An astute examination by an expert war historian that sifts through the collective “theatres of attrition” in this...




A rigorous look at the grinding war machine involved in the making of the Great War, both at home and on the battlefield.

Author of the authoritative Three Armies of the Somme (2010), Philpott (War Studies/ King’s Coll., London) plunges into the complicated factors that allowed the war of attrition, which had been used effectively since ancient times, to “come into its own” during World War I. The clash of the powerful industrialized armies created a three-year stalemate within the trenches of the western front in France, rather than a swift, decisive victory anticipated by the Central Powers by Christmas 1914. As such, the fighting required the strategic coordination of four other “fronts” in order to defeat the enemy: the maritime front, whereby Britain and Germany would contest superiority of the seas, most effectively through economic blockade; the home front, encompassing raw material resources and maintaining the wills of the populations to support the war; the diplomatic front, involving war and peace negotiations, including the introduction of President Woodrow Wilson’s appeals to “peace without victory” in 1917; and the “united front”—i.e., the ability of the cohorts to work together, as the Allies managed to do more effectively than the Central Powers. Philpott looks at how each engaged country addressed each front, from the shift from short-term thinking to long-term slog, as the old-style generals were learning that, as British Secretary for War John Seeley noted, “the armies have outgrown the brains of the people who direct them.” The author also addresses the “essential and practical” construction of the trench systems; the diversion of war materiel to the Middle East to fight Turkey, which was allied with Germany; and the manipulation of press and propaganda while mobilizing manpower and morale.

An astute examination by an expert war historian that sifts through the collective “theatres of attrition” in this unprecedented slaughter.

Pub Date: May 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4683-0268-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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