Saturday, June 28, 2014

Book Review - 1914 The Year The World Ended by Paul Ham

Haven't done a book review in quite some time. Truth is, I haven't read a book, or at least finished one, since just before Christmas. I bought Paul Ham's "1914 The Year The World Ended" as a Christmas present. Not that it was an uninteresting book by any means but I just got caught up doing other things. Perhaps the coincidental thing is that I finished reading the book on the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, June 28th 1914. Good timing I reckon.

Paul Ham actually delves into the history behind WWI which has its origins closer to 1871 when the German state was born. From then the powers that ruled were building for war. Well, Germany appeared to be looking for empire-building/expansion but continental Europe didn't have much spare space.

I learned that the assassination didn't spark the war but was a point that allowed the Austro-Hungarian empire to try to humiliate the Kingdom of Serbia and engage them in a regional conflict whereupon they wished to inflict a harsh lesson. Backed by Russia, Serbia didn't back down and amassed troops near the border. Germany had backed Austria with a blank cheque and France had an agreement with Russia to assist if she were attacked.

There is quite a bit of information, mainly centred on the British government, regarding diplomacy and France and Germany are dealt with to a lesser degree. Wonderful insight into the goings on behind the scenes including telegrams between cousins the Kaiser and the Tsar. Some amazing information that they don't teach you in school.

There's a few hundred pages regarding the buildup to the conflict, including the diplomacy to try to avoid it, and then a few hundred more on the actual fighting. Wonderful information regarding battles and the waste of human life. I had no idea of the importance of Belgium in WWI and was surprised that the Germans told them that they would respect their neutrality if the Belgians would stand aside and let them walk through to take on the French. If not, they were at war. I was able to see how important it was the Britain entered the war and why so many young men were sacrificed as Britain's safety and respect were at stake. War is so much more formal in nature than I previously thought.

1914 The Year The World Ended by Paul Ham
Fantastic read and worthy of historical study. More of the content should be in any school curriculum when dealing with WWI.