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To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and…

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Adam Hochschild

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Title:To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
Authors:Adam Hochschild
Info:Mariner Books (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library

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To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild (2011)

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Adam Hochschild is a gifted storyteller, whose survey of the First World War brings to life its battles and the societies it utterly transformed. He focuses on a handful of key families and individuals, following them from a few decades before the war to the end of their various lives years or decades after the Armistice. He follows equally the pro- and anti-war factions in British and German societies (and to a lesser degree French and Russian). Filled with facts, the book nevertheless reads like a novel, smoothly, engagingly. That World War II was an inevitable consequence of World War I is repeatedly stressed from various angles. The reader can see all the social and military crises of our early 21st century mirrored in those of the early 20th. The roots are all there. The problems have not been solved. People with little interest in military history who wish to understand our own times better -- how we've become what we are and what we need to do to be more like what we ought to be -- will find this book fascinating and thought-provoking. ( )
1 vote pdgarrett48 | Jul 16, 2014 |
I think for many Americans this book will be something of a shocker. It tells the story of the British anti-war movement during World War I. First is the story of the enormous incompetence of those prosecuting the war; the highest ranking authority on the civil side was Prime Minister Asquith, and on the military side, the Generals French and Haig. This is a tale of enormous inhumanity, not just for the enemy, but for one's own troops as well, who were ordered to make suicide attacks by the tens of thousands. (Sadly things were even worse on the German side. See my review of Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel.) Hochschild tells his tale economically thereby establishing the broader context for the other aspects of his story.

At the heart of the book, what makes it unique, are stories of the trials and tribulations of the British anti-war movement. Peopled in large part by well-meaning persons of a socialist bent, the movement was undermined and smeared by the British government who had all aspects of the national press completely under its thumb. Part of the anti-war story is about the Conscientious Objector (CO) community. I'm so glad Mr. Hochschild is getting this story out with this book, for their treatment by members of the British police authorities, who shamelessly violated their civil rights, was horrendous. Early on the COs were sent to the front anyway, where the plan was to shoot them when they refused to obey orders. Fortunately, political advocates at home prevented this from happening. They were then moved to a filthy prison in Boulogne where the rats ran over them at night, and the food was disgusting. But even this, I suppose, was better than sitting at the front listening to the big guns thunder and wondering if you'd live to see your loved ones.

Another thing Hochschild does well here is to tell the tale of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent collapse of the Czarist state in 1917 in context with how the Brits were trying to win the war. This is fascinating. ( )
1 vote William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Inasmuch as Hochschild’s To End All Wars is a history of the British at the Western front of the first world war, it’s readable and inoffensive, but fairly unremarkable. But the war isn’t his primary subject: that honor goes to the various individuals and social movements actively dissenting against England’s involvement in the war. We are introduced to upper-class suffragettes and working-class radicals among countless others, whose shifting loyalties and evolving philosophies didn’t stop the war, but did reshape the country that emerged in its wake. Hochschild’s focus on the characters and relationships embroiled in this conflict makes his book compelling and readable, even for those of us who aren’t history buffs. ( )
1 vote circumspice | May 22, 2014 |
I find that books that I am reading affect my moods. I found this to be the case with this book. A history on some of the movers-and-shakers involved in and around WWI specifically in England was at times frustrating, saddening, and caused me a fair amount of grief in the reading. To my knowledge, none of my family served or was affected directly by the war - but it was such a fruitless and damaging war on many levels that continue to today (ie Iraq, Iran, N. Ireland, all developments of WWI). Written by the co-founder of Mother Jones magazine, it definately had an edge and a specific political message - but even accounting for that - WWI was a collosal mess. ( )
1 vote stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
This short book investigates a seldom seen side of the British effort in the Great War: the anti-war movement during that cataclysm. Conscientious objectors ("COs") are the focus of the work with a very general account of the British military campaigns of the Great War as a backdrop. An entertaining and informative read. ( )
1 vote Richard7920 | Oct 25, 2013 |
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De leeuwentemmer John S. Clarke is één van de vele kleurrijke figuren die tot leven worden gebracht in “To End All Wars,” het recentste boek van Adam Hochschild over de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Hochschild schreef eerder over de Stalinperiode in de Sovjetunie en – bij ons wellicht beter bekend: King Leopold’s Ghost A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Nu zijn over dat eerste wereldconflict bibliotheken volgeschreven, maar de benadering van Hochschild is, althans voor een leek als ondergetekende, volslagen nieuw. Blijkt immers dat er in Groot-Brittannië ondanks het welbekende algemene enthousiasme voor de oorlog ook hardnekkig verzet was, hoofdzakelijk maar niet exclusief in linkse kringen en onder de suffragettes, de beweging voor vrouwenstemrecht.
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(Introduction) An early autumn bite is in the air as a late, gold-tinged late afternoon falls over the rolling countryside of northern France.
The city had never seen such a parade.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618758283, Hardcover)

Product Description
World War I stands as one of history’s most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation. In a riveting, suspenseful narrative with haunting echoes for our own time, Adam Hochschild brings it to life as never before. He focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the war’s critics, alongside its generals and heroes. Thrown in jail for their opposition to the war were Britain’s leading investigative journalist, a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and an editor who, behind bars, published a newspaper for his fellow inmates 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. 

Today, hundreds of military cemeteries spread across the fields of northern France and Belgium contain the bodies of millions of men who died in the “war to end all wars.” Can we ever avoid repeating history?

Take a Look Inside To End All Wars
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

Passchendaele, the battle that cost British forces more than 260,000 dead and wounded
King George V and Queen Mary in Delhi

Emmeline Parkhurst, under arrest
John S. Clark, from circus animal tamer to underground antiwar activist
Charlotte Despard, suffragette, prison veteran, pacifist, communist, IRA supporter

A Conversation with Author Adam Hochschild

Q: In the past you’ve written mostly about issues of human rights and social justice, but now a book about the First World War—why?

A: I’ve long been obsessed and fascinated by the war, for it remade our world for the worse in almost every conceivable way. In addition to killing approximately 20 million soldiers and civilians, the war also ignited the Russian Revolution, sowed the anger that allowed Hitler to seize power, and permanently darkened our outlook on human nature and human self-destructiveness. But also I’ve always seen the war as a time when men and women faced a moral challenge as great as that faced by those who lived, say, in the time of slavery. Tens of thousands of people were wise enough to foresee, in 1914, the likely bloodshed that a war among the world’s major industrial powers would cause—and, courageously, they refused to take part.

Q: What are you trying to do in To End All Wars that makes it different from other books about the First World War?

A: Most books about any war, including this one, tell the story as a conflict between two sides. Instead, I’ve tried to tell the story of 1914–1918 as a struggle between those who felt the war was something noble and necessary, and those who felt it was absolute madness.

Q: Were there war resisters on both sides?

A: Yes. But I’ve concentrated on one country, Britain. For various reasons—a major one being that at the war’s outset Britain itself was not attacked—there was a stronger antiwar movement there than anywhere else. More than 20,000 British men of military age refused the draft, and, as a matter of principle, many also refused the non-combatant alternative service offered to conscientious objectors, such as working in war industries or driving ambulances. More than 6,000 of these young men went to prison under very harsh conditions, as did some brave, outspoken critics of the war. This is one of the largest groups of people ever behind bars for political reasons in a Western democracy—and certainly one of the most interesting. Their number included the country’s leading investigative journalist, a future Nobel Prize-winner, more than half a dozen future members of Parliament, and a former editor who would publish a clandestine prison newspaper on sheets of toilet paper.

Q: So the book is just about them?

A: Not only. I am equally intrigued by the people who fought the war, such as the generals who always thought the next battle was going to be the big breakthrough, and kept the cavalry ready to charge through the gap—which never came, of course. So my cast of characters includes both resisters and those who fought. And there are interesting ties between them. Few people know, for instance, that Britain’s commander-in-chief on the Western Front for the first year and a half of combat had a sister who was an ardent, vocal pacifist. Or that the Minister for War had close friends whose son was not only in jail as a resister but was in solitary confinement for refusing to obey prison rules. Two well-known sisters, the suffragettes Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst, broke with each other so bitterly over the war that they each edited a newspaper that attacked the other.

Q: Are all of your characters well-known?

A: Not at all. Albert Rochester was a soldier who got into trouble for writing a letter to a newspaper complaining that every British officer had his own private servant. John S. Clarke was an antiwar radical, working underground—who in his youth had made his living as a circus lion-tamer. Emily Hobhouse believed the nations of Europe should be negotiating, not fighting. She evaded British government travel restrictions, went to Berlin in 1916 and talked peace terms with the foreign minister—the sole private citizen in Europe who actually traveled to the other side in search of peace. You couldn’t invent people like this.

Q: What were your sources of information?

A: When I write history, I like to hear people’s own voices, so as much as possible I relied on personal letters, diaries, memoirs and the like. But there was one additional, unexpected, rich trove of material. In 1914–1918, both civilian and military intelligence agents watched the Britain’s antiwar activists intently. They infiltrated spies into peace organizations, sometimes sent in agents provocateurs to try to get pacifists to do things they could be arrested for, and at even the smallest public antiwar meeting, one of Scotland Yard’s dozen shorthand writers would be there taking notes. These agents’ reports, even those of the agents provocateurs bragging about what they accomplished, are in Britain’s National Archives, some of them opened to public view for the first time only in the last few years.

(Photo by Spark Media)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:37 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

World War I stands as one of history's most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation. In his riveting narrative, Hochschild brings it to life as never before while focusing on the long-ignored moral drama of the war's critics, alongside its generals and heroes.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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