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The Pity of War - Niall Ferguson.

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  • The Pity of War - Niall Ferguson.

    I'm been interested in reading some of Niall's work and came across this book, The Pity of War.
    Has anyone read it and do they recommend it?

    "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
    Ernest Hemingway.

    In english "silence" means yelling louder than everyone else.

  • #2
    An interesting,thought-provoking book.His main theme is the contention that Britain entering WW1 was a colossal mistake.However,he contradicted this view to a certain extent in his later “War of the World”.
    "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
    Samuel Johnson.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
      An interesting,thought-provoking book.His main theme is the contention that Britain entering WW1 was a colossal mistake.However,he contradicted this view to a certain extent in his later “War of the World”.
      Thanks, I may end up reading it purely because I haven’t ventured too much into that time of conflict as much as I had hoped.
      Was the contradiction in his later work a glaring one or less defined?
      "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
      Ernest Hemingway.

      In english "silence" means yelling louder than everyone else.

      Comment


      • #4
        It was required reading when I took my MA in WW1 studies. I think that he consciously or unconsciously had come to the conclusions he did before it was written rather than as a result of researching and writing it. I had difficulty with his final analysis - still worth a read but keep an open mind. It contains a lot of graphs, charts and tables and the e book I originally bought screwed these up so I had to buy a hard copy version.
        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for that, I’m keen to read his reasoning and I also have seen mixed feelings regarding his conclusions. One interview I’ve heard he discussed his desire to look beyond official archives while conducting research as a way of weeding out more interesting stories. He cited his book about Germany’s hyperinflation in the 1920s as on example where official archives were somewhat lacking.
          "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
          Ernest Hemingway.

          In english "silence" means yelling louder than everyone else.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Achtung Baby View Post

            Thanks, I may end up reading it purely because I haven’t ventured too much into that time of conflict as much as I had hoped.
            Was the contradiction in his later work a glaring one or less defined?
            I thought it was glaring. In contrast to his earlier contention that Britain could have avoided involvement in WW1,in his later effort he made the point that a British Government-particularly a Liberal Government- was morally obliged to come to the aid of Belgium.

            Still,he’s entitled to second thoughts. He remains a most readable and interesting historian. I can also recommend “Colossus”,about the rise of the USA . “Civilisation”, how the West gained a World-wide ascendency .”Empire”: “How Britain made the Modern World”. “ The Ascent of Money” in which Ferguson reverts to his economic roots.
            "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
            Samuel Johnson.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post

              I thought it was glaring. In contrast to his earlier contention that Britain could have avoided involvement in WW1,in his later effort he made the point that a British Government-particularly a Liberal Government- was morally obliged to come to the aid of Belgium.

              Still,he’s entitled to second thoughts. He remains a most readable and interesting historian. I can also recommend “Colossus”,about the rise of the USA . “Civilisation”, how the West gained a World-wide ascendency .”Empire”: “How Britain made the Modern World”. “ The Ascent of Money” in which Ferguson reverts to his economic roots.
              I'm currently reading his book, 'The square and the tower'... which is quite insightful and informative. Thanks for the recommendations, I'll add them to the wishlist.
              "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
              Ernest Hemingway.

              In english "silence" means yelling louder than everyone else.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                An interesting,thought-provoking book.His main theme is the contention that Britain entering WW1 was a colossal mistake.However,he contradicted this view to a certain extent in his later “War of the World”.
                What does he give for his reasoning for Britain's entry to be a mistake? Personally, I have been coming to that conclusion for a while now.

                Tuebor

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tuebor View Post

                  What does he give for his reasoning for Britain's entry to be a mistake? Personally, I have been coming to that conclusion for a while now.

                  Tuebor
                  Basically,Ferguson’s arguments are economic.The British Empire in 1919 was in far worse shape,despite being victorious, than that could be envisaged had London stood aside.

                  A reading of the situation,leaving aside matters of international morality and national honour,certainly supports his contention,but there’s more to life than money....isn’t there ?
                  "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                  Samuel Johnson.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Britain stood out of the Franco - Prussian war without losing anything. I see that not much more would have changed in 1914. Concentrate on being the superior naval power. Keep the lines of communication and trade open to the Empire and let Germany do what it needed to do on the continent.

                    I have a general dislike for Ferguson, as I find him pompous and inconsistent, but I do agree with him here - Great Britain lost an empire and and a generation trying to save a Europe that was hell bent on committing suicide.
                    Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the cheesemakers

                    That's right bitches. I'm blessed!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Rojik View Post
                      Britain stood out of the Franco - Prussian war without losing anything. I see that not much more would have changed in 1914. .
                      Major difference. In 1870 Britain stayed neutral on the understanding that Belgium was not attacked or occupied and signed treaties with Prussia and France to that effect. At the time Prussia was a negligible naval power and could pose little threat to Britain.If in 1914 Germany had conquered both Belgium and France and gained control of that long sea board - given the size and modernity of her navy and the unimportance of air power at the time the Kaiser would have been a bigger menace to the British Isles than ever Hitler was in 1940.
                      Britain was not trying to save Europe she was following her traditional policy of maintaining the balance of power so there was no European bloc that could endanger her.
                      Last edited by MarkV; 20 Aug 19, 12:29.
                      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                        An interesting,thought-provoking book.His main theme is the contention that Britain entering WW1 was a colossal mistake.However,he contradicted this view to a certain extent in his later “War of the World”.
                        Does he say why he thought it was a mistake?

                        I agree with him, BTW, but hindsight is always 20/20. A also believe that WWI was inevitable at some point, with or without the Sarejavo incident.
                        Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post

                          Basically,Ferguson’s arguments are economic.The British Empire in 1919 was in far worse shape,despite being victorious, than that could be envisaged had London stood aside.

                          A reading of the situation,leaving aside matters of international morality and national honour,certainly supports his contention,but there’s more to life than money....isn’t there ?
                          Not at the level of national governments, except territory, and that eventually equates into money. Power and international prestige may at times rank equally or slightly higher, but not enough to be a pure motivation. Even Hitler's claim of lebensraum was spurious, since he wanted rich farmlands and other resources of benefit to a future expansion of Germany that was not necessary to its survival at the time.

                          Britain's control of the seas, OTH, was based entirely on the old colonial system of protecting her highly profitable foreign trade routes and colonies, not on maintaining any sort of military or political "balance".

                          Interesting comment by Ferguson, because victors in modern wars usually come out worse, due to destroying the enemy's manufacturing which then must be rebuilt to modern standards while their own remains intact and outmoded.

                          Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Rojik View Post
                            Britain stood out of the Franco - Prussian war without losing anything. I see that not much more would have changed in 1914. Concentrate on being the superior naval power. Keep the lines of communication and trade open to the Empire and let Germany do what it needed to do on the continent.

                            I have a general dislike for Ferguson, as I find him pompous and inconsistent, but I do agree with him here - Great Britain lost an empire and and a generation trying to save a Europe that was hell bent on committing suicide.
                            Britain was fighting to save system's that was already failing: the old colonial system and the old nobility/upper class system. Neither of those systems had long to go in the rapidly changing world of the times.

                            Not usually mentioned is that WWI was fought on outmoded military principles and tactics as well, led by outmoded generals, a recipe for the murderous disaster that followed. This was the last and final test of the entire old system of doing thins, and the old system failed and then was obliterated in the process, at horrendous cost, not just in resources and money, but in the loss of entire generations of young men desperately needed to lead their nations into the future and provide the needed manpower to get there.

                            War is always wasteful and short sighted, even more so today when even victory itself is no longer the objective.
                            Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?

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                            • #15
                              [QUOTE=Mountain Man;n5135894]

                              Britain was fighting to save system's that was already failing: the old colonial system and the old nobility/upper class system. Neither of those systems had long to go in the rapidly changing world of the times.

                              Tosh - Germany supported both a colonial system and a nobility system - in fact more so than Britain. None of the main belligerents were opposed to these
                              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                              Comment

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