It is simply an auditory tour de force as Arthur Morey reads Adam Hochschild's To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918. Hochschild provides vivid and riveting descriptions of the world that lurched itself into World War I. Arthur Morey gives that world palpable energy as he voices empire proponents, socialist dissenters, xenophobic war supporters, radical suffragettes, and, most dramatically, soldiers on the various hellish battlefields.
Hochschild sets the scene for the cataclysm to come by beginning his work with Queen Victoria's elaborate Julbilee Celebration of her 60 years on the throne. It was 1897, England was at the height of imperial power, and the world was on the cusp of social change. There were growing movements for workers rights and women's suffrage, but also powerful, aristocratic colonialists whose assumptions included an accepted truth that non-whites could never rule themselves. Most damagingly, this point of view also never envisioned a world where the new weaponry of machine guns could or would ever be used against other Europeans. Such inventions were to be used against savages only.Arthur Morey's reading of letters, speeches, and meeting notes gives Alfred Lord Milner, Sir (Gen.) John French, and Sir (Gen.) Douglas Haig an air of pomposity all three gentlemen exuded as they skillfully maneuvered from the Boer War to command posts in the French countryside and in English government. Milner was an unapologetic imperialist, while French and Haig were preposterous in their inability to acknowledge the horrendous, painful suffering on the part of the foot soldiers they so blithely put into harm's way. Morey skillfully voices the generals' preposterous sense that, no matter the amount of barbed wire, machine guns, flame throwers, or poison gas used by the Germans, a horse cavalry was still England's greatest strength.
Morey emphatically portrays the unique Pankhurst women, mother Emmeline, daughters Christabel and Sylvia, as they became more and more strident in their call for women's right to vote. Morey then deftly changes tone for Emmeline and Christabel when they became unabashed, jingoistic proponents of England's place in the war. Sylvia remained passionately committed to peace throughout the war and also to workers rights, to the needs of women and their children, and to England’s conscientious objectors. Morey gives extraordinary vocal force to the dynamo that was Emily Hobhouse, the archdeacon's daughter who could not be intimidated in her decades of work for peace and humanitarian treatment of women, children, and prisoners during wartime.
Interlaced throughout the book is the personal story of writer Rudyard Kipling, another clarion of unflagging support of the empire, whose tone became jaundiced and nativist once his own young son was killed. Morey has ample opportunity for verse, quoting not only Kipling but also the jaunty doggerel of Britain's Bantam Battalion, short in stature but incredibly courageous.
To End All Wars is a history lesson, to be sure. Through Arthur Morey the book comes alive with the emotion of secret lovers, the pathos of families whose young sons were killed, the explosive energy of workers who were finally feeling their power, and the horrific hell-on-earth that was trench warfare in World War I. Through Hochschild and Morey the listener is both mesmerized by the story and humbled by the sacrifices made by so many for ultimately, so little. Carole Chouinard
World War I stands as one of history's most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation. In a riveting, suspenseful narrative with haunting echoes for our own time, Adam Hochschild brings it to life as never before. He focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the war's critics, alongside its generals and heroes.
Thrown in jail for their opposition to the war were Britain's leading investigative journalist, a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and an editor who, behind bars, published a newspaper for his fellow inmates on toilet paper. These critics were sometimes intimately connected to their enemy hawks: one of Britain's most prominent women pacifist campaigners had a brother who was commander in chief on the Western Front. Two well-known sisters split so bitterly over the war that they ended up publishing newspapers that attacked each other.
Today, hundreds of military cemeteries spread across the fields of northern France and Belgium contain the bodies of millions of men who died in the "war to end all wars". Can we ever avoid repeating history?
©2011 Adam Hochschild (P)2011 Tantor
"[Hochschild] has written an original, engrossing account that gives the war's opponents (largely English) prominent place." (Publishers Weekly)
"The lives of the author’s many characters dovetail elegantly in this moving, accessible book...An ambitious narrative that presents a teeming worldview through intimate, human portraits." (Kirkus Reviews)
"This is a book to make one feel deeply and painfully, and also to think hard." (Christopher Hitchens, New York Times Book Review)
Outstanding account of the Great War from an English point of view. Hochschild covers most of the military action of the war, but the further the action gets from the Western Front, the more summarized it becomes. What he's really after are the personalities: the generals John French and Douglas Haig; antiwar activists like French's sister Charlotte Despard, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Bertrand Russell; government officials like Alfred Milner and Keir Hardie. It's a grim, bloody story, and Hochschild thinks it wasn't worth it. What was gained, he wonders, to compensate for opening the door to the horrors of total war, mechanized slaughter, and genocide? Arthur Morey narrates the details in a matter-of-fact way, but his voice gathers a hard edge as he recounts events like the execution of men who were emotionally shattered by the constant bombardment, or the ghastly experience of watching new shells further shredding the remains of buried comrades. When he gets to the epilogue, the march of numbers (one million, ten million, fifty million) becomes almost unbearable.
Here's another excellent history from Adam Hochschild. He takes a subject, World War I, which has been thoroughly worked by many historians for many decades, and uncovers new material and a new angle from which to view the war. He presents harsh truths, but in ways so intriguing and well researched that you cannot stop listening.
Deeply indebted to Audible
Anyone who feels the tale of war can be told by totaling up troop and equipment will be disapointed with this full juicy and robust telling of WW1.
The reasons and ego's behind the decisions that killed millions of sons and daughters is brought to the fore and fills in preconceptions regarding the period and attitudes of the goverments and popular figures. In some ways more importantly, the family bickering of "kings and queens" that brought a generation of bright and energetic young men to it's knees is what I found most repulsive.
A cautionary tale of the highest order and should be taught in classrooms or given to your kids. It is open ended and I think honest. Every chapter made me want to purse a side issue that was brought up, but not really expanded upon which is a gift in itself.
Well done Adam and I hope you write again soon.
This book, much to my surprise, is never dull, always insightful, and utterly fascinating. I never knew much about the history of the war and this book brings it to life. It gives a wonderful sense of perspective on the times and political realities of the era both in a broad sense of the politics of nations, but also through the lives of individuals; soldiers, pacifists, generals.
Both the writing and narration are superb and you will find yourself savoring every minute of this excellent effort.
The attention to detail involving the causes of WW I and the vivid descriptions of the WW I trench warfare makes this an exceptional history and a very well-written book.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I have spent the past 6 months reading books and University classes on World War 1. I feel I am getting to know this subject in all it's aspects. This book is a bit different in that Hochschild chose to show how the war effected some key families he chose to write about in depth. Hochschild provides vivid descriptions of the world on the brink of war, during the war and then its aftermath. He provides vivid insights to the empire proponents(Milner), socialist dissenters( Kein Hardie) radical suffragette's such as the Pankhurst women. It was supprising how much time he spent on the suffragettes. He wrote about how families were torn apart by various members on different sides of the war, such as Sir Gen John French head of the British Army and his sister Charlotte Desparde who was a suffragette and ran charity shops in the poorest section of London and was against the war, she was also an active member of the labour party and a novelist. He pointed out the forming of a department of propaganda using famous author's such as Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to provide positive information to help recruit men for the army. This was done again in WWII. He provided an in-depth view of Bertrand Russell and his opposition of the war.
As in many books he covers the stupidity of the Army leaders in fighting with tactics from the last war which caused the wasteful loss of many men. This book spend more in-depth coverage of those who opposed the war either pacifist such the Quakers to socialist. World War 1 brought about the decline of the royal houses of Europe and the Peer's and saw the rise to power of the working middle class families. Women and working men got the vote in England. Hochschild points out the mistakes made that led to WWII.
Arthur Morey did an excellent job narrating the book. Hochschild did a good job of reporting as a historian and avoided prejudice view points This is a must read for those who want to learn about what happened to those who opposed the war and the politics of the time.
Excellent history of the few in England who objected to fighting a war in France but too few for a great narrative. Some interesting characters and tales but thin. Still, informative and well written.
This is not a traditional history of WWI. While it covers most of the major episodes on the Western Front and many important developments on the English home front, the book’s focus is on the terrible costs of war. The obvious costs, of course, were the casualties and their families’ suffering, but the book’s scope extends to costs to civil liberties, civil discourse and family relations, in a word, civilization.
Hochschild argues that WWI was both unnecessary and particularly wasteful. Even accepting his arguments, however, Hochschild doesn’t posit how the war could have been avoided. Instead, he presents a compelling explanation of how all the major players were eagerly anticipating the war.
Hochschild argues convincingly that the conduct of the war was incompetent. The generals were unprepared for, and unwilling to adapt to, modern industrial warfare. Hochschild argues less successfully that WWI was the first “total war”. Civilians have always been casualties of war. WWI was different because air power and bigger artillery could hurt civilians distant from the battlefields. Further, while WWI was the first to feature machine guns, tanks and planes on both sides, much of the North’s success in the US Civil War came from its industrial might.
Hochschild also argues that the effects of the war were uniformly negative. Again, the casualties were horrendous, and the effects on families and the economy were terrible. The war spawned the Russian Revolution, and the aftermath of the war was so disastrous that it led to Nazism. Besides the tsar, the war destroyed the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman monarchies. Hochschild argues that the British monarchy survived because it was limited, not absolute, and thus popular discontent had outlets short of revolution in Britain that were not available in other monarchies.
Collapse of royal autocracy is not a negative, but its replacement by totalitarianism is one. The new regimes in Russia and eventually Germany and Austria were crueler than the old order destroyed by WWI, but I question whether the same could be said of Turkey.
Hochschild also explains how the war sped up both women’s suffrage and colonial independence movements. Further, while the British monarchy survived, the social order was forever altered. An intriguing question is whether the horrors of WWI and the collapse of the old order helped change the social mindset such that a casual disregard of casualties, at least in democracies, would no longer be acceptable.
Even if the answer is yes, however, it doesn’t make WWI a positive, nor does it discount Hochschild’s argument that the war was unnecessary and wasteful. A more nuanced analysis, however, would have been valuable.
This is one of the best books I've ever read (well, heard.) Hochschild weaves hundreds of strands of history into a gripping and compelling narrative. As soon as I finished I just started it over. And Arthur Morey does a superb job - even if the book wasn't so fantastic, it would be worth listening to just to hear him.
Best WW1history ever
Excellent side stories, and comparative statistics that really bring the extent of the tragedy to light.
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