Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Great War in short - NBIH podcast review

Who is responsible for World War I starting? This question rose on the podcast New Books In History where Marshall Poe interviewed Norman Stone who has just written book about the Great War in the series of 'short histories about'.

Stone answers with the traditional answer 'Germany' and this surprised me a bit. This is what I learned in secondary school, but since I have mainly seen this idea nuanced. If one has harsh words for German diplomacy then there is enough to be said also about others. The consensus, so is my impression, has moved in the direction that the alliance systems that had come into being and the consecutive delicate balance of power made it sort of inevitable. Yet Stone cuts this short and points at Germany which had been vying for European domination for decades and had been planning this war in advance. When opportunity came, they were all to eager to cease, is his standpoint.

In comparison to what other podcasts, especially the lecture series of Berkeley (History 5), Stanford (History of the international system) and UCSD (Politics and Warfare), this verdict seems rather crude and I am not entirely convinced after all. However it is a point not to be taken lightly. It makes for a perspective on the history that is more military than political, but Stone's strong point appears to lie there. The way he explains the logistical complications of the modern size of warfare in WW1 was very clarifying. So after all, for all WW1 buffs, this is a podcast one must hear.

More NBIH:
How Rome Fell,
Glancing over the backlog,
Jews in the Russian army,
Who will write our history?,
Sentiments in International Relations.

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