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Publisher's Summary

In The Pity of War, Niall Ferguson makes a simple and provocative argument: that the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England's fault. Britain, according to Ferguson, entered into war based on nave assumptions of German aims-and England's entry into the war transformed a Continental conflict into a world war, which they then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement. The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather the result of the mistaken decisions of individuals who would later claim to have been in the grip of huge impersonal forces. That the war was wicked, horrific, inhuman, is memorialized in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by cold statistics.

More British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam War; indeed, the total British fatalities in that single battle-some 420,000-exceeds the entire American fatalities for both World Wars. And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with enthusiasm. Ferguson vividly brings back to life this terrifying period, not through dry citation of chronological chapter and verse but through a series of brilliant chapters focusing on key ways in which we now view the First World War.

For anyone wanting to understand why wars are fought, why men are willing to fight them, and why the world is as it is today, there is no sharper nor more stimulating guide than Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War.

©2000 Niall Ferguson; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"This is analytical history at its mordant best. With all its other merits, The Pity of War is also a work of grace and feeling." (The Economist)
"[Niall Ferguson is] the most talked-about British historian of his generation." (The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Excellent study

If you are into the First World War, or just interested in the causes of war then this book is a must. It is also an excellent study of the 20 Century. History does tend to repeat itself, and to hear what is reported to be a truth of the war, open my eyes to the lesser noble aspects that I grew up thinking the war was. We all hear about the atrocities of the Second World War, but perhaps on a lesser level the First World War had its share, committed by all sides. Britain comes out of this looking rather shabby, Germany, the cause of its own nightmare with the Nazis and even the USA is shown to be foolish. A great read.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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A true history of the reason for war.

A long book, and a little dry, but a great history for the reasons for WWI. He is not an appologist for either side, like most authors. He just gives you the facts. Downloading the PDF is must for this book, it is 29 pages! Not a bbok for those looking for a light listen. I got this title because of his book, "The Assent of Money" and this did not disappoint.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • gerry
  • milton, ON, Canada
  • 10-09-15

Written for Social Science Wonks -Patience needed!

I am not a political or economics wonk so I will admit this book was a huge bore for the first 13 or 14 hours (not sure when I woke up). The remaining part of it was a fascinating study of World War 1 in terms of what happened militarily and politically. I have read 2 other of Niall's books and this was by par the most intense study of them all. His references to books, plays, authors, politicians and poets and any other cultural figures of all the countries involved in the war was very impressive - although as noted above, over the top in terms of detail. I would even go so far as calling it an opus. Its not for everyone but if you love historical detail and insightful analysis - dig in.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Better in print?

As usual Ferguson's ideas are interesting and well-articulated. This book loses something in the audiobook medium. There is so much economic and demographic data that even though the thesis is clearly presented, much of the detail behind the argument clearly relies on the tables and figures. This is not to say that the book is not worth a listen; only that it is not so well-suited to audio as Ferguson's other books. Also I find the narration a little flat, which can be corrected somewhat by a faster playback.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Corey
  • DOVER, DE, United States
  • 04-08-15

Informative but dry

Good financial and sociological study of world war 1 but drags at places. I would recommend it for a deeper understanding of the war but not as an introduction to the topic.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kyle
  • poway, CA, United States
  • 08-25-11

Too Detailed

I am a huge fan of Niall Ferguson, but this is too much. Admittedly, I was looking for a history of World War I, not book on the economic questions related to WWI, but this is too weighed down with statistics for audio.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • deborah
  • Palm Coast, FL, United States
  • 10-05-11

Textbook, not a novel

Though narrated by the great Graeme Malcolm of the Hamish Macbeth character in MC Beaton Highlands mysteries, have no illusions that Pity of War has any narrative. It is strictly a textbook spoken aloud, with tables and statistics. It is long, dry, and difficult to follow for the average listener. This book should remain a bible of a graduate history course, not offered to audiophiles looking for characters studies.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Too Simplistic

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

No. Blaming England solely for WWI is is simplistic, and Ferguson couldn't back of his hypothesis.

Would you be willing to try another book from Niall Ferguson? Why or why not?

No

Was The Pity of War worth the listening time?

No.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • KTP
  • Buffalo Gap, TX United States
  • 09-28-11

The Pity of War

I was disappointed in the book. I really had higher expectations based upon a number of the reviews I read here. Nevertheless I did learn some things from the listen about the events around WWI so it was worth the time.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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What a breath of fresh air.

There is so much conventional narrative overturned by Niall Ferguson here. You won't regret this one.

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