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14-18: Understanding the Great War by…

14-18: Understanding the Great War

by Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau

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I found this work very interesting once I undestood what it was trying to accomplish. Initially I was lost as to the point, even after having read the summary on the inside flap. Shortly thereafter I got it. What the authors are about is discussing some areas of the Great War for study which to date for the most part have been overlooked or ignored. Signigicantly, they point out issues which are more social than military, economic or strategic. The latter three are what we usually see in books on WWI. However, this work discusses the violence of an industrial and how that was accepted on both sides. Also how the 'enemy' so vilified; considered barbaric, even sub-human. And finally how world wide grieving was handled, individually, locally and by the governments.

A fine work for those interested in expanding their knowledge and views of WWI via looking at little studied aspects of the war. ( )
1 vote douboy50 | Sep 25, 2012 |
History with a difference; not a litany of facts but the exploration of certain themes such as the degree of violence, enthusiasm for the war and the experience of grief. ( )
  denmoir | Mar 11, 2012 |
14-18: Understanding the Great War represents an attempt by French historians to make World War I more intelligible and understandable from the perspective of the twenty-first century. Both authors are respected members of the French historical community who have chosen to specialize in the First World War. Audoin-Rouzeau is a professor at the University of Picardy and co-director of the Research Center of the Museum of the Great War based in the Somme. He is quite well known due to his contributions to the historiography of the First World War; he helped develop the concept of 'patriotic consent,' which hypothesized that the people of the Allied nations voluntarily supported the war effort. Becker--the daughter of Jean-Jacques Becker, another eminent World War I historian—teaches at the University of Paris and is also co-director of the research center of the Museum of the Great War. She specializes in the cultural representations of the war.
14-18 is not a typical history. It purports to analyze aspects of the war that have traditionally been overlooked by history. Instead of looking at battles, political decisions, or strategy, Audoin-Rouzeau and Becker have opted to identify more specific characteristics of the war, using the interdisciplinary research and study that they have conducted at the Museum of the Great War. They identify three aspects of the war that would not only illuminate the history of the war but also demonstrate how the Great War made subsequent European and world conflicts possible: the brutal violence of the conflict, the war as crusade, and the resultant almost universal grieving.
The authors claim that the purpose of the book is to provide a new way to understand the war, a fresh perspective into the hidden recesses of the war's history. They succeed admirably. 14-18 sparkles from a perspective that not only increases awareness of the importance of the war, but also a greater visceral understanding of the impact of the war upon soldiers, civilians, nations, and families. Violence and grieving are rendered somehow more real and less abstract through the striking and sometimes blunt language of the authors.
As a work of interdisciplinary history, 14-18 holds up rather well, considering the problems sometimes encountered with translated works. The arguments of the authors seem to stand up to further scrutiny, and generally conform to the existing scholarship of the war. Audouin-Rouzeau and Becker have met their objectives: they have succeeded in creating a work that rejuvenates scholarly understanding of the First World War, while directing attention toward aspects of the conflict that heretofore had languished in obscurity. Thanks to their scholarship the violence of the war comes alive, and the grieving of loved ones becomes almost palpable.
  cao9415 | Jan 30, 2009 |
A great book but the liberal use of the words 'paradox/ically' and 'reticence' in almost every chapter really irked me. Perhaps it was just the French-English translation. ( )
  AaronPegram | Nov 20, 2007 |
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Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker are co-authors of this work, published in French by Gallimard as "14-18, Retrouver la guerre."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809046431, Paperback)

With this brilliantly innovative book, Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker have shown that the Great War was the matrix on which all subsequent disasters of the twentieth century were formed. Three elements of the conflict, all too often neglected or denied, are identified as those that must be grasped if we are to understand the war: First, what inspired its unprecedented physical brutality, and what were the effects of tolerating such violence? Second, how did citizens of the belligerent states come to be driven by vehement nationalistic and racist impulses? Third, how did the tens of millions bereaved by the war come to terms with the agonizing pain? With its strikingly original interpretative strength and its wealth of compelling documentary evidence drawn from all sides in the conflict, 14-18: Understanding the Great War has quickly established itself as a classic in the history of modern warfare.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:35 -0400)

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