Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914

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9780007519743: Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914

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From the acclaimed military historian, a new history of the outbreak of World War I -- from the breakdown of diplomacy to the dramatic battles that occurred before the war bogged down in the trenches.

World War I immediately evokes images of the trenches -- grinding, halting battles that sacrificed millions of lives for no territory or visible gain. Yet the first months of the war, from the German invasion of Belgium to the Marne to Ypres, were utterly different -- full of advances and retreats, tactical maneuvering, and significant gains and losses. In Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings re-creates this dramatic year, from the diplomatic crisis to the fighting in Belgium and France on the western front and Serbia and Galicia to the east. He gives vivid accounts of the battles and frank assessments of generals and political leaders, and shows why it was inevitable that this first war among modern industrial nations could not produce a decisive victory, resulting in a war of attrition. Throughout we encounter high officials and average soldiers, as well as civilians on the home front, giving us a vivid portrait of how a continent became embroiled in a war that would change everything.

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Review:

Amazon Guest Review of “Catastrophe 1914” by Max Hastings

By Scott Anderson

Author of Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East, Scott Anderson is a veteran war correspondent who has reported from Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Northern Ireland, Chechnya, Sudan, Bosnia, El Salvador and many other strife-torn countries. A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, his work has also appeared in Vanity Fair, Esquire, Harper's and Outside. He is also the author of novels Moonlight Hotel and Triage and of non-fiction books The Man Who Tried to Save the World and The 4 O'Clock Murders, and co-author of War Zones and Inside The League with his brother Jon Lee Anderson.

To truly understand the grim march of twentieth century history, one must start with World War I – and to truly understand that horror show, one must look at its cataclysmic first few months. It was during this time that Europe saw sweeping military offensives, great pitched battles, and such staggering body-counts that the powers turned to the stagnation of trench warfare almost as a matter of national survival. This is the period British historian Max Hastings sets out to examine in Catastrophe, and the result is nothing short of a masterpiece.

The power of this book operates on several levels. Due to the political and military complexity of World War I – as well as, perhaps, a certain nationalistic chauvinism – most histories of it tend to be decidedly local; a reader might learn a great deal about the battle of the Somme, for instance, but virtually nothing about what was occurring at the same time elsewhere. By deftly moving from one battlefront to the other, Hastings is able to create a mosaic of the carnage visited upon Europe in the opening days of the war, and to show how those fronts were interconnected. Certainly no other general World War I history that I’ve read gives the commensurate attention to the slaughters that occurred on the Serbian and Galician battlefronts in 1914 that Hastings provides here.

To accomplish this, he has wisely avoided that tendency so common among military historians - barraging the reader with a blizzard of commanders’ names and regimental designations – that can make reading about combat such an ironically-dull task. Instead, by bringing us the voices of the young men from all sides caught in the maws of these battles, we not only get a visceral sense of what it looked and sounded and smelled like, but an appreciation for the commonality of the horror befalling them. Those wanting a tactical, blow-by-blow account of the Russian disasters at Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes, for example, will have to look elsewhere – Hastings dispenses with these twinned battles in a mere dozen pages – but for everyone else, the description of ordinary Russians slowly dawning to the realization that they are doomed is both wrenching and unforgettable.

Perhaps most remarkable, given his focus on the personal and the small, telling detail, Hastings’ voice also carries the mantle of authority; very early on, the reader realizes the author has done the heavy spadework of examining the myriad political and military controversies of the period, and come to a studied conclusion. Chief among these is the enduring debate over who was most responsible for starting the war, and in recent years a whole spate of revisionist histories have sought to redirect blame toward Britain or France or – most improbably - Russia. While Hastings is ultimately dismissive of these alternate theories (it really was the Germans’ and Austro-Hungarians’ fault), he does so decorously and only after entertaining the revisionisms long enough to show their contradictions. Similarly, the battlefield decisions of Sir John French, the first British field marshal of the war, have been argued over for nearly a century now, but it’s very hard to see what needs to be added to Hastings’ elegant comment that French’s conduct, “in the field was little more egregious than that of his counterparts of the other European armies.”

In contemplating this project, it surely crossed Hastings’ mind that his book would inevitably be judged against another work that covers almost precisely the same time period, Barbara Tuchman’s 1962 classic, The Guns of August. With Catastrophe, that period now has two classics.

About the Author:

MAX HASTINGS is the author of more than twenty books. He has served as a foreign correspondent and as the editor of Britain's Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph. He has received numerous British Press awards, including Journalist of the Year in 1982 and Editor of the Year in 1988. He lives outside London.

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Descrizione libro HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Amazon History Book of the Year 2013 is a magisterial chronicle of the calamity that befell Europe in 1914 as the continent shifted from the glamour of the Edwardian era to the tragedy of total war.In 1914, Europe plunged into the 20th century s first terrible act of self-immolation - what was then called The Great War. On the eve of its centenary, Max Hastings seeks to explain both how the conflict came about and what befell millions of men and women during the first months of strife.He finds the evidence overwhelming, that Austria and Germany must accept principal blame for the outbreak. While what followed was a vast tragedy, he argues passionately against the `poets view , that the war was not worth winning. It was vital to the freedom of Europe, he says, that the Kaiser s Germany should be defeated.His narrative of the early battles will astonish those whose images of the war are simply of mud, wire, trenches and steel helmets. Hastings describes how the French Army marched into action amid virgin rural landscapes, in uniforms of red and blue, led by mounted officers, with flags flying and bands playing. The bloodiest day of the entire Western war fell on 22 August 1914, when the French lost 27,000 dead. Four days later, at Le Cateau the British fought an extraordinary action against the oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history. In October, at terrible cost they held the allied line against massive German assaults in the first battle of Ypres.The author also describes the brutal struggles in Serbia, East Prussia and Galicia, where by Christmas the Germans, Austrians, Russians and Serbs had inflicted on each other three million casualties.This book offers answers to the huge and fascinating question `what happened to Europe in 1914? , through Max Hastings s accustomed blend of top-down and bottom-up accounts from a multitude of statesmen and generals, peasants, housewives and private soldiers of seven nations. His narrative pricks myths and offers some striking and controversial judgements. For a host of readers gripped by the author s last international best-seller `All Hell Let Loose , this will seem a worthy successor. Codice libro della libreria AA89780007519743

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Descrizione libro HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The Amazon History Book of the Year 2013 is a magisterial chronicle of the calamity that befell Europe in 1914 as the continent shifted from the glamour of the Edwardian era to the tragedy of total war. In 1914, Europe plunged into the 20th century s first terrible act of self-immolation - what was then called The Great War. On the eve of its centenary, Max Hastings seeks to explain both how the conflict came about and what befell millions of men and women during the first months of strife. He finds the evidence overwhelming, that Austria and Germany must accept principal blame for the outbreak. While what followed was a vast tragedy, he argues passionately against the poets view , that the war was not worth winning. It was vital to the freedom of Europe, he says, that the Kaiser s Germany should be defeated. His narrative of the early battles will astonish those whose images of the war are simply of mud, wire, trenches and steel helmets. Hastings describes how the French Army marched into action amid virgin rural landscapes, in uniforms of red and blue, led by mounted officers, with flags flying and bands playing. The bloodiest day of the entire Western war fell on 22 August 1914, when the French lost 27,000 dead. Four days later, at Le Cateau the British fought an extraordinary action against the oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history. In October, at terrible cost they held the allied line against massive German assaults in the first battle of Ypres.The author also describes the brutal struggles in Serbia, East Prussia and Galicia, where by Christmas the Germans, Austrians, Russians and Serbs had inflicted on each other three million casualties. This book offers answers to the huge and fascinating question what happened to Europe in 1914? , through Max Hastings s accustomed blend of top-down and bottom-up accounts from a multitude of statesmen and generals, peasants, housewives and private soldiers of seven nations. His narrative pricks myths and offers some striking and controversial judgements. For a host of readers gripped by the author s last international best-seller All Hell Let Loose , this will seem a worthy successor. Codice libro della libreria AA89780007519743

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Descrizione libro HarperCollins Publishers, 2014. Condizione libro: New. The Amazon History Book of the Year 2013 is a magisterial chronicle of the calamity that befell Europe in 1914 as the continent shifted from the glamour of the Edwardian era to the tragedy of total war. Num Pages: 672 pages, Illustrations (black and white), maps (black and white). BIC Classification: 1D; 1QDU; 3JJF; HBG; HBWN; JWL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 131 x 197 x 44. Weight in Grams: 510. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . . Codice libro della libreria V9780007519743

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Descrizione libro HarperCollins Publishers. Condizione libro: New. The Amazon History Book of the Year 2013 is a magisterial chronicle of the calamity that befell Europe in 1914 as the continent shifted from the glamour of the Edwardian era to the tragedy of total war. Num Pages: 672 pages, Illustrations (black and white), maps (black and white). BIC Classification: 1D; 1QDU; 3JJF; HBG; HBWN; JWL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 131 x 197 x 44. Weight in Grams: 510. . 2014. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Codice libro della libreria V9780007519743

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