Martin Gilbert

The First World War: A Complete History

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“A stunning achievement of research and storytelling” that weaves together all the major fronts of the Great War (Publishers Weekly).
It was to be the war to end all wars, and it began at 11:15 on the morning of June 28, 1914, in an outpost of the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Sarajevo. It would end officially almost five years later. Unofficially, it has never ended: the horrors we live with today were born in the First World War.
The Great War left millions of civilians and soldiers maimed or dead. It also left behind new technologies of death: tanks, planes, and submarines; reliable rapid-fire machine guns and field artillery; poison gas and chemical warfare. It introduced U-boat packs and strategic bombing, unrestricted war on civilians and mistreatment of prisoners. Most of all, the war changed our world.
In its wake, empires toppled, monarchies fell, whole populations lost their national identities as political systems and geographic boundaries were realigned. Instabilities were institutionalized, enmities enshrined. And the social order shifted seismically. Manners, mores, codes of behavior; literature and the arts; education and class distinctions-all underwent a vast sea change. And in all these ways, the twentieth century can be said to have been born on the morning of June 28, 1914.
“One of the first books that anyone should read in beginning to try to understand this war and this century.” —The New York Times Book Review
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    The plight of Russia’s soldiers was spreading grave discontent among all its armies. It was also swelling the prisoner-of-war camps throughout the German-conquered lands. On August 17, the day of the fall of Kovno, the number of Russian prisoners-of-war was 726,694 in German prison camps, and a further 699,254 were held by the Austrians: a total of 1,425,848 Russians in captivity.79
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    At the village of Bleid that day, just inside the Belgian border west of Longwy, a 23-year-old German platoon commander, pushing ahead of his platoon with three men, saw by a farm building at the edge of the village some fifteen to twenty French soldiers, drinking coffee. Without bringing up the rest of his platoon, the young officer opened fire, killing or wounding half the Frenchmen, and extricating himself in time to attack with all his men, and capture half the village. Later that day he attacked again, explaining to his superiors: ‘Since I didn’t want to remain inactive with my platoon I decided to attack the enemy deployed opposite us.’ Thus Erwin Rommel, twenty-seven years later the scourge of the British forces in North Africa, first showed his quality of audacity
  • b5899868079цитує3 роки тому
    During the short German occupation of Lunéville, and at Gerbéviller ten miles to the south, atrocities had been committed against civilians. German troops had also crossed the Lunéville-Dombasle road, entering the village of Vitrimont. Although they were driven out after forty-eight hours, they set fire to every house which had not already been destroyed or damaged by their earlier bombardment. Two years later the ruined houses were still being restored, with the help of two American women, and French Government subsidies for the rebuilding of damaged properties. ‘The American lady at the head of the work,’ The Times reported on 18 January 1917, ‘who has taken up her abode in an out-of-the-way corner of the pile of ruins that were once the village of Vitrimont, could probably give us as convincing an answer as anyone as to the reasons why France, at all events, will go on fighting till she has won an unbreakable peace.’

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