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To End All Wars: A Story of Protest and…

To End All Wars: A Story of Protest and Patriotism in the First World War (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Adam Hochschild

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Title:To End All Wars: A Story of Protest and Patriotism in the First World War
Authors:Adam Hochschild
Info:Pan (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 356 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Non-Fiction, History, WWI, Protest, Read in 2012

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

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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
I've never been all that interested in World War I (I'd prefer learning about "older" wars [essentially from the American Revolution through the Spanish-American War] or "newer" wars [World War II - present]), but this book still was interesting. It focuses less on the conflict itself and more on the people surrounding the conflict - since I'm from the other side of the pond, I had no idea who a lot of the people mentioned in the book were (Charlotte Despard, anyone?), but I learned a lot about those people and the war in general from reading this book. ( )
  forsanolim | Jan 14, 2016 |
A superbly written, masterfully told history of the Great War that is both sweeping and intimate. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
I thought that as an avid reader and a lover of history that I knew the basics about World War I. I'd heard about trench warfare, chlorine gas, mustard gas, and shell shock but I didn't really understand them and I wasn't prepared for what I learned while reading this book.
They called it the Great War. However, this war was apparently completely unnecessary. That's right - 8.5 million casualties, 12-13 million civilian deaths totally unnecessary brought on by a war-hungry monarch and military men who wouldn't accept the changes that the 20th century had brought to the battlefield.

Kaiser Wilhelm wanted to play at war, he always wore a uniform and he wanted to prove his country's superiority. The excuse used to start the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Joseph and his wife (he abhorred war - how ironic). The Austro-Hungary empire would have probably controlled the effects with a small military action in Serbia where the assassination had taken place, but as an ally of Austro-Hungary, Kaiser Wilhelm and Germany took it upon themselves to stress escalation.

So we have a war and the British, who had end the Boer wars several years before thought that they were ready to take on the Germans with the same tactics as used then. However, since the Boer wars the 20th century saw motor vehicles, machine guns, and airplanes come into existence. Gen. Douglas Haig would not accept that cavalry was no longer useful with the new methods available. Time and time again he would send men to certain death by commanding offensives directly into the German machine gun nests. Hundreds of thousands of men were killed in weeks and Haig just kept sending them.
On the home front, massive labor strikes and Conscientious Objectors filled the headlines. The Conscientious Objectors were sent to prison with sentence ordering hard labor (16 hours a day) half rations and no heat. Women were imprisoned if they argued against the war.
But really bothered me the most about what I learned was the actual cause of shell shock. Imagine sitting in a deep ditch for weeks on end and then suddenly being bombarded by artillery NON-STOP for days at a time so loud that you couldn't hear the person next to you talking. I personally can't handle a loud thunderstorm that's off again on again for 20 minutes - how can you handle this acoustic attack?

The Allied Forces were actually losing the battle until the Americans joined the fight. The Treaty that ended the war was so vindictive that many historians see it as the a contributor to World War II.
The book was slow to start, had some areas where it was extremely repetitive concerning the women that were against the war, but highly informative. ( )
5 vote cyderry | Apr 26, 2015 |
Adam Hochschild writes history in a way that makes it supremely engaging. I saw that in the first book of his that I read, "King Leopold's Ghost"--and it was also true in "To End All Wars."

History for him is essentially storytelling. Here the story is of the First World War, primarily as it was experienced by two ends of the spectrum in British society--those at the top of the military who pushed the war's agenda, and those who stood opposite them as war resisters, often paying a high price for it. Interestingly enough, sometimes the two ends often could be found in the same family, the most famous of which were General John French, commander of British forces at the beginning of the war, and his sister Charlotte Despard, a leading suffragette. These human stories is what makes the book so compelling.

And of course, there is the war itself, whose appalling details certainly make it the stupidest conflict of the 20th century, if not the millennium. The politics that led to it were dysfunctional, its leaders more prideful of their class-standing than their strategic prowess, the decisions made sending hundreds of thousands into the maw of death hardly less than criminal.

Woodrow Wilson's assertion that this would be the "war to end all wars" now stands ironic. World War I was so traumatically terrible that one would think it would lead anyone to swear off the very idea of war altogether. The fact that it didn't compounds the tragedy. ( )
  kvrfan | Apr 25, 2015 |
A book that brilliantly succeeds in finding a new way to talk about the First World War, by looking at the protesters and conscientious objectors who opposed it along the way. I must admit, in my head antiwar protests started sometime around the 60s with Vietnam; but it turns out that the British peace movement during 1914–18 is one of the most impressive in history.

So riveting are many of the details here that you end up feeling amazed and annoyed that they aren't included in more general histories of the conflict. I've read countless thousands of words on John French over the last year, yet I somehow had no idea that the field marshal's own sister was Charlotte Despard, one of the most intransigent, outspoken activists of the period. Despard denounced ‘the wicked war of this Capitalistic government’ while her brother was busy orchestrating it – and yet the two of them were as close as ever, regularly visiting each other and writing off their siblings' political views as charming quirks.

Despard also championed many other progressive causes of the time, notably women's suffrage. The so-called suffragettes are a key part of the story, and a good illustration of how divided liberal activists were when the war broke out. Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel went from planting bombs in Lloyd George's house to working hand-in-hand with him from speaking-platforms and in editorials: ‘If you go to this war and give your life,’ Emmeline told a cheering crowd in Plymouth, ‘you could not end your life in a better way – for to give one's life for one's country, for a great cause, is a splendid thing.’ An argument that became impossible after Owen.

Perhaps it helped cement the votes-for-women movement as being within the establishment – sure enough, women were enfranchised in 1918 before the war ended. Nevertheless as a modern reader all your sympathies are with the younger Pankhurst daughter, Sylvia, who remained absolutely committed to the antiwar movement and was more or less thrown out of her own family as a result. Sylvia's secret lover – the pacifist independent MP Keir Hardie – is another key character in here, and one I'd previously known nothing about. Both of them were shunned, isolated, mocked.

Bertrand Russell also flits in and out of these pages, a towering moral presence. Every time I read about him I admire him more and more. Russell was jailed for six months for his antiwar activism (when the warder took down his details on arrival, he asked Russell's religion, and he replied, ‘agnostic’. Asking how to spell it, the warder sighed, ‘Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God’). He still managed to keep in touch with two of his lovers while in prison, too – he wrote to a French actress in French, a language his jailers couldn't understand, and sent letters to another woman smuggled out in copies of the Proceedings of the London Mathematics Society, which he told her was ‘more interesting than it appeared’.

Hochschild does a brilliant job not just in uncovering the activities of these characters, some of whom have been comprehensively neglected, but also in tying their stories together: the narrative often reads like a novel with a large but interconnected cast. The whole thing is animated by a steady but unintrusive sense of injustice, and the writing is clear, notwithstanding a few foibles (he deploys, for instance, that odd American hypercorrection ‘felt badly’).

What's particularly sad, after following these people for so long, and hoping for some kind of victory on their behalf, is seeing how desperately almost all of them latched on to the Russian Revolution in 1917. It's a harsh but enlightening test of moral character to see how quickly people could bring themselves to bail on the Soviet dream when things started going wrong – not a test many leftists passed with flying colours (but that's a story better told elsewhere). And overall, this is a story of failure and disappointment, though the tone is moving and hopeful rather than depressing. The title points up the overarching irony. President Wilson had called the slaughter the ‘war to end all wars’ – but Sir Alfred Milner was more prescient in 1918 when, peering into the future as the bodies were cleared away, he described the Treaty of Versailles as ‘a Peace to end Peace’. ( )
2 vote Widsith | Mar 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:16 -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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