The controversial revisionist history of World War I that made Niall Ferguson's name
The First World War killed around eight million men and bled Europe dry. More than any other event, it made the twentieth century. In this boldly conceived book and provocative, aimed to appeal not only to students but also to the general reader, Niall Ferguson explodes many of the myths surrounding the war.
Niall Ferguson is Herzog Professor of Financial History at the Stern School of Business, New York University, Visiting Professor of History, Oxford University and Senior Research Fellow, Jesus College, Oxford. His other books for Penguin include Empire, The Cash Nexus, Colossus, The War of the World, Virtual History, High Financier and Civilization.
Many readers will disagree with Oxford historian Ferguson's (Paper and Iron) daring revisionist account of the Great War as presented in this superbly illustrated book, but none will be bored by his elegant marshaling of facts to support his case. Ferguson argues that Germany had a justifiable fear of Russian and French militarism and was merely making a preemptive strike in August 1914. He suggests that Britain forced the escalation of what could have been a limited continental war by entering on the side of the Allies and then increased the body count on both sides through sheer ineptitude. An economic historian, Ferguson explains that Germany was efficient at inflicting "maximum slaughter at minimum expense," paying just $5133 to kill each Allied serviceman. The bungling but economically advantaged Allies, on the other hand, paid $16,754 for each German head. For all the book's strengths, however, Ferguson comes up short in his flawed, briefly sketched analyses of the ebb and flow of diplomatic and battlefield events. Grand strategy goes unstudied. Ferguson's war is, in the end, simply an economic problem. Scarcity equals loss, and whoever has the most supplies will prevail. Ultimately, it is hard to feel satisfied with Ferguson's narrow analysis of what is surely a far more complex equation.