A World popular Undone: The Story of the Great War, high quality 1914 to 1918 outlet sale

A World popular Undone: The Story of the Great War, high quality 1914 to 1918 outlet sale

A World popular Undone: The Story of the Great War, high quality 1914 to 1918 outlet sale

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The First World War is one of history’s greatest tragedies. In this remarkable and intimate account, author G. J. Meyer draws on exhaustive research to bring to life the story of how the Great War reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed twenty million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today.

The First World War is one of history’s greatest tragedies. In this remarkable and intimate account, author G. J. Meyer draws on exhaustive research to bring to life the story of how the Great War reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed twenty million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Meyer sets out to integrate the war''s discrete elements into a single work of popular history and delivers a worthy counterpoint to Hew Strachan''s magisterial three-volume scholarly project, The First World War. A journalist and author ( Executive Blues), Meyer doesn''t offer original synthesis or analysis, but he does bring a clear, economical style to the war''s beginnings; the gridlock produced by the successes and failures of both sides; the divided military and political counsels that hobbled efforts at resolving operational and diplomatic stalemates; and above all the constant carnage, on a scale that staggers the imagination. Meyer provides brief, useful background on subjects from the Armenian genocide to the Alsace-Lorraine question—topics he considers crucial to an understanding of the war, but too cursorily explained in most popular histories. Correspondingly, he blends "foreground, background, and sidelights" to highlight the complex interactions of apparently unconnected events behind the four-year catastrophic war that destroyed a world and defined a century. Constructing a readable, coherent text in that format is a demanding challenge, accomplished with brio. (May 30)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

One only has to look at a few of today''s "hotspots" (the Balkans and the Middle East) to realize that World War I''s effects remain a determining factor in international relations. It may seem impossible to write an "intimate" account of such a global catastrophe, but Meyer has succeeded in doing just that: a masterful narrative history that eloquently conveys the sense of a civilization engaged in massive self-destruction, while its leaders, blinded by hubris, nationalism, or outright ignorance, led the charge. Although Meyer pays ample attention to the broad themes of causation and military strategies, he consistently reminds us that the war was a compilation of millions of individual tragedies. He captures the horror and futility of trench warfare, the slaughter at Gallipoli, and the genocide of Armenians as experienced by those who were there. Meyer also offers interesting and controversial insights into the motivations of many of the key participants. This is an outstanding survey of a cataclysm that still casts a shadow over world affairs. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

G. J. Meyer is a professional writer whose bylines have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, Harper’s, and many other newspapers and magazines. While working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he was awarded a Nieman Fellowship by Harvard University. He is the author of two nonfiction books, The Memphis Murders, recipient of an Edgar Award for Nonfiction, and Executive Blues. Meyer lives in New York City.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1


June 28:
The Black Hand Descends


"It''s nothing. It''s nothing."
--Archduke Franz Ferdinand


Thirty-four long, sweet summer days separated the morning of June 28, when the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was shot to death, from the evening of August 1, when Russia''s foreign minister and Germany''s ambassador to Russia fell weeping into each other''s arms and what is rightly called the Great War began.

On the morning when the drama opened, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was making an official visit to the city of Sarajevo in the province of Bosnia, at the southernmost tip of the Austro-Hungarian domains. He was a big, beefy man, a career soldier whose intelligence and strong will usually lay concealed behind blunt, impassive features and eyes that, at least in his photographs, often seemed cold and strangely empty. He was also the eldest nephew of the Hapsburg emperor Franz Joseph and therefore--the emperor''s only son having committed suicide--heir to the imperial crown. He had come to Bosnia in his capacity as inspector general of the Austro-Hungarian armies, to observe the summer military exercises, and he had brought his wife, Sophie, with him. The two would be observing their fourteenth wedding anniversary later in the week, and Franz Ferdinand was using this visit to put Sophie at the center of things, to give her a little of the recognition she was usually denied.

Back in the Hapsburg capital of Vienna, Sophie was, for the wife of a prospective emperor, improbably close to being a nonperson. At the turn of the century the emperor had forbidden Franz Ferdinand to marry her. She was not of royal lineage, was in fact a mere countess, the daughter of a noble but impoverished Czech family. As a young woman, she had been reduced by financial need to accepting employment as lady-in-waiting to an Austrian archduchess who entertained hopes of marrying her own daughter to Franz Ferdinand. All these things made Sophie, according to the rigid protocols of the Hapsburg court, unworthy to be an emperor''s consort or a progenitor of future rulers. The accidental discovery that she and Franz Ferdinand were conducting a secret if chaste romance--that he had been regularly visiting the archduchess''s palace not to court her daughter but to see a lowly and thirtyish member of the household staff--sparked outrage, and Sophie had to leave her post. But Franz Ferdinand continued to pursue her. In his youth he had had a long struggle with tuberculosis, and perhaps his survival had left him determined to live his private life on his own terms. Uninterested in any of the young women who possessed the credentials to become his bride, he had remained single into his late thirties. The last two years of his bachelorhood turned into a battle of wills with his uncle the emperor over the subject of Sophie Chotek.

Franz Joseph finally tired of the deadlock and gave his consent. What he consented to, however, was a morganatic marriage, one that would exclude Sophie''s descendants from the succession. And so on June 28, 1900, fourteen years to the day before his visit to Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand appeared as ordered in the Hapsburg monarchy''s Secret Council Chamber. In the presence of the emperor, the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, the Primate of Hungary, all the government''s principal ministers, and all the other Hapsburg archdukes, he solemnly renounced the Austro-Hungarian throne on behalf of any children that he and Sophie might have and any descendants of those children. (Sophie was thirty-two, which in those days made her an all but hopeless spinster.) When the wedding took place three days later, only Franz Ferdinand''s mother and sister, out of the whole huge Hapsburg family, attended. Even Franz Ferdinand''s brothers, the eldest of whom was a notorious libertine, self-righteously stayed away. The marriage turned out to be a happy one all the same, in short order producing a daughter and two sons whom the usually stiff Franz Ferdinand loved so unreservedly that he would play with them on the floor in the presence of astonished visitors. But at court Sophie was relentlessly snubbed. She was not permitted to ride with her husband in royal processions or to sit near him at state dinners. She could not even join him in his box at the opera. When he, as heir, led the procession at court balls, she was kept far back, behind the lowest ranking of the truly royal ladies.

But here in Bosnia, a turbulent border province, the rules of Vienna could be set aside. Here in Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie could appear together in public as royal husband and wife. It was a rare experience, and they were enjoying it as much as any pair of small-town shopkeepers on their first vacation in years. They were staying in the nearby seaside resort town of Bad Ilidz, and on Saturday they had browsed the local antique markets. They had started Sunday with mass in an improvised chapel at their hotel, after which the archduke sent a telegram to the children, Sophie, Max, and Ernst. Momma and Poppa were well, the wire said. Momma and Poppa were looking forward to getting home on Tuesday.

And now on this brilliant morning, the air crisp and clear after a week of rain and chill, the streets lined with people some of whom cheered and some of whom merely looked on in silence, Sophie was seated beside the archduke in an open car as they rode toward the town hall. They looked less imperial than like characters out of a comic opera: an overweight middle-aged pair, Franz Ferdinand faintly ridiculous in an ornate military headpiece and a field marshal''s tunic that stretched too tight across his ample torso, Sophie''s plump face smiling cheerily under a broad bonnet and the dainty parasol that, even in the moving car, she held above her head.

Suddenly there was a loud crack: the sound, as police investigators would later determine, of the percussion cap on a Serbian-made pocket bomb being struck against a lamppost. A small dark object was seen flying through the air: the bomb, thrown by someone in the crowd. It was on target, but the driver of the royal car saw it coming and accelerated, so that it fell inches behind the archduke and his wife. Franz Ferdinand too saw it, swung at it with his arm, and deflected it farther to the rear. It exploded with a shattering noise as the car sped off, damaging the next vehicle in the procession and injuring several people. A tiny fragment of shrapnel grazed Sophie''s neck.

In the crowds along the route of the motorcade that day were six young men who had traveled to Sarajevo for the purpose of killing the archduke. Five of them, including the one who had thrown the bomb, were Bosnian Serb teenagers--youths born and raised in Bosnia but of Serbian descent. All five were sick with tuberculosis, curiously enough, and all were members of Young Bosnia, a radical patriotic organization linked to and supported by a deeply secret Serb nationalist group formally called Union or Death but known to its members as the Black Hand. Though the Black Hand had been active for years, Austria-Hungary''s intelligence services still knew nothing of its existence. Its purpose was the expansion of the Kingdom of Serbia, a smallish and ambitious young country adjacent to Bosnia, so that all the Serbs of the Balkans could be united. Its ultimate goal was the creation of a Greater Serbia that would include Bosnia, and its members were prepared to use terrorism to achieve that goal. The assassins of June 28 had been assembled just across the border in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, armed with bombs and Belgian revolvers, and slipped into Sarajevo well in advance of the archduke''s arrival.

June 28, as it happened, was an awkward day for a Hapsburg to be visiting Bosnia. It was St. Vitus Day, which for more than five hundred years had been an occasion of mourning for the Serbs. On St. Vitus Day in 1389 a Serbian kingdom that had flourished through the Middle Ages was defeated by the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Kosovo, on the so-called Field of Blackbirds. The Serb army was not merely vanquished but slaughtered. Soon afterward the kingdom ceased to exist. The Serbs became subjects--slaves, really--of their savagely harsh Turkish conquerors. Kosovo was avenged in 1912, when the Turks were driven out of the Balkans at last, but it would never be forgotten--certainly not while so many Serbs were still under alien rule. There could be no better day than this one to strike a blow against the oppressors--which now meant a blow against the Hapsburgs, the Turks being gone from the scene.

Between the throwing of the bomb and the motorcade''s arrival at the town hall, the car carrying Franz Ferdinand and Sophie drove past three more members of the gang. They were armed but did nothing. Later two of them, after being arrested, made excuses for their failure to act. The third, probably the most truthful, said he had lost his nerve.

After a standard ceremonial welcome--the mayor, absurdly, didn''t deviate from a script declaring that everyone in Sarajevo honored the archduke and was delighted by this visit--Franz Ferdinand announced a change in his itinerary. He insisted on going to the hospital where the people injured by the bomb had been taken. It was the right Hapsburg gesture, a demonstration of concern for servants of the crown. Franz Ferdinand asked Sophie to stay behind, out of any possible danger. She refused, saying that her place was with him. This did not seem reckless. The military governor of Bosnia, who was riding in the same car with the couple that morning, had already declared his confidence that there would be no further trouble. If he knew anything about the Serb fanatics, he said, it was that they were capable of only one assassination attempt per day.

The motorcade set out once again. The route originally planned by the authorities was still cleared of traffic, and the lead ...

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4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

K. Duke
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Certainly one of the best single volume histories of the War
Reviewed in the United States on November 6, 2017
I''ve read several hundred books on WW1. I was surprised-- maybe shocked-- by how much "new" stuff I got from this book. Especially when you consider it''s not particularly large. For a one-volume "general history" of the ENTIRE war, it... See more
I''ve read several hundred books on WW1. I was surprised-- maybe shocked-- by how much "new" stuff I got from this book.

Especially when you consider it''s not particularly large.

For a one-volume "general history" of the ENTIRE war, it contains a remarkable amount of interesting and intriguing facts, mostly put in context with interesting stories.

It''s a great read, and, if a person wanted to keep JUST ONE book on WW1, this would be my recommendation.
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Yoav C.
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A very good single-volume history of WWI with some serious flaws. Perfect for laymen
Reviewed in the United States on October 9, 2018
Review of A World Undone by Meyer (Kindle version) Most books about WWI concentrate on specific things: a period of time, a theater of war, a certain battle, diplomacy, the issue of why the war started at all or who is to blame. Recently it has become fashionable... See more
Review of A World Undone by Meyer (Kindle version)

Most books about WWI concentrate on specific things: a period of time, a theater of war, a certain battle, diplomacy, the issue of why the war started at all or who is to blame. Recently it has become fashionable to put forth the soldiers’ point of view and to discuss the legacy of the war. In contrast, this book has it all—it’s kind of a WWI smorgasbord. Normally, the results of such a mix would be horrendous, but here it not only works, it works fabulously. I credit the author’s immense skill in separating the wheat from the chaff, his ability to provide just the right amount of detail, and also to his successful decision to intersperse the text with short background sections that greatly enhanced my understanding of the issues without interfering with the reading experience. In addition, the author is simply a gifted storyteller. Still, the book does have some serious problems. Here are some more comments, in bullet-point form:

Pros:
• The prose is fluent, and engaging, and reads like a great, sweeping novel—as far as possible from a dry, dusty history book. Also, it must have been proofread to death because I did not find even one mistake.
• The author has a subtle sense of humor that makes the text even more enjoyable.
• The level of detail in the descriptions of battles is fine enough to understand what is happening but not enough to require detailed maps, which the book rarely provides in any case (and which are too small to read on the Kindle anyway).
• As far as I can tell, the book is up-to-date with the most recent scholarship on the various issues.
• The background sections are brief but amazingly informative, worth the price of the book by themselves. Beside background on the royal families there are chapters on the Armenian Genocide, life in the trenches, shell shock, the role of women, and much more.

Cons:
• No notes! I have no idea how a history books gets published these days—and in a convenient electronic medium no less—without including footnotes in the text. This is unconscionable. The book has endnotes for each chapter, but they do not refer to any page specifically, so they are just a useless mess. This really is infuriating. Basically, a history book with no sources. Unbelievable.
• The ending is real bad. Apparently, the author ran out of steam, because the description of the end of the war and the Treaty of Versailles is very brief and at an entirely different (lower) level than the rest of the book. Really a shame. The author also embraces the myth of an allied blockade starving Germany after the ceasefire, which seems to be wrong (see Sally Marks “Mistakes and Myths: The Allies, Germany, and the Versailles Treaty” – essay from 2013).

Bottom line: Despite its grave shortcomings, this an excellent single-volume book about WWI. It is perfect for laymen who want to understand the war without having to read a ton of books, but it can also serve as an excellent starting point for those who want to dig in deeper. For a detailed discussion of specific issues, other books will serve you better.
62 people found this helpful
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Michiele Shaw
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Best history book I''ve read
Reviewed in the United States on May 13, 2017
This is, without doubt, the best history book I''ve ever read, and I''ve read a lot of them. Meyer has managed to be highly readable and informative at the same time. I had no insight into WWI at all, and now I''m tempted to re-read this 700 page book immediately... See more
This is, without doubt, the best history book I''ve ever read, and I''ve read a lot of them. Meyer has managed to be highly readable and informative
at the same time. I had no insight into WWI at all, and now I''m tempted to re-read this 700 page book immediately because I couldn''t put it down the first time. He doesn''t just hit the reader with names, places, statistics and endless war logistics and battles. It''s all there, but in context, as he intersperses "background" chapters between telling of the progress of the war itself. Please Mr. Meyer, write another book about the time between the two great wars!
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Sophia D-H
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great overview
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2018
This book is part of the pile I’m wading through to research a new story idea. I know I want to set it in England sometime between the end of the first world war and just after the second, but I don’t know exactly when. So, I figured I’d start with the first world war and... See more
This book is part of the pile I’m wading through to research a new story idea. I know I want to set it in England sometime between the end of the first world war and just after the second, but I don’t know exactly when. So, I figured I’d start with the first world war and work my way forward. This book is an excellent overview of the whole thing. The war is such a massive topic that it is almost impossible to cover everything, but this succeeds for the most part. Meyer covers everything in chronological order, so you get a feel for what was happening everywhere at any given time. He also includes small sections of historical background between each chapter the provides valuable insight into things like the history of the Balkans, the Junckers, and the Hohenzollerns. The only area that I thought was a little lacking were details on the war in Italy, but that is a minor quibble. It’s quite long, and really gives you the sense of the kind of meatgrinder the war was. I highly recommend it for anyone new to the topic.
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dg113
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The best way to learn about World War I
Reviewed in the United States on March 1, 2018
Never before have I read a book with so much information presented in such a logical, easily digestible way. Like many "history buffs" I know plenty about World War II but much less about the war twenty years prior that caused it. This book changed that. What I like... See more
Never before have I read a book with so much information presented in such a logical, easily digestible way. Like many "history buffs" I know plenty about World War II but much less about the war twenty years prior that caused it. This book changed that. What I like most are the background sections on the key players interspersed throughout the book - such a unique but great method to keep the reader learning without bogging down the narrative. If the book started with all of that background, I am sure many readers would get dissuaded from finishing it because it''s not quite as interesting as the war itself. Once you''re invested in the story of the war, however, the background on the key players is fascinating. Highly recommended.
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JRAlpine
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Where have all the flowers gone?
Reviewed in the United States on April 16, 2018
Thinking about the First World War centennial, I picked up “A World Undone,” G. J. Meyer’s fairly recent (2006) and highly detailed account of the conflict. I don’t have the credentials to evaluate the quality of the scholarship, but the lengthy book certainly conveys the... See more
Thinking about the First World War centennial, I picked up “A World Undone,” G. J. Meyer’s fairly recent (2006) and highly detailed account of the conflict. I don’t have the credentials to evaluate the quality of the scholarship, but the lengthy book certainly conveys the scale of the calamity and the scope of the human suffering it caused.

And yet the war was almost an accident—petty conflicts and diplomatic miscommunications sparking mechanized slaughter on a scale unforeseen even by the generals and politicians so ineptly managing it. Even more sobering, the 1918 Armistice and subsequent Treaty of Versailles did little more than set the stage for World War II.

“A World Undone” conveys all of this with different degrees of success, sometimes overwhelming readers with battlefield strategies and sometimes moving them to feel what modern war was like for soldiers and civilians alike. As it should be, “A World Undone” is profoundly unsettling, maybe especially for readers who think we live in the worst of times today.
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Peter J. Keiser
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not Much New
Reviewed in the United States on September 15, 2015
Not much new here but a good general overview of WWI. An excellent book on the causes is Clark''s "The Sleepwalkers". Meyer overlooks the fact that France had loaned Russia enormous sums prior to the outbreak of war with the particular aim of tying the Russians to... See more
Not much new here but a good general overview of WWI. An excellent book on the causes is Clark''s "The Sleepwalkers". Meyer overlooks the fact that France had loaned Russia enormous sums prior to the outbreak of war with the particular aim of tying the Russians to France in an alliance against Germany. Meyer''s pretty good on the dynamics of Britain''s involvement, the Home Rule issue and Grey''s essentially duplicitous nature. He''s better on Wilson''s actions in getting America involved. Simply put, the US had loaned Britain and France so much money by the third year of the war that the Americans couldn''t afford to let them lose. The more history I read and the older I get the more I realize that if you can follow the money trail you can generally figure out why things happen. Well written, easy to read. Good introduction for someone new to this subject.
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Learning about The Great War? —— Start HERE...
Reviewed in the United States on March 11, 2021
I have been totally immersed in the Great War since I began learning about it on the Centennial in 2014. By the end of the war’s centennial in 2018 I owned 40 books and had read all or most of nearly all of them. From my experience I can say that for most people who want... See more
I have been totally immersed in the Great War since I began learning about it on the Centennial in 2014. By the end of the war’s centennial in 2018 I owned 40 books and had read all or most of nearly all of them. From my experience I can say that for most people who want to START learning about the war by reading a comprehensive book which doesn’t assume any special knowledge, this is the book to pick up. After that you can specialize in any of a few dozen specialized aspects of the war. But to begin, I strongly recommend this book or THE GUNS OF AUGUST.

The best part about this book is the way the author tells the whole story of the war chronologically, but at the start of each chapter he gives a 5-10 page background on some aspect that will affect the war later on. So often an author will force for background material into a chapter in different spots and totally lose story momentum. This organizational method completely removes that problem. Here are some examples of his background sections...
The Ottoman Turks
The French Commanders
An Infinite Appetite for Shells (for Big Artillery Guns)
Shell Shocked Soldiers
Women and The Home Front
War Poetry
Hearts and Minds

This method of a chronology peppered with one-off thematic mini-chapters is very instructive since there is no attempt to weave these subjects into the chronological narrative.

Finally, if you don’t take my word for it, this is the book which is recommended to visitors at the National World War One Museum when they ask for a book that is a good place to start. This is actually what convinced me to recommend this book in that position along with The Guns of August.

Please enjoy this book and trust your instinct that the First World War makes for engaging reading. It is a different type of engaging than the Second World War but I find it so compelling that I can’t stop learning about the conflict, and particularly what caused it.

Other Specialized Reading Options...

If you share my interest in the ultimate causes of the conflict then I strongly recommend reading The War to End Peace (MacMillan) followed by The Sleepwalkers (Clark). A more simple short version is given by an old book called Triple Alliance and Triple Entente (by Schmitt, 1931). Each of these concentrated on the 15 years leading to 1914. For a look at the July Crisis that immediately caused the war, check out July 1914 by Sean McMeekin.

For an anti-war look at those who opposed the war in Britain before that became fashionable (after the war), and fought very hard for their pacifist principles in the face of huge war fever, check out The War to End All Wars (Hochschild).

I give a more detailed look at several specialty titles in my review of John Keegan’s outstanding military history title, “The First World War” on Audible.com. All books cited above are available on Audible.com as well (but for the 1931 title).
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Top reviews from other countries

A Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A fantastic one volume history of WW1. Should be your first contact with WW1.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 16, 2014
Absolutely fantastic. The format of a a brief summary chapter giving the necessary background to understand the context of the more detailed discussion to follow (e.g. a brief chapter giving a condensed history of The Ottoman Turks before talking about their entry into the...See more
Absolutely fantastic. The format of a a brief summary chapter giving the necessary background to understand the context of the more detailed discussion to follow (e.g. a brief chapter giving a condensed history of The Ottoman Turks before talking about their entry into the war) allows a relative novice to grasp points some other books take for granted. The stated aim is to provide a one volume history of WW1 that is comprehensive enough to allow an understanding of this incredibly important conflict. It lives up to its aim, for a one volume overview there is probably little better for the general reader. This should be your first contact with WW1. This give the necessary baseline to pursue more detailed studies.
Absolutely fantastic.

The format of a a brief summary chapter giving the necessary background to understand the context of the more detailed discussion to follow (e.g. a brief chapter giving a condensed history of The Ottoman Turks before talking about their entry into the war) allows a relative novice to grasp points some other books take for granted.

The stated aim is to provide a one volume history of WW1 that is comprehensive enough to allow an understanding of this incredibly important conflict. It lives up to its aim, for a one volume overview there is probably little better for the general reader.

This should be your first contact with WW1. This give the necessary baseline to pursue more detailed studies.
2 people found this helpful
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conjunction
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Readable and Balanced
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 27, 2010
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to reach at least a preliminary understanding of the First World War. At over 700 pages it is more than a primer. It is however designed for the general reader. It has footnotes but they are not in the text, you need to look...See more
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to reach at least a preliminary understanding of the First World War. At over 700 pages it is more than a primer. It is however designed for the general reader. It has footnotes but they are not in the text, you need to look for them at the end of the book. It is written in a jargon-free, non-academic style. Most refreshingly of all Meyer is not afraid to come to conclusions. There is no careful weighing up of the evidence, reference to other authorities, and a hesitant plumping for one conclusion or another. He simply tells it as he sees it. In fact I can''t think of a single reference in the text to any other historian. For me - I am not studying for a degree - these things are a plus. Secondly, when necessary, Meyer can be more than concise. His final brief chapter on the Treaty of Versailles is a piece de resistance in this respect. He explains the movement towards the numbing penalties on Germany without drawing portentous conclusions - it''s obvious enough. Meyer in no ways flinches from military detail, and throughout paints pictures of the human cost of the war in many respects. The book is studded with vignettes about the lives and families of politicians and generals, as well as with excerpts from the diaries of combatants, and discussions of poetry and other cultural aspects. He never forgets to look at the impact of the war on the social and political fabric of the many countries involved. The book does concentrate on the war in Europe, although the eastern front is given due weight with the western. Attention to the Middle East is relatively cursory, and very little attention is given to other theatres. At the beginning of the book a good attempt is made to understand the motives of the participants for getting involved in the war. Meyer then describes how five huge superpowers lurched into war, each being prisoners of the logistics of their mobilisations which made negotiation almost impossible, particularly with the unreliable intelligence and communications they possessed. The motives of France especially, I felt, and to some extent Germany were only explored in limited depth. Perhaps Meyer felt it beyond his remit to go into a full analysis of Germany''s motivations, being content with general references to the unification of Germany in 1870 and the nature of the imperial regime. Meyer alludes to the intense aggression of some elements in France, especially its ambassador to Moscow without explaining it. The positions of the Austrian and Ottoman empires were I felt made a little clearer. All in all this is a cogent, imaginative and very approachable account of one of the great events in world history.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to reach at least a preliminary understanding of the First World War. At over 700 pages it is more than a primer.

It is however designed for the general reader. It has footnotes but they are not in the text, you need to look for them at the end of the book. It is written in a jargon-free, non-academic style. Most refreshingly of all Meyer is not afraid to come to conclusions. There is no careful weighing up of the evidence, reference to other authorities, and a hesitant plumping for one conclusion or another. He simply tells it as he sees it. In fact I can''t think of a single reference in the text to any other historian. For me - I am not studying for a degree - these things are a plus.

Secondly, when necessary, Meyer can be more than concise. His final brief chapter on the Treaty of Versailles is a piece de resistance in this respect. He explains the movement towards the numbing penalties on Germany without drawing portentous conclusions - it''s obvious enough.

Meyer in no ways flinches from military detail, and throughout paints pictures of the human cost of the war in many respects. The book is studded with vignettes about the lives and families of politicians and generals, as well as with excerpts from the diaries of combatants, and discussions of poetry and other cultural aspects. He never forgets to look at the impact of the war on the social and political fabric of the many countries involved.

The book does concentrate on the war in Europe, although the eastern front is given due weight with the western. Attention to the Middle East is relatively cursory, and very little attention is given to other theatres.

At the beginning of the book a good attempt is made to understand the motives of the participants for getting involved in the war. Meyer then describes how five huge superpowers lurched into war, each being prisoners of the logistics of their mobilisations which made negotiation almost impossible, particularly with the unreliable intelligence and communications they possessed.

The motives of France especially, I felt, and to some extent Germany were only explored in limited depth. Perhaps Meyer felt it beyond his remit to go into a full analysis of Germany''s motivations, being content with general references to the unification of Germany in 1870 and the nature of the imperial regime. Meyer alludes to the intense aggression of some elements in France, especially its ambassador to Moscow without explaining it. The positions of the Austrian and Ottoman empires were I felt made a little clearer.

All in all this is a cogent, imaginative and very approachable account of one of the great events in world history.
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J.O. Quantaman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Lethal Errors
Reviewed in Canada on February 20, 2019
"A World Undone" by G. J. Meyer is a concise and satisfying history of World War I. The author shows how the Archduke''s assassination provoked the majority of European nations to embark on a disastrous war. The author examines motives and futile decisions of leaders and...See more
"A World Undone" by G. J. Meyer is a concise and satisfying history of World War I. The author shows how the Archduke''s assassination provoked the majority of European nations to embark on a disastrous war. The author examines motives and futile decisions of leaders and generals. It tracks the major battles, the horrendous conditions of grunts in the trenches. ___The author presents a comprehensive introduction for the least glorious war in human history. Readers will conclude that few if any of the so-called generals had a clue what they were doing. ___Recommended for history buffs. 4.75 Stars.
"A World Undone" by G. J. Meyer is a concise and satisfying history of World War I. The author shows how the Archduke''s assassination provoked the majority of European nations to embark on a disastrous war. The author examines motives and futile decisions of leaders and generals. It tracks the major battles, the horrendous conditions of grunts in the trenches.
___The author presents a comprehensive introduction for the least glorious war in human history. Readers will conclude that few if any of the so-called generals had a clue what they were doing.
___Recommended for history buffs. 4.75 Stars.
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lupo
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
"An original and very readable account..." Steve Gillon, The History Channel
Reviewed in Germany on August 1, 2014
Es hat mir Freude bereitet, diesen englischen Text zu lesen: er ist in der Mitte zwischen künstlerisch anspruchsvoll und sachlich trocken. Die Ursachen (die ersten 100 Seiten) und dann die Schlachten des Kriegs sind ebenfalls mit einem guten Mittelweg beschrieben:...See more
Es hat mir Freude bereitet, diesen englischen Text zu lesen: er ist in der Mitte zwischen künstlerisch anspruchsvoll und sachlich trocken. Die Ursachen (die ersten 100 Seiten) und dann die Schlachten des Kriegs sind ebenfalls mit einem guten Mittelweg beschrieben: ausführlich genug für ein befriedigendes Verständnis, wenn man aus Zeitgründen nicht noch tiefer in diese Materie einsteigen will. Eingeflochten in die allgemeinen Beschreibungen der Kriegshandlungen aus Historikersicht sind viele kurz gehaltene Nacherzählungen von Berichten von einfachen Soldaten und Offizieren aus Tagebüchern und Briefen oder Büchern von Menschen, die dabei gewesen sind. Eine sehr gute Idee sind auch die Zwischenkapitel ("Background" genannt), die Hintergrundinformationen über ein Thema geben, wenn es gerade im Text dran ist. Meyer gibt auch gute Charakterbeschreibungen der wichtigsten Akteure, nicht zuletzt auch von Kaiser Wilhelm II. Ebenso spart er nicht an Aufdeckung von - gemäß seiner Analyse - immensen Fehlern oder unsinnigen Offensiven zusätzlich noch obendrauf zu den tragischen Verwicklungen der Ursachen des Kriegs und des Hochmuts der Politiker und Generäle aufgrund ihrer nationalistischen Gesinnungen. Kartenmaterial ist auch vorhanden, wird aber vielleicht manchem Leser zu wenig sein. Dieses Buch ist ein guter Mix aus politischer und militärischer Geschichte, mit leichtem Übergewicht der Politik, würde ich sagen. Das Taschenbuch ist ein schöner, flexibler, wertig aussehender Einband.
Es hat mir Freude bereitet, diesen englischen Text zu lesen: er ist in der Mitte zwischen künstlerisch anspruchsvoll und sachlich trocken.
Die Ursachen (die ersten 100 Seiten) und dann die Schlachten des Kriegs sind ebenfalls mit einem guten Mittelweg beschrieben: ausführlich genug für ein befriedigendes Verständnis, wenn man aus Zeitgründen nicht noch tiefer in diese Materie einsteigen will.
Eingeflochten in die allgemeinen Beschreibungen der Kriegshandlungen aus Historikersicht sind viele kurz gehaltene Nacherzählungen von Berichten von einfachen Soldaten und Offizieren aus Tagebüchern und Briefen oder Büchern von Menschen, die dabei gewesen sind.
Eine sehr gute Idee sind auch die Zwischenkapitel ("Background" genannt), die Hintergrundinformationen über ein Thema geben, wenn es gerade im Text dran ist.
Meyer gibt auch gute Charakterbeschreibungen der wichtigsten Akteure, nicht zuletzt auch von Kaiser Wilhelm II. Ebenso spart er nicht an Aufdeckung von - gemäß seiner Analyse - immensen Fehlern oder unsinnigen Offensiven zusätzlich noch obendrauf zu den tragischen Verwicklungen der Ursachen des Kriegs und des Hochmuts der Politiker und Generäle aufgrund ihrer nationalistischen Gesinnungen.
Kartenmaterial ist auch vorhanden, wird aber vielleicht manchem Leser zu wenig sein.
Dieses Buch ist ein guter Mix aus politischer und militärischer Geschichte, mit leichtem Übergewicht der Politik, würde ich sagen.
Das Taschenbuch ist ein schöner, flexibler, wertig aussehender Einband.
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Marc Ranger
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An absolutly brillant book
Reviewed in Canada on March 16, 2014
"A word undone" is the story of the Great War, but not just the military story. To help the reader understand fully why and how things happened the way they did, the author inserted short chapters about the Romanov dynasty, about the Hapsburg family, about the...See more
"A word undone" is the story of the Great War, but not just the military story. To help the reader understand fully why and how things happened the way they did, the author inserted short chapters about the Romanov dynasty, about the Hapsburg family, about the Hohenzollern monarchy, All those pre-Great War stories gives the reader the background needed to understand the power struggle between Europe''s nations, struggle that ignited the Great War. The 1914-1918 Great War triggered everything that came afterward: -The seizing of power by the Communists in Russia -The dismemberment of Austro-Hungria -The rise to power of Adolf Hitler -The emergence of the USA as a world power -The creation of a nation called Irak. The 20th century we know, the terrorist 21st century we are living in all started with the consequence of the Great War. In essence, to be able to understand the world we are living in, we must be able to understand how it was shaped. "A world undone: The Story of the Great War 1914-1918" will help you do that. Required reading if you ask me. A must book for any library.
"A word undone" is the story of the Great War, but not just the military story. To help the reader understand fully why and how things happened the way they did, the author inserted short chapters about the Romanov dynasty, about the Hapsburg family, about the Hohenzollern monarchy, All those pre-Great War stories gives the reader the background needed to understand the power struggle between Europe''s nations, struggle that ignited the Great War.

The 1914-1918 Great War triggered everything that came afterward:

-The seizing of power by the Communists in Russia
-The dismemberment of Austro-Hungria
-The rise to power of Adolf Hitler
-The emergence of the USA as a world power
-The creation of a nation called Irak.

The 20th century we know, the terrorist 21st century we are living in all started with the consequence of the Great War.
In essence, to be able to understand the world we are living in, we must be able to understand how it was shaped.
"A world undone: The Story of the Great War 1914-1918" will help you do that.

Required reading if you ask me. A must book for any library.
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