Stevenson examines the deeper implications of strategic and diplomatic decisions during the penultimate year of the...



Thoroughgoing study of the year that gave at least a hint of promise that World War I would indeed be the war to end all wars.

By 1917, writes Stevenson (International History/London School of Economics; With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918, 2011, etc.), the fighting on the western front had bogged down into mutual slaughter. In the battles surrounding Verdun alone, for instance, there were well over 1 million casualties, and the generals kept throwing bodies at the other line without a hope of winning. Even so, the German kaiser and British prime minister, among others, kept at it. Two signal events occurred to shake things up in 1917: the Russian Revolution occurred, soon to remove Russia from the fight, and the United States entered the conflict, pouring men and materiel into combat and ending the stalemate. Before this happened, however, the Central Powers and Allies were desperately seeking ways out of what Stevenson calls the “war trap”—“on one level the story of 1917 is of their efforts to escape it.” But there was no real way out, leading to “the collapse of initiatives for a compromise peace” and the slaughters at Verdun, Caporetto, Passchendaele, and elsewhere. Ironies were attendant; by Stevenson’s account, the U.S. might have done better to continue supplying the Allies with war goods than enter the fight itself, since the war industry lifted the country out of recession into an economic boom, and things might have turned out very differently in the Middle East had German overtures to the Zionist leaders been successful. American entry—which Woodrow Wilson took pains to say was to help France, not Britain—intensified at least some of the slaughter, too, since the German army was determined to break the European Allies before American troops could enter the theater.

Stevenson examines the deeper implications of strategic and diplomatic decisions during the penultimate year of the conflict, casting a new light on events. Of considerable interest to students of the war and its tortuous aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-870238-2

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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