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The Eastern Front, 1914-1917 by Norman Stone

The Eastern Front, 1914-1917 (1975)

by Norman Stone

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Being a turgid history of WWI's Eastern Front, viewed almost entirely from the Russian perspective. The book clearly reflects extensive scholarship, but is less than pleasant reading. The author fell asleep the first day his historiography class met; rule one of the historian's style manual, identify each player by their full name, exists for very good and sufficient reasons, and the second, identify their position or role in the story, is like unto it. The author, as far as I can remember, doesn't use a full name in the entire book; he's slightly better on role, but not much. And most of these people are well and truly nobodies; you're not talking about familiar figures such as Hindenburg and Ludendorff, or even semi-familiar ones such as Conrad and Brussilov, you're talking about corps commanders. His emphasis on logistics is justifiable; certainly that's an understudied aspect of warfare which was crucial here, but how interesting can one make Russian shell production statistics or musings on rail capacity? Less justifiable is his obsession with economics; his concluding chapter says nothing about the big conclusions he has reached about the war, it's simply his take on the economic roots of Russia's revolution. His military narrative is good enough, if muddy, and there are plenty of maps, but they are very small and seem rarely designed to illuminate the places he mentions. I'm glad the blurbers enjoyed the book, but they are more easily entertained than I.. ( )
  Big_Bang_Gorilla | Jan 22, 2017 |
Sought this out after many sources claimed it as the best general history of the Eastern Front. In many places it reads like a shopping list of divisions, casualties, number of railroad carriages, and the like. When the narrative takes hold Stone is excellent. There were unfortunately not enough of those instances for me to recommend this book for anyone else. ( )
  kcshankd | Nov 7, 2016 |
In a way, this is three books in one. The first book is a strategic analysis of the eastern front in WWI. Most chapters begin by laying the groundwork for the battle or campaign covered in that chapter. Stone describes and analyzes the strategic, social and economic factors at work. I found these discussions fascinating.

Then come the tactical discussions of the battle and campaigns -- the "second book." Stone doesn't fare so well here. Like so much military history, the lack of maps is a problem. (If I ever write a book on military history, which is of course highly unlikely, it will be full of maps and will be accompanied by a Web site with an animation showing troop movements!) Also, and Stone admits this in the introduction, The Eastern Front isn't written from the soldier's perspective. You don't learn how the soldiers lived and how they fought, what it was like to be part of this war. I wish the book would have gone into that but, as Stone says, the source material just wasn't available.

The third book is an economic history of Russia during this time period. There are many discussions of Russian economic strengths and weakness, of how they affected the war effort and laid the groundwork for the revolution. I found these discussions interesting, but other readers may not.

As I read, I found myself devouring the strategic analysis that began each chapter, then plodding through (and trying too hard to follow) the tactical discussion that followed. But the good far outweighed the bad, and I recommend this book if you're interested in WWI history. ( )
  dwieringa | May 28, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140267255, Paperback)

A groundbreaking historical study, Norman Stone's "The Eastern Front 1914-1917" was the very first authoritative account of the Russian Front in the First World War to be published in the West. In this now-classic history he dispels the myths surrounding a still relatively little-known aspect of the war, showing how inefficiency rather than economic shortage led to Russia's desperate privations and eventual retreat. He also interprets the connection between the war and the chaos that followed, arguing that although fighting had almost ceased by the end of 1916, Russia was still in turmoil - undergoing a period of change that would inexorably lead towards revolution. "A landmark in its field ...it is still the best book on the eastern front". (Orlando Figes). "A classic account ...that even after thirty years remains essential reading". ("Sunday Times"). "Without question one of the classics of post-war historical scholarship". (Niall Ferguson). "One of the outstanding historians of our age". ("Spectator"). "Fills an enormous gap in our knowledge and understanding of the Great War". ("Sunday Telegraph". Norman Stone is one of Britain's most celebrated historians. He is the author of "The Atlantic and its Enemies", "Hitler: An Introduction", "Europe Transformed" and "World War One: A Short History".

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:43 -0400)

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