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The Road to Verdun: World War I's Most…

The Road to Verdun: World War I's Most Momentous Battle and the Folly of… (2002)

by Ian Ousby

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385503938, Hardcover)

"If you haven't seen Verdun, you haven't seen anything of war," said one veteran infantryman of the First World War, referring to a particularly gruesome episode in a four-year clash known for its monotonous brutality. More than 300,000 men were killed at Verdun, out of more than 700,000 total casualties. "By any standards, the figures are formidable: almost one death a minute, day and night, for the ten months that the battle lasted," writes Ian Ousby, who expresses astonishment at "how much suffering was expended and how many lives were lost over strips of ground so small, so insignificant." It began in February, 1916, when the Germans launched an offensive against the French. Neither army made much headway against the other, even as the deaths on both sides rose to staggering proportions. This was typical of the trench warfare of the time. In one sense, Verdun was not much different from other battles in the war; Ousby even calls it a "microcosm" of the larger conflict. Yet, he also argues that it was the war's bleakest and most hopeless scene of engagement. Ousby offers a chronicle of the fighting, and writes from the French perspective--much of the book, in fact, ruminates on the meaning of French nationalism. This combination of military and intellectual history makes The Road to Verdun a top-rate addition to First World War literature. --John Miller

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:45 -0400)

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"Verdun was the largest, the longest and the bloodiest battle between the French and Germans in the First World War, lasting from February 1916 until the end of the year and claiming more than 700,000 casualties. For the French in particular, it was always more than just a battle, being rather (in Paul Valery's words) 'a complete war in itself, inserted in the Great War'." "Ian Ousby's new book gives an account of the generals' planning and the troops' suffering. At the same time it goes beyond the narrow horizons of military history by locating the experience of Verdun in how the French had thought about themselves, their nation and their relations with their eastern neighbour since the debacle of the Franco-Prussian War. Verdun emerges as the mid-point in the cycle of Franco-German hostility, carrying both the burden of history and - if only by the presence on the battlefield of men like Petain and de Gaulle, France's two leaders in the next war - the seeds of the future."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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