it and by the industrialized total warfare it inaugurated.
 Even though I was born long after it ended, the war always seemed a presence in our family. My mother would tell me about the wild enthusiasm of crowds at military parades when — at last! — the United States joined the Allies. A beloved first cousin of hers marched off to the sound of those cheers, to be killed in the final weeks of fighting; she never forgot the shock and disillusionment. And no one in my father’s family thought it absurd that two of his relatives had fought on opposite sides of the First World War, one in the French army, one in the German. If your country called, you went.
 My father’s sister married a man who fought for Russia in that war, and we owed his presence in our lives to events triggered by it: the Russian Revolution and the bitter civil war that followed — after which, finding himself on the losing side, he came to America. We shared a summer household with this aunt and uncle, and friends of his who were also veterans of 1914–1918 were regular visitors. As a boy, I vividly remember standing next to one of them, all of us in bathing suits and about to go swimming, and then looking down and seeing the man’s foot: all his toes had been sheared off by a German machine-gun bullet somewhere on the Eastern Front.
 The war also lived on in the illustrated adventure tales that British cousins sent me for Christmas. Young Tim or Tom or Trevor, though a mere teenager whom the colonel had declared too young for combat, would bravely dodge flying shrapnel to carry that same wounded colonel to safety after the regiment, bagpipes playing, had gone “over the top” into no man’s land. In later episodes, he always managed to find some way — as a spy or an aviator or through sheer boldness — around the deadlock of trench warfare.
 As I grew older and learned more history, I found that this very deadlock had its own fascination. For more than three years the armies on the Western Front were virtually locked in place, burrowed into trenches with dugouts sometimes 40 feet below ground, periodically emerging for terrible battles that gained at best a few miles of muddy, shell-blasted wasteland. The destructiveness of those battles still seems beyond belief. In addition to the dead, on the first day of the Somme offensive another 36,000 British troops were wounded. The magnitude of slaughter in the war’s entire span was beyond anything in European experience: more than 35 percent of all German men who were between the ages of 19 and 22 when the fighting broke out, for example, were killed in the next four and a half years, and many of the remainder grievously wounded. For France, the toll was proportionately even higher: one half of all Frenchmen aged 20 to 32 at the war’s outbreak were dead when it was over. “The Great War of 1914–18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time from ours,” wrote the historian Barbara Tuchman. British stonemasons in Belgium were still at work carving the names of their nation’s missing onto memorials when the Germans invaded for the next war, more than 20 years later. Cities and towns in the armies’ path were reduced to jagged rubble, forests and farms to charred ruins. “This is not war,” a wounded soldier among Britain’s Indian troops wrote home from Europe. “It is the ending of the world.”

Table of Contents

List of Maps ix
Introduction: Clash of Dreams xi
Part I Dramatis Personae
 1. Brother and Sister 3
 2. A Man of No Illusions 16
 3. A Clergyman’s Daughter 27
 4. Holy Warriors 40
 5. Boy Miner 54
 6. On the Eve 65
Part II 1914
 7. A Strange Light 79
 8. As Swimmers into Cleanness Leaping 98
 9. The God of Right Will Watch the Fight 114
Part III 1915
 10. This Isn’t War 135
 11. In the Thick of It 147
 12. Not This Tide 160
Part IV 1916
 13. We Regret Nothing 177
 14. God, God, Where’s the Rest of the Boys? 200
 15. Casting Away Arms 215
Part V 1917
 16. Between the Lion’s Jaws 241
 17. The World Is My Country 257
 18. Drowning on Land 275
 19. Please Don’t Die 289
Part VI 1918
 20. Backs to the Wall 309
 21. There Are More Dead Than Living Now 329
Part VII Exeunt Omnes
 22. The Devil’s Own Hand 347
 23. An Imaginary Cemetery 360
Source Notes 379
Bibliography 411
Acknowledgments 423
Index 427
About the Author 449

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"[Hochschild] has written an original, engrossing account that gives the war's opponents (largely English) prominent place." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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To End All Wars 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
SheilaCE More than 1 year ago
It was supposed to be the war to end all wars-the Great War. Millions gave the ultimate sacrifice, their very lives, and World War I is still to this day not entirely understood by historians. The violence and widespread carnage of those years simply cannot be understood by any rational means. It becomes necessary to look at the very real human elements, to delve into the hearts and minds of those that stood their ground in support of their own ideals and fought for that in which they so fervently believed, whether based in principles of peace or war, in order to comprehend the true nature of the period. There is a great deal of relevance here. The grand tension of this period is represented best by those who struggled most as either loyal proponents of military action or opponents of the first great global conflict. Adam Hochschild's latest work, To End All Wars, serves as an exploration not of the gruesome battles scenes and bloody victories of this war but of the soldiers and pacifists, the commanders and rebels who fought long and hard, sometimes to the point of their deaths, in order to maintain their own personal struggles in the hopes of prevailing. Both sides were pitted against impressive odds: families were torn apart by the disparate beliefs of their members, and citizens were arrested and imprisoned for their dissent. What reasons are there? What ideas and values were driving these people? To End All Wars is an intimate, captivating investigation into the people behind the action of World War I. Hochschild is a well-known and accomplished author who has contributed works to some of the world's most read publications. History is his specialty, and this is history at its finest. Journey beyond the textbook account to the very real struggle of those that fought in order to end all wars. To End All Wars is bound to be appreciated by non-fiction readers who delight in reading about the world of the past. Of course, those who have an obsession with the World War I era should consider this an absolute must-read. And fans of Hochschild's previous books already know to expect great things from this release.
grandmat03053 More than 1 year ago
Gritty, horrifying in places and a difficult read. There have been many books that glorify war; this is not one. Nor is it simply a condemnation of war. This book makes the shocking aspects of war uncomfortably real. It's well written and researched. I'd recommend it and will read it again.
Hommasse More than 1 year ago
If you ever needed to understand the stupidity of war, and the men who make them, read this book. One comes away wondering if such men exist today, somehow knowing that they do, and wishing it were not true. If you think war is ever necessary this book will, at the very least, give you reason to pause before allowing young men to go to war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting as an in-depth explanation of the anti-war movement in England during WWI.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is simply an outstanding book on every level. I highly recommend it to anyone interetsed in exploring how ordinary people's lives intertwine to create history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Picked this book up because I was interested in a book that could describe the reasons  and outcomes of a war I knew very little about. This book is written mostly from the British prospective. It focuses on that 19th century colonial power whose leaders had lost touch with or were ignorant of 20th century "modern" warfare. The accounts of chauvinistic military leadership expecting to fight a war with horses, riders, and swords and the unimaginable number of casualties, which could have been avoided -- on all sides was, even a century later, simply shocking. The story includes the workers' struggle in those early days of the 20th century -- a story that is as powerful, as  historical, as important, and as timeless as the military history of the times and what we humans never seem to learn from history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although it is a well written book- it drags. I found it hard to remember whom each person was and what their role was in WWI whether it be pro or anti war. While I found the book interesting, I was just looking for a bit more information in regards to the actual war not necessarily just the opposition to it primarily by well to do citizens. If you are looking for a book to show you how WWI impacted the average citizens life- this isn't it.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
This is an exasperating book, good on the personalities of those whom Adam Hochschild picks to represent the two sides of the divide – the pro-war activists and the opponents of the First World War – but it is superficial, impressionistic and anecdotal, more gossip than history. Hochschild has found some good material. For example, he cites an army officer who wrote, “A good big war just now might do a lot of good in killing Socialist nonsense and would probably put a stop to all this labour unrest.” Then as now the media assumed the morality of the state’s wars. Hochschild calls the British government’s publicity campaign, ‘The greatest political propaganda barrage history had seen’. John Buchan, one of its key writers, wrote, “So far as Britain is concerned, the war could not have been fought for one month without its newspapers.” The British state used its well-practised tactics of censorship: the government did not ban, where it could discourage, and it did not discourage, where it was safe or politic to ignore. Of the government poster, ‘Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?’, Bob Smillie, a leading Scottish miner, said his reply would be, “I tried to stop the bloody thing, my child.” Hochschild cites Rudyard Kipling’s lines expressing a soldier’s thought - “If any question why we died, Tell them, because our fathers lied.” However, this is not enigmatic, as Hochschild calls it, but clear and true. But the government did not just put out lies. It created organisations to back the state: Sir Alfred Milner founded the pro-war British Workers’ League, precursor of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and many others. So Hochschild does tell some good stories, but he writes far more about General Haig, Milner, Kipling and Buchan than he does about those who opposed the war: there are two index entries to General Sir John French, commander of the British army in Flanders, for every one to his anti-war sister Charlotte Despard, and two to Milner for every one to Bertrand Russell. More important, Hochschild never has a good word to say about those whose opposition to the war actually ended it. Milner had said in March 1918, “our real danger now is not the Boches but Bolshevism.” All the warring states turned to attack this new main enemy - and now Hochschild does so too. He slanders Lenin as writing only ‘acerbic articles and pamphlets attacking rivals on the left and predicting the imminent demise of capitalism’, ignoring his many articles opposing the war. Hochschild damns those present at the 1916 anti-war Kiental meeting, including Lenin, as ‘mostly sectarian ideologues’. This conference called for an immediate peace and called on all socialist deputies never to vote for war credits (unlike the Second International which had voted for war credits in 1914). Hochschild writes that Emily Hobhouse “was the sole person from any of the warring countries who actually journeyed to the other side in search of peace”, forgetting that he actually wrote about the Bolsheviks who travelled into German-occupied territory in December 1917 and negotiated an armistice. So, this is a divided book about a divided nation. Hochschild’s liberalism allows him to praise those who opposed the war as pacifists, but this same worldview stops him praising those who by making war on the war ended it.
jrwils56 More than 1 year ago
I well written book but it is so sad to see how pigheaded our leadership can big. How can civilized men think of war as a sport?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this up because I read Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost" and the author told the story of WWI in a similar, powerful storyline with multiple 3rd person viewpoints. Stories about trench warfare truly horrified me. Hochschild wrote about a big offensive in Belgium, and described how tens of thousands of soldiers drowned, being nowhere near the sea, because of severe rains and soldiers literally stuck in the mud in the trenches. Even though history has already been written, Hochschild wrote in a way that made me fervently hope the ending would be different for the soldiers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy history books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And to think that we lost an entire generation of men because the world was being held hostage by three morons: King George of England, Nicholas the Russian Tsar and Cousin Willie the Kaiser Nicholas the Tsar of Russia, and dear old Cousin Willie.  Deprived of oxygen at firth for a substantial time he was a wee bit "off" but yet assumed the Throne and became Kaiser William of Prussia.  Talk about a travesty.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent story about WWI centered on true characters and events. So well-written it often made me angry to think this actually happened and yet only twenty years later we launched into WWII.
librarianbryan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was hoping this was going to be a prosopography of the audacity of hope, and not short history of the war with heaps of condemnation on top. Even in the introduction it claims not to be a history. Still it is a history with a lot of condemnation. I wanted more biography of war resisters and peace activists. I was annoyed at the this is why World War One was bad tone of the work. I thought, if this was a history, the author could just present the facts and the reader could decide for themselves what was good and what was bad. Isn¿t it obvious that WWI was an atrocity?But I thought about it for a while. Though I personally am annoyed that this book is not exactly what it purports to be, I cannot say this book is not necessary. My own fascination with WWI stems from those in power ignoring its lessons. I have concluded that this book is very necessary and it should be shouted from the rooftops that WWI was in its entirety an atrocity whose lessons we have collectively chosen to ignore. The historians can skim the history, the rest is, in fact, a prosopography of the audacity of hope. And it does give me hope that there has always been a trickle, no matter how small, of enlightenment in the face needless death and perpetual injustice.Five glorious stars even if Arthur Morey¿s pronunciations are little weird.
Stbalbach on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very interesting history of WWI opposition. A broad canvas history of the war sets the stage for the moral battles over whether to fight or not. It feels like a mirror of our current era's culture wars, the details are different but the struggles between liberalism and conservationism remain. No heroes or villains, nuanced and well told, but diffuse and scattered style. I seemed more interested in the background details of the war itself than the intended focus on the dissenters. Because the biographical stories are told in such a mixed and braided fashion I don't have a clear memory that will stick with me, rather flashes of events here and there.Audiobook: I love audiobooks, but not all books convert well, such as this one. The narrator is excellent but the book is meant to be read, reasons include: Paragraph breaks are significant to the style but invisible in the audio; large cast of names with constant moving back and forth between stories creates a sense of vertigo, perhaps an intentional aesthetic to mirror the era, but is magnified to the point of confusion by the machine-pace of the audiobook; certain thoughts and transition points demand pausing for reflection, but they are not clear until the moment is past and the narrator has marched on.
MichaelHodges on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the most readable WW1 books. Humanistic in approach. Great infidelities exposed and as then accepted. Boer war generals and the UK public belief that the UK never loses a good war. Realistic coverage of life in the trenches without mud-slinging arguments. Factual and realistic as seen 90 years later. Well researched politics, connections and consequences. It required a prolific american writer, namely Adam Hochschild to explore the English aspects of both the non-combatant and compbatant side of the world conflict. This history combines the sufflagettes and the conscientious objectors impacts on and of the war to end wars.The close of the Great Empire leading to the full onset of the now closing US era is introduced and awaits further studies.
jcbrunner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Adam Hochschild, author of the outstanding "King Leopold's ghost", has written another fine study about the turn of the 19th century. Similar to Barbara Tuchman, Hochschild has a knack of capturing the essence of the early 20th century upper class. While some poor(er) people also make an appearance, e.g. intrepid journalist and hero of Hochschild's last book, E. D. Morel, and socialist MP Kier Hardie, the book focuses on British upper crust such as Sir John French and his pacifist sister Charlotte Despard. Being part and parcel of the upper crust made their dissent against war itself and better management of the war ineffective. While the government reacted harshly against any pacifist notions of the poor (the British shot more dissenting soldiers than the Germans), the dissent of the connected was treated like a temporary lapse of insanity. Bertrand Russell, finally jailed, carried on two love affairs from his cell. The intelligenzia had little connection with the masses. Both protest from above and below never achieved critical mass and failed miserably.Hochschild also offer a good overview of the First World War, aptly summarizing the criminal folly of the battle of the Somme and also highlighting less well known facts such as the First Russian Women's Battalion of Death led by Maria Bochkareva. In contrast to later and especially modern wars, the British upper class sacrificed the lives of their sons in higher proportion than the other classes. They accepted seeing their sons killed beside the poor common soldiers, which gave them legitimacy for a foolish action, a stark contrast to today's armchair strategists sending the poor off to fight their wars. It remains a strange fact that pacifism, despite its noble and inherently sensible goal, is such a weak force in politics. The warmongers, playing to the baser emotions, enjoy a titled playing field. World War I shattered the idea of "ending all wars" (a precursor to the "end of history"). The often dubious candidates who win the Nobel Peace Prize profit from the remnants of that idealistic era.
Chatterbox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If Adam Hochschild went off to a conference of ichthyologists, I'm sure he would return with a compelling narrative about an obscure kind of spiny fish that no one had ever previously suspected was of any importance, and create a passion for oceanography and all the related disciplines among all his readers. That's the kind of storytelling prowess that Hochschild brings to all his books and that makes this latest narrative one of the best I've read about the First World War -- a part of history that is so replete with histories and first-hand narratives ranging from the mundane to the literary that prior to reading this I would have been prepared to swear there simply wasn't any room for a top-notch work offering a new perspective on the war or the issues it raised. Or, for that matter, any need for yet another tome on the subject.I am delighted to have been proven dead wrong. Hochschild has chosen a fresh angle to explore, one that most of those who write about war shy away from altogether. Is war moral? Is it necessary? Is it something to be celebrated and glorified, or something we should avoid as a socially destructive force? When World War One ended, it became known as the war to end all wars -- so horrific had the experiences of survivors been, that they insisted war could NOT be contemplated again. And yet, at the outset, the mood was something quite different -- even socialists who had celebrated the global union of working men voted in favor of war and, with rare exceptions like Britain's Keir Hardie (one of the heroes of Hochschild's story) supported it and turned out to fight men whom they had embraced as fellow workers only months earlier but who had suddenly become "the enemy".Hochschild does a superb job of finding the characters through which to tell his story -- the divisions within the Pankhurst family, with Emmeline the matriarch suddenly becoming an ultra-patriot, abandoning her violent campaign for womens' suffrage, even as her daughter Sylvia clung to her pacifist convictions. Sir John French, one of the generals who seemed unable to grasp the way that technological developments such as the machine gun and barbed wire had transformed the nature of war and who thus oversaw and commanded battles that resulted in unprecedented carnage, had his own cross to bear: his elder sister, Charlotte Despard, was a vehement critic of the conflict at home. Hochschild puts forth both sides with tremendous empathy, telling of the loss of Rudyard Kipling's son in battle and Kipling's wrenching grief and unshaken support for the war, as well as the fate of conscientious objectors who were shipped overseas to the front lines (against government policy) to serve in the ranks, and who faced being court-martialed and shot if they refused to pick up their rifles.While the war was a long and complex conflict, stretching literally around the world, Hochschild's narrative is both easily digestible and makes the Great War comprehensible on a basic level. It doesn't purport to be a comprehensive survey of all the fronts and all the battles -- there is little here about the Galician front, the battle of Jutland or other naval conflicts, for instance, and there is a definite bias toward the experiences of war in the trenches of the Western front, from Flanders to Alsace-Lorraine. What is it is, however, is a book that will give even a reader who isn't familiar with the war an overview of its causes and major events, even as it prods them to think about the nature of war itself.World War One changed the world -- it accelerated technological developments, transformed societies around the world, and laid the groundwork for subsequent conflicts that endure to this day in the Middle East. It did NOT end all wars, but it did make the question of whether war can be considered as valid a means of pursuing a nation's self interest as it was in the 16th or 17th centuries a legitimate one. Hochschild has done a brilliant job exploring the complex
michaelbartley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
a very readable history of ww 1 from the british point of view. mainly a cultural history.
maritimer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having read Hochschild's Unquiet Ghost, King Leopold's Ghost, and Bury the Chains, I was looking forward to To End all Wars. In those previous books, Hochschild had clear and original themes that he illuminated in satisfying ways, synthesizing the larger sweep of history with individual stories. In this new book, one is never quite clear where his focus lies: is it WWI's horrific carnage and lasting consequences, is it the overall resistance to WWI, is it conscientious objectors? I could never quite figure out the subtitle, "A story of loyalty and rebellion".  In his other works individuals' stories have been key hooks, but for the most part the characters that he focuses on here fail to engage and some seem at times to be only marginally relevant. For me though, knowing as little as I do about WWI, it was still well worth reading. Hochschild's writing makes the past so vivid and is always guided by an impressive moral compass.
phillygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author takes a different angle in this very readable WWI history. Drawing portraits of those British who opposed the war ¿ aristocrats, journalists, ordinary folks, suffragettes, Irish patriots and even a former prime minister- Adam Hochschild brings them to life. The story is told chronologically from Queen Victoria¿s diamond jubilee through the Boer War (a new slice of history for me) right up and through the carnage that was WWI. This is as much a social history of the times as a military story. The backgrounds of the two major military players (Douglas Haig and John French) are told in detail including the story of French¿s sister Charlotte Despard a leading pacifist and antiwar demonstrator. Since the causalities of the war were more likely to come from Britain¿s ruling classes (including the son of Rudyard Kipling, brother of the future queen, etc.) the courage that it took to oppose this conflict was considerable. The author tells these stories in a fairly even handed unemotional way. He doesn¿t shirk the telling of the trench warfare though. The military strategy (?) employed by every general in this war was to send men directly into the fire of machine guns where little or no progress is made in four years of fighting. The losses incurred on the battlefields are truly incredible, while this story is told with Britain at the center; the numbers of men killed or wounded throughout Europe were stunning. You really have to read these sections of the story in small bites to let some of this senselessness sink in. The characters that Hochschild has chosen to focus on really give the story a view into every social stratum in Britain. Douglas Haig the commanding general throughout most of the war and a good friend of the King is a window in to the unimaginative world of what was the British military command. Charlotte Despard and Emily Hobhouse were aristocratic Brits who actively worked to oppose this war and in Hobhouse¿s case was the only Brit who attempted to bring the two sides to the negotiating table during the war. The story of the Wheeler family set up and tried for treason gave a view of socialist/communist sentiment among the working classes. The Pankhurst family, prominent suffragettes divided by their sentiments on the war shows the women¿s movement in the early 20th century and also the rise of communism among the British. Kier Hardie, a socialist MP, an early critic of Britain¿s involvement in this conflict is profiled and speaks for many unionists in the country. The power of the empire and British nationalism overwhelm Hardie and most socialist hopes for international cooperation that would have avoided fighting among the working classes.In addition to being a fairly good recounting of WWI, this book does a great job of describing Britain in its waning days as a colonial power. While not quite on the same level as Guns of August, Tuchman¿s masterpiece history of the beginning of this conflict, it is definitely worth the time for those who enjoy reading history.
dickmanikowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Even though we're only eight weeks into the new year, I'll be surprised if I read a better book than this during 2012.Hochschild examines the causes, conduct, and outcome of World War I from the perspective of the British people. Hidebound by tradition, the military establishment insisted on pursuing the war in the fashion that had served them well for centuries, reluctant to admit that the time-honored cavalry charge would prove less than useless against barricaded German troops protected by trenches and skeins of barbwire and armed with machine guns. There was considerable anti-war sentiment among the population, shared by people from the lowest classes to individuals as prominent as Bertrand Russell. The author traces the rise and fall of various political movements, ranging from suffragettes to socialists to full-fledged pacifists. But the sheer momentum of the war kept it moving onward inexorably.Highly, highly, very highly recommended.
gbelik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
WWI, a horrible, bloody, dirty, pointless war. This book tried to focus on those who opposed the war as well as being a general history of the struggle. It did both well, I thought.
labdaddy4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent book about WWI although primarily from the British point of view. A primary focus is the anti-war sentiment and resistance - an interesting aspect seldom included in histories of armed conflict. It is hard to believe that a continent so ravaged by war was quickly re-engulfed within 20 years - not a very positive comment on human nature !
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most intense books I've ever read. I recently participated in a book discussion of this one with a group of about 20 adults, all over the age of 40. Every single person in the room said "This book made me SO angry."I joined in the group discussion because it was a book that fit into my reading for War Through the Generations. Adam Hochschild gives us an unusual perspective of looking not only at the war but at the political and social conflicts that were occurring simultaneously. He interweaves these themes so that we are able to see the arrogance of those conducting the war, the anguish of those fighting the war, and the frustration of those who want it to stop, or want to abolish the class structure that is seen as one of the major factors in the horrendous and unnecessary loss of life and limb.Told almost entirely from the perspective of the British, Hochschild explains the history and concepts of Empire, class structure and struggles, and the entirely idiotic insistence of the British military of clinging to the use of Calvary in spite of the invention and use of more up to date tactics and weapons being used by the Germans.Overlaid on this discussion is the story of Britain's conscientious objectors and pacifists, along with a look at the socialist and communist movements in Russia. The role of women in the anti-war movement is also well-documented. I was especially appalled at the treatment the "stiff-upper-lip" aristocratic officers and military hierarchy displayed to men who refused to serve because their conscience told them that killing was wrong. In several instances, these men were conscripted, sent to prison when they refused to serve, and even executed as traitors. It was at this point I become so angry, I had to put the book down and return to it several days later.The author highlights several well -known Englishmen, including Bertrand Russell, Sir John French, Winston Churchill, Charlotte Despard, and Rudyard Kipling. Each had a specific view of the war, its rightness or its total stupidity. Each of their stories was heart-breaking, infuriating, and so well written that whether or not we agreed with the viewpoint, we understood it. What was so anger inducing however, was the recognition of all who were participating in the discussion of how little the world seems to have learned. We all could see clear and unequivocal correlations to wars that followed. The parallels between anti-war movements during Vietnam and today's conflicts were all clearly visible, and led us to the conclusion that this is a book that should be required reading for all Americans.