The First World War was the overwhelming disaster from which everything else in the twentieth century stemmed. Fourteen million combatants died, four empires were destroyed, and even the victors' empires were fatally damaged. World War I took humanity from the nineteenth century forcibly into the twentieth—and then, at Versailles, cast Europe on the path to World War II as well.
In World War One, Norman Stone, one of the world's greatest historians, has achieved the almost impossible task of writing a terse and witty short history of the war. A captivating, brisk narrative, World War One is Stone's masterful effort to make sense of one of the twentieth century's pivotal conflicts.
Stone is as unconventional as he is brilliant, and this provocative interpretation of the Great War combines impressive command of the literature with a telling eye for relevant facts and a sensitive ear for telling epigrams. Stone presents a Europe that in 1914 bestrode the world like the proverbial colossus. Four years later, the continent faced a spectrum of disasters: shattered economies, shattered societies, shattered lives and shattered illusions. Stone demonstrates the contingent nature of the war's outbreak and analyzes the continued failure to achieve decision on the Western Front until 1917. Stone specializes in Great War Russia, does a first-rate job of presenting the consequences of the collapse of four empires: Hapsburg, German, tsarist and Ottoman. He challenges current interpretations of the postwar treaties, presenting them as a list of failures. The attempt to integrate the world economy collapsed. The postwar expansion of colonial empires proved ephemeral. The League of Nations "declined into irrelevance." Stone reserves his harshest criticism for the punitive terms imposed on a Germany convinced neither of its defeat nor the injustice of its cause. That, he asserts convincingly, laid the groundwork for a second, more terrible conflict. Photos, maps.