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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… (original 2002; edition 2003)

by Ian Ousby

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Title:The Road to Verdun: World War I's Most Momentous Battle and the Folly of Nationalism
Authors:Ian Ousby
Info:Anchor (2003), Paperback, 432 pages
Collections:Your library

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



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How was a battle like Verdun possible? The question has been answered often in its political, military, and technological aspects, but here [a:Ian Ousby|174858|Ian Ousby|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/user/m_50x66-82093808bca726cb3249a493fbd3bd0f.png] sets out to find its social origins.

At first this might sound odd, but consider that about 70% of the French army was rotated through the meat grinder of Verdun during the battle of February to December 1916 with at least 150,000 dying there and leaving the front line little changed. Why did men put themselves through this?

We know that politics and the alliance with Russia brought France into the war. We know that the military movements of August and September 1914 gave the front line its shape and gave the allies the poisoned chalice of the initiative. We also know that developments in military technology in preceding decades had given the advantage on the battlefield to the defence.

But what drove men forward into hails of machine gun fire time and time again? Why did men living with the permanent possibility of vapourisation by artillery shell not break in greater numbers than they did? These questions are less explored and Ousby goes searching for the answers in an examination of French social life from the Franco-Prussian War to 1916.

Ousby's book, his last before his early death, is a bold and fascinating thrust into new ground on the historiography of the battle and the war itself. ( )
  JohnPhelan | Oct 4, 2016 |
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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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