The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End

The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to EndThe Vanquished by Robert Gerwarth
ISBN: 9780374537180
on November 7, 2017
Genres: History, Europe, General, Military, World War I, Modern, 20th Century, Tomlinson
Pages: 464

Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2016

If it is true, as they say, that the victors write the history, then our understanding of World War I and the century that followed is at the very least incomplete. Take, for example, the seemingly basic question of when the war ended. The standard date–November 11, 1918–privileges the experiences of the victors, most notably France, Great Britain and the United States, all of which use it as a time for national holidays based on war memorialization.

At issue is more than simple semantics or the preferences of pedantic historians. … Robert Gerwarth cites German veteran and writer of Storm of Steel Ernst Jünger, who said in 1928, “This war is not the end but the beginning of violence.” Thus, we can understand the “First World War” as not having truly ended until at least 1945 or perhaps even 1991 when the Soviet Union, itself a product of the war, finally collapsed. Even discussing the war in terms of winners and losers misses the point. With the possible exception of the United States and Japan, all states came out of the war far worse off than when they went in—and the people of Europe knew it.

In his epilogue, Gerwarth notes that by the late 1930s only two of the new post-1918 states, Finland and Czechoslovakia, looked anything like the liberal democracies that were once supposed to be the basis of Europe’s future. By 1939 there were, in fact, fewer people living under democracies than had been the case in 1914. Violence and dehumanization (with Jews as a particular target across central and eastern Europe) had become the norm in many of the new regimes. Thus does Gerwarth make clear the need to understand two often forgotten legacies of this period: that the process of ending World War I was just as traumatic as the war itself and that even in total wars, the vanquished still play a critical role.

Abridged from the review by Michael Neiberg published on October 4, 2017 on the Lawfare: National Security and Law website lawfareblog.com

Empires at War: 1911-1923

Empires at War: 1911-1923Empires at War: 1911-1923 by Robert Gerwarth, Erez Manela
ISBN: 019873493X
Published by Oxford University Press on October 1st 2015
Genres: Colonialism & Post-Colonialism, Military
Pages: 304

Len's Summary: Looks beyond Europe and the Western Front to examine why this was a truly global conflagration leading to the dissolution of empires. It starts with the Italio-Ottoman war over Libya, and ends with the Greco-Turkish War, the Treaty of Lausanne and declaration of the Turkish Republic.

War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe after the Great War

War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe after the Great WarWar in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe after the Great War by Robert Gerwarth, John Horne
ISBN: 9780199686056
Published by OUP Oxford on October 3rd 2013
Genres: History, Europe, General, Former Soviet Republics, Military, World War I, Revolutionary, Russia & the Former Soviet Union, Modern, 20th Century, Social History, Political Science, Political Freedom
Pages: 256

Len's Summary: Conflicts lasting through 1923 broke out in Ireland, Italy, Eastern and Central Europe, and Turkey.