A peace to end all peace
When the Central powers collapsed in Autumn 1918, the war had lasted 4 years and the Allied were caught unprepared, having only recently changed their mind in regard to the length of the war, expecting it to go well into 1919 and even 1920. Notwithstanding, from January to June 1919, the 4 Allied powers (UK, France, Italy and the USA) set out to establish the first modern peace in the aftermath of the most bloody and destructive conflict Europe had known in recent centuries.
In his book 1914-1918, David Stevenson offers a powerful, detailed, insightful yet concise history of the Great War. He divides the war into 3 parts: the outbreak in early 1914, with rapid troop movement; the escalation from 1915 until late 1917, during which the opponents desperately sought to break through the stalemate; and the outcome in 1918, with Germany’s last push and its following collapse.
That history is written by the winner is a rather well established fact. But it is still amazing how many people still fall into pre-packaged narratives. In his book “The Sleepwalkers”, Christopher Clark sets out to dispel the myth of German aggressiveness and European victimhood.
The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914
As historians studying the First World War mostly focused on the political relationships between states and their policy makers leading to the war, making it sometimes difficult to grasp accurately what these various actors were actually feeling and in which context they were evolving.
The War That Ended Peace
The Guns of August
In “The Guns of August”, Barbara Tuchman starts by laying out a detailed picture of the background surrounding the outbreak of the war, with the various national ideals, the military plans of the main protagonists (Germany, France, Russia and England), and the complex personal relationships between the key actors. She then proceeds with a breath taking description of the first month of the war.