From a bestselling historian, a daringly revisionist history of World War I The Pity of War makes a simple and provocative argument: the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England’s fault. According to Niall Ferguson, England entered into war based on naive assumptions of German aims, thereby transforming a Continental conflict into a world war, which it then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement. The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather was 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, and inhuman is memorialized in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by cold statistics. Indeed, more British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam War. And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with little reluctance and with some enthusiasm. 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 or more stimulating guide than Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War.
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