Pandora’s Box

A History of the First World War
Narrated by: David de Vries
Length: 39 hrs and 33 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (134 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this monumental history of the First World War, Germany's leading historian of the 20th century's first great catastrophe explains the war's origins, course, and consequences. With an unrivaled combination of depth and global reach, Pandora's Box reveals how profoundly the war shaped the world to come.

Jörn Leonhard treats the clash of arms with a sure feel for grand strategy, the everyday tactics of dynamic movement and slow attrition, the race for ever more destructive technologies, and the grim experiences of frontline soldiers. But the war was much more than a military conflict, or an exclusively European one. Leonhard renders the perspectives of leaders, intellectuals, artists, and ordinary men and women on diverse home fronts as they grappled with the urgency of the moment and the rise of unprecedented political and social pressures. And he tells how the entire world came out of the war utterly changed.

Postwar treaties and economic turbulence transformed geopolitics. Old empires disappeared or confronted harsh new constraints, while emerging countries struggled to find their place in an age of instability. At the same time, sparked and fueled by the shock and suffering of war, radical ideologies in Europe and around the globe swept away orders that had seemed permanent, to establish new relationships among elites, masses, and the state. Heralded on its publication in Germany as a masterpiece of historical narrative and analysis, Pandora's Box makes clear just what dangers were released when the guns first fired in the summer of 1914.

©2018 the President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2018 Tantor
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Excellent reading of a complex book

This is an excellent but complex book which is a brilliant analysis of the Great War.
I was impressed by the reader and his efforts to bring this potentially difficult work to life.
This really is a must listen for those interested in a deeper analysis of the origins, conduct and effects of the war.

13 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Societal impact of WWI. Not a history of WWI.

I bought this long title, expecting a detailed account of the battles of WWI along with some of its geopolitical impacts. Instead, I got *all* geopolitical impact with, at best, cursory mentions of the actual battles.

The writing is long-winded; the author uses a paragraph where a sentence would do, And goes into ridiculous amounts of detail on irrelevant minutiae. I frequently found myself drifting off and then realizing "Oh, are you still talking?". Really, the writing goes on and on, but conveys little information. It's like spending an afternoon with someone who's intent on showing you their stamp collection for hours.

But the actual battles are dismissed with a mere few paragraphs. The Somme is wrapped up in five minutes. The Battle of Jutland, in 30 seconds (mainly a listing of the losses), Passchendaele receives a sentence or two, in passing.

So, by 1917 I had started timing segments. I think the exit of Russia took about 45 minutes, well that's fair. The entry of America took about the same. But not a focus on submarine warfare or the Lusitania; no, with an in-depth review of the number of German art exhibits at Harvard during the lead up to 1917. You what? But what really finished me off was a 20+ minute digression into the war's impact on Liberalism.

There's most definitely a place for a book on the indirect societal impact of WWI, but it should be branded as such.
If the subtitle was changed from "A history of the First World War" to "A history of the societal impact of the First World War" I'd be fine with it. (Well, it still takes too long to convey minimal useful information, but that's a separate issue).

So anyway, I gave up on it and moved to "A World Undone" -- a substantial improvement. For example, comparing both books on the 1914 causes, AWU gives more useful information in significantly less time.

Frankly, I wouldn't bother with Pandora's Box.


10 people found this helpful

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Ahhhhhhmazing.....

What gem, a true wealth of information. Examines nearly every aspect of life at the turn of the century heading into the war and even hoes beyond 1918.... a true masterpiece!!!!

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Just A Bit Dull

I’m sure the story is a good one but I couldn’t concentrate on it because my brain kept switching off due to the pretty dull narration. It isn’t quite monotone but it’s not far off it.

2 people found this helpful

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Best 1 Voume WW1 History I've Read Since College

This is a fantastic book. It represents a complete history of the war with a thorough coverage of its world and moment in history – and not once did the narrative become tedious. The writing, the material, and the English translation remained crisp throughout. The author, Jorn Leonhard, examines battles and strategies on all fronts and in all theaters; even those beyond Europe and the Middle East and into the Pacific, Africa, and the southwest Atlantic. In addition, Leonhard describes the cultural and social geography of the regions, societies, cultures, and political systems that formed the environment or "setting" of the war.
Although I would (and below I do) quibble with Leonhard about some of the specific examples used to support his general points, the particular relationships, comparative positions of individuals, and societies he has highlighted to demonstrate his broader observations work very well. Leonhard's presentation of his themes and arguments remain sound from the start through the conclusion. This is a solid work of scholarship and I also applaud the translator, Patrick Camille, for maintaining a vivid prose style into the English version. I enjoyed this book a great deal and I will soon re-read it.

The weakest portions of the narrative rest in the initial discussions concerning the background to the outbreak of the war and later in his examination of the Versailles peace talks. The consequences of the war on world history and on the subsequent histories of the combatants and the wide range of peoples and circumstances overall is excellent. The entire main narrative of the war years from its outbreak to it repercussions across Europe and elsewhere, the military actions and decisions, the political actions and decisions along with cultural, social, and economic realities and considerations make for interesting and informative reading.

There are two details or particular considerations which I believe could have strengthened Leonhard's general observations about certain developments. Leonhard does not include Clemenceau's consistent efforts to obtain British and American guarantees to support France's territorial borders against any future rise in German militarism during the Versailles negotiations. The debates on Clemenceau’s suggestion of this revealed a great deal which supports the author’s points regarding the conflicting views and aims among the leading allied negotiators. The meetings between the Big Three (France, the USA, and Britain) on this subject highlighted the clear differences of perspective. This difference was most pronounced between Clemenceau and Wilson, and only to a lesser degree, for George. Clemenceau's desire for something more practical and more direct than the League of Nations to enhance the security of France evidences the strongest support for Leonhard’s argument that France did not come out of the war with great confidence in its future security.

Wilson’s response that such an arrangement would have no meaning supports the author’s assessment of Wilson and America’s future actions just as well. Wilson argued that such a commitment on the part of the US and Britain would simply initiate the same problems that caused the war and be contrary to the purpose of creating the League of Nations. A short discussion of this moment in the Allied negotiations would have clearly illuminated Leonhard's points about the practicality of the Versailles Treaty and the difficulties the diplomats at Versailles faced in developing a successful treaty which could stabilize the forces unleashed by the war while accommodating a new era in world diplomacy. For all practical purposes, France was left as the defender of an order it never once felt it had the power or the support to defend.

The other consideration the author should have used to greater effect pertains to the background section of the work. The annexation of Alsace and Lorraine by Germany after the 1870 war created a wound between the two nations which would not heal. People as diverse as Otto von Bismarck and Karl Marx warned that the annexation would create a permanent barrier to reconciliation between the two states. The hostility over what the French referred to as “our two lost daughters” and “the hole in the Vosges” became a central fixture in the diplomacy of Europe after 1870. A great degree of the complexity of Bismarck’s diplomacy resulted from the permanence of that single problem. The diplomatic environment created by that event would have contributed mightily to Leonhard's background narrative.

Of all that was presented in this book, I only have one comment which is negative. I do not know if this is from the translator or the writer, but a word like "leitmotif" should be used far more sparingly than it was used in this narrative. It is the kind of word which draws a great deal of attention to itself so, using it too frequently minimizes the importance and impact of the word when it gets used and its strength is appropriate.

All 5 stars on this book and I look forward to reading it again. Likely, I will get the Kindle edition to go with the Audible edition.

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Hit or miss

While listening to this audio book I had to take frequent breaks, the interesting story and drama were dragged down by information dumps and paragraph after paragraph of the socio political impact of the war that, frankly, are hard to listen to.

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Not a Military or Political History of the War

This is a social science 'history' of the war. Parts are interesting, but a lot of it is merely the authors social commentary on the evils of Western society. I would not recommend.

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Was a little elongated

This book was not really bad but it did seem to drag out aspects of the story. Great political depth but military tactics and details about battles also seemed to be lacking. Basically buy it if it’s on sale.

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informative but hard to follow

It throws a tremendous amount of information at you but the firehose is hard to drink from. what makes it particularly difficult to follow is the constant movement back and forth through time. but even while working out, I still learned a lot, I just definitely still missed a lot

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Comprehensive Book

The book begins and ends strong, but in the middle is the massive amount of detail that accompanies all WW1 books. It's easy to get lost the minutia of the battles, especially because of the length if the book. However, this book covers the political aspects of the war better than most and overall is a good listen.

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  • M. J. Brown
  • 07-20-19

Extraordinary achievement. <br />

The best analysis of the socio-economic and political impact of WW1 in a single volume. Opens up the Eastern Front for those overly familiar with the Western Front.

3 people found this helpful

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  • dave
  • 02-29-20

superb

Brilliant. Probably the best history of World War 1.

The American accent of the reader somehow conveys a neutrality that the the text has.

1 person found this helpful