The Armistice and its Aftermath: A Great War Centennial Reading List

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 11:50am -- baglio

November 11th, a date memorialized today as Veterans Day, was once known as Armistice Day, the date in 1918 that brought the Great War to a halt. While the fighting stopped on that fateful day, it took almost another 8 months to offically bring the war to an end, and with it the hope of a world without war cautiously began. How did the war end, and who did it affect? What was the outcome for the allies after the war, and what was the outcome for the central powers. This reading list will bring answers to these questions as we solemnly celebrate the end of the Great War 100 years ago.

 

The Last Battle: Victory, Defeat and the End of World War I

By, Peter Hart

Author of The Great War, as well as celebrated accounts of the battles of the Somme, Passchendaele, Jutland, and Gallipoli, historian Peter Hart now turns to World War One's final months. Much has been made of-and written about-August 1914. There has been comparatively little focus on August 1918 and the lead-up to November. Because of the fixation on the Great War's opening moves, and the great battles that followed over the course of the next four years, the endgame seems to come as a stunning anticlimax. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the guns simply fell silent.

The Last Battle definitively corrects this misperception. As Hart shows, a number of factors precipitated the Armistice. After four years of bloodshed, Germany was nearly bankrupt and there was a growing rift between the military High Command and political leadership. But it also remained a determined combatant, and France and Great Britain had equally been stretched to their limits; Russia had abandoned the conflict in the late winter of 1918. However complex the causes of Germany's ultimate defeat, Allied success on the Western Front, as Hart reveals, tipped the scales-the triumphs at the Fifth Battle of Ypres, the Sambre, the Selle, and the Meuse-Argonne, where American forces made arguably their greatest contribution. The offensives cracked the Hindenburg Line and wore down the German resistance, precipitating collapse.

Final victory came at great human cost and involved the combined efforts of millions of men. Using the testimony of a range of participants, from the Doughboys, Tommies, German infantrymen, and French poilus who did the fighting, to those in command during those last days and weeks, Hart brings intimacy and sweep to the events that led to November 11, 1918.

 

Pandora's Box: A History of the First World War

By, Jörn Leonhard

In this monumental history of the First World War, Germany’s leading historian of the twentieth century’s first great catastrophe explains the war’s origins, course, and consequences. With an unrivaled combination of depth and global reach, Pandora’s Box reveals how profoundly the war shaped the world to come.

Jörn Leonhard treats the clash of arms with a sure feel for grand strategy, the everyday tactics of dynamic movement and slow attrition, the race for ever more destructive technologies, and the grim experiences of frontline soldiers. But the war was much more than a military conflict, or an exclusively European one. Leonhard renders the perspectives of leaders, intellectuals, artists, and ordinary men and women on diverse home fronts as they grappled with the urgency of the moment and the rise of unprecedented political and social pressures. And he shows how the entire world came out of the war utterly changed.

Postwar treaties and economic turbulence transformed geopolitics. Old empires disappeared or confronted harsh new constraints, while emerging countries struggled to find their place in an age of instability. At the same time, sparked and fueled by the shock and suffering of war, radical ideologies in Europe and around the globe swept away orders that had seemed permanent, to establish new relationships among elites, masses, and the state. Heralded on its publication in Germany as a masterpiece of historical narrative and analysis, Pandora’s Box makes clear just what dangers were released when the guns first fired in the summer of 1914.

 

Guarantees of Peace : Messages and Addresses to the Congress and the People, Jan. 31, 1918 to Dec. 2, 1918, Together with the Peace Notes to Germany and Austria

By, Woodrow Wilson

Excerpt from Guarantees of Peace: Messages and Addresses to the Congress and the People, Jan; 31, 1918, to Dec; 2, 1918 Together With the Peace Notes to Germany and Austria

The oppressed peoples Of the Old World the name of Woodrow Wilson connotes the idea Of present deliverance and of future justice; his is the one strong voice proclaiming the reign Of law and Of righteousness, the destruction Of every arbitrary power anywhere that can separately, secretly, and Of (its Single choice disturb the peace Of the world, and the inevitable triumph Of idealism over the dark forces Of materialism and national self-seeking.

 

The Christmas Truce : Myth, Memory, and the First World War

By, Terri Blom Crocker
 
In late December 1914, German and British soldiers on the western front initiated a series of impromptu, unofficial ceasefires. Enlisted men across No Man's Land abandoned their trenches and crossed enemy lines to sing carols, share food and cigarettes, and even play a little soccer. Collectively known as the Christmas Truce, these fleeting moments of peace occupy a mythical place in remembrances of World War I. Yet new accounts suggest that the heartwarming tale ingrained in the popular imagination bears little resemblance to the truth.
 
In this detailed study, Terri Blom Crocker provides the first comprehensive analysis of both scholarly and popular portrayals of the Christmas Truce from 1914 to present. From books by influential historians to the Oscar-nominated French film Joyeux Noel (2006), this new examination shows how a variety of works have both explored and enshrined this outbreak of peace amid overwhelming violence. The vast majority of these accounts depict the soldiers as acting in defiance of their superiors. Crocker, however, analyzes official accounts as well as private letters that reveal widespread support among officers for the détentes. Furthermore, she finds that truce participants describe the temporary ceasefires not as rebellions by disaffected troops but as acts of humanity and survival by professional soldiers deeply committed to their respective causes. 
 
The Christmas Truce studies these ceasefires within the wider war, demonstrating how generations of scholars have promoted interpretations that ignored the nuanced perspectives of the many soldiers who fought. Crocker's groundbreaking, meticulously researched work challenges conventional analyses and sheds new light on the history and popular mythology of the War to End All Wars.
 
 
 
By, Adam Tooze
 
In the depths of the Great War, with millions dead and no imaginable end to the conflict, societies around the world began to buckle. The heart of the financial system shifted from London to New York. The infinite demands for men and matériel reached into countries far from the front. The strain of the war ravaged all economic and political assumptions, bringing unheard-of changes in the social and industrialorder.
 
 
 
By, Alan Price
 
Thoughts of Edith Wharton conjure images of upper-class life in turn-of-the-century New York City: hansom cabs wait curbside in front of Washington Square townhouses; chandeliers glow above the heads of waltzing couples. What does not come to mind immediately is the tough-mindedness of Wharton herself and the efforts she put forth on behalf of others. Alan Price illuminates this side of Wharton in The End of the Age of Innocence: Edith Wharton and the First World War.
During World War I, Wharton saved the lives of thousands of Belgian and French refugees. When the war began, the expatriated Wharton and Henry James saw any possible German victory as "the crash of civilization," thus prompting their early involvement in the allied cause. In the opening weeks of the conflict, Wharton wrote war reportage at the front and organized relief efforts in Paris. Before the first year was over, she had created organizations and raised funds for three major war charities that bore her name. As the war sank into a stalemate of trench warfare, Wharton continued to write magazine and newspaper articles, organize fundraising schemes, and rally famous painters, composers, and writers to help sway American popular opinion and raise money for refugees. The End of the Age of Innocence tells the dramatic story of Wharton's heroic crusade to save the lives of displaced Belgians and the suffering citizens of her adopted France.
 
 
 
By, Richard Rubin
 
 “Before the Greatest Generation, there was the Forgotten Generation of World War I . . . wonderfully engaging” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
 
“Richard Rubin has done something that will never be possible for anyone to do again. His interviews with the last American World War I veterans—who have all since died—bring to vivid life a cataclysm that changed our world forever but that remains curiously forgotten here.” —Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918
In 2003, eighty-five years after the end of World War I, Richard Rubin set out to see if he could still find and talk to someone who had actually served in the American Expeditionary Forces during that colossal conflict. Ultimately he found dozens, aged 101 to 113, from Cape Cod to Carson City, who shared with him at the last possible moment their stories of America’s Great War.
Nineteenth-century men and women living in the twenty-first century, they were self-reliant, humble, and stoic, never complaining, but still marveling at the immensity of the war they helped win, and the complexity of the world they helped create. Though America has largely forgotten their war, you will never forget them, or their stories. A decade in the making, The Last of the Doughboys is the most sweeping look at America’s First World War in a generation, a glorious reminder of the tremendously important role America played in the “war to end all wars,” as well as a moving meditation on character, grace, aging, and memory.
 
 
 
By, Eugene Rogan
 
By 1914 the powers of Europe were sliding inexorably toward war, and they pulled the Middle East along with them into one of the most destructive conflicts in human history. In The Fall of the Ottomans, award-winning historian Eugene Rogan brings the First World War and its immediate aftermath in the Middle East to vivid life, uncovering the often ignored story of the region's crucial role in the conflict. Unlike the static killing fields of the Western Front, the war in the Middle East was fast-moving and unpredictable, with the Turks inflicting decisive defeats on the Entente in Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, and Gaza before the tide of battle turned in the Allies' favor. The postwar settlement led to the partition of Ottoman lands, laying the groundwork for the ongoing conflicts that continue to plague the modern Arab world. A sweeping narrative of battles and political intrigue from Gallipoli to Arabia, The Fall of the Ottomans is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the Great War and the making of the modern Middle East.
 
 
 
By, Louis Barthas
 
Along with millions of other Frenchmen, Louis Barthas, a thirty-five-year-old barrelmaker from a small wine-growing town, was conscripted to fight the Germans in the opening days of World War I. Corporal Barthas spent the next four years in near-ceaseless combat, wherever the French army fought its fiercest battles: Artois, Flanders, Champagne, Verdun, the Somme, the Argonne. Barthas’ riveting wartime narrative, first published in France in 1978, presents the vivid, immediate experiences of a frontline soldier.
 
This excellent new translation brings Barthas’ wartime writings to English-language readers for the first time. His notebooks and letters represent the quintessential memoir of a “poilu,” or “hairy one,” as the untidy, unshaven French infantryman of the fighting trenches was familiarly known. Upon Barthas’ return home in 1919, he painstakingly transcribed his day-to-day writings into nineteen notebooks, preserving not only his own story but also the larger story of the unnumbered soldiers who never returned. Recounting bloody battles and endless exhaustion, the deaths of comrades, the infuriating incompetence and tyranny of his own officers, Barthas also describes spontaneous acts of camaraderie between French poilus and their German foes in trenches just a few paces apart. An eloquent witness and keen observer, Barthas takes his readers directly into the heart of the Great War.
 
 
 
 
By, James Carl Neslon
 
"Not since Flags of Our Fathers—no, make that, Not since Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory—no, make that, Not ever—has an American nonfiction writer reached into history and produced a testament of young men in terrible battle with the stateliness, the mastery of cadence, the truthfulness and the muted heartbreak of James Carl Nelson in The Remains of Company D. I wish I'd had the honor of working on this book with him. But then, he didn't need me."---Ron Powers, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Flags of Our Fathers and author of Mark Twain: A Life
 
"A beautifully crafted anthem to doomed American youth, James Carl Nelson's The Remains of Company D is a must-read for World War I enthusiasts and those looking for a damn good war book."---Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of The Longest Winter and The Bedford Boys
 
"War is always hell, but the unprecedented carnage on World War I's Western Front was the stuff of nightmares. The American boys of Company D were on the front lines, and James Carl Nelson has combined previously unpublished first-person accounts, prodigious research, and vivid, you-are-there prose into one of the great books on the subject. This is a Band of Brothers for World War I."---James Donovan, author of A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn—the Last Great Battle of the American West
 
"James Carl Nelson's book is a great contribution to AEF history. He has done an incredible amount of research in order to convey the experience of one group of doughboys...and to tell their story through their own words.….He reminds us that these long-forgotten battles of ninety years ago were as hard fought as any before or since, and that our country was well served by the young men who fought them. Get this book. It puts a very human face on the experience of Americans on the Western Front."---Dr. Paul Herbert, executive director of the Cantigny First Division Foundation
 
Haunted by an ancestor's tale of near death on a distant battlefield, James Carl Nelson set out in pursuit of the scraps of memory of his grandfather's small infantry unit. Years of travel across the world led to the retrieval of unpublished personal papers, obscure memoirs, and communications from numerous Doughboys as well as original interviews of the descendents of his grandfather's comrades in arms. The result is a compelling tale of battle rooted in new primary sources, and one man's search for his grandfather's legacy in a horrifying maelstrom that is today poorly understood and nearly forgotten.
 
The Remains of Company D follows the members of Company D, 28th Infantry Regiment, United States First Division, from enlistment to combat to the effort to recover their remains, focusing on the three major battles at Cantigny, Soissons, and in the Meuse-Argonne and the effect these horrific battles had on the men.
 
This is an important and powerful tale of the different destinies, personalities, and motivations of the men in Company D and a timeless portrayal of men at war.
 
 
 
 
By, Edward G. Lengel
 
On September 26, 1918, more than one million American soldiers prepared to assault the German-held Meuse-Argonne region of France. Their commander, General John J. Pershing, said that in thirty-six hours the doughboys would crack the German defenses and open the road to Berlin. Six weeks of savage fighting later, the battle finally ended with the signing of the armistice that concluded the First World War. The Meuse-Argonne had fallen at the cost of more than 120,000 American casualties, including 26,000 dead. In the bloodiest battle the country had ever seen, an entire generation of young Americans had been transformed forever.
To Conquer Hell is gripping in its accounts of combat, studded with portraits of remarkable soldiers like Pershing, Harry Truman, George Patton, and Alvin York, and authoritative in presenting the big picture. It is military history of the first rank and, incredibly, the first in-depth account of this fascinating and important battle.
 
 
 
By, Margaret MacMillan
 
For six months in 1919, after the end of “the war to end all wars,” the Big Three—President Woodrow Wilson, British prime minister David Lloyd George, and French premier Georges Clemenceau—met in Paris to shape a lasting peace. In this landmark work of narrative history, Margaret MacMillan gives a dramatic and intimate view of those fateful days, which saw new political entities—Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Palestine, among them—born out of the ruins of bankrupt empires, and the borders of the modern world redrawn.
 
 
 
By, Peter Englund
 
An intimate narrative history of World War I told through the stories of twenty men and women from around the globe--a powerful, illuminating, heart-rending picture of what the war was really like. 
In this masterful book, renowned historian Peter Englund describes this epoch-defining event by weaving together accounts of the average man or woman who experienced it. Drawing on the diaries, journals, and letters of twenty individuals from Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Venezuela, and the United States, Englund’s collection of these varied perspectives describes not a course of events but "a world of feeling." Composed in short chapters that move between the home front and the front lines, The Beauty and Sorrow brings to life these twenty particular people and lets them speak for all who were shaped in some way by the War, but whose voices have remained unheard.