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Hochschild sets the scene for the cataclysm to come by beginning his work with Queen Victoria's elaborate Julbilee Celebration of her 60 years on the throne. It was 1897, England was at the height of imperial power, and the world was on the cusp of social change. There were growing movements for workers rights and women's suffrage, but also powerful, aristocratic colonialists whose assumptions included an accepted truth that non-whites could never rule themselves. Most damagingly, this point of view also never envisioned a world where the new weaponry of machine guns could or would ever be used against other Europeans. Such inventions were to be used against savages only.
Arthur Morey's reading of letters, speeches, and meeting notes gives Alfred Lord Milner, Sir (Gen.) John French, and Sir (Gen.) Douglas Haig an air of pomposity all three gentlemen exuded as they skillfully maneuvered from the Boer War to command posts in the French countryside and in English government. Milner was an unapologetic imperialist, while French and Haig were preposterous in their inability to acknowledge the horrendous, painful suffering on the part of the foot soldiers they so blithely put into harm's way. Morey skillfully voices the generals' preposterous sense that, no matter the amount of barbed wire, machine guns, flame throwers, or poison gas used by the Germans, a horse cavalry was still England's greatest strength.
Morey emphatically portrays the unique Pankhurst women, mother Emmeline, daughters Christabel and Sylvia, as they became more and more strident in their call for women's right to vote. Morey then deftly changes tone for Emmeline and Christabel when they became unabashed, jingoistic proponents of England's place in the war. Sylvia remained passionately committed to peace throughout the war and also to workers rights, to the needs of women and their children, and to England’s conscientious objectors. Morey gives extraordinary vocal force to the dynamo that was Emily Hobhouse, the archdeacon's daughter who could not be intimidated in her decades of work for peace and humanitarian treatment of women, children, and prisoners during wartime.
Interlaced throughout the book is the personal story of writer Rudyard Kipling, another clarion of unflagging support of the empire, whose tone became jaundiced and nativist once his own young son was killed. Morey has ample opportunity for verse, quoting not only Kipling but also the jaunty doggerel of Britain's Bantam Battalion, short in stature but incredibly courageous.
To End All Wars is a history lesson, to be sure. Through Arthur Morey the book comes alive with the emotion of secret lovers, the pathos of families whose young sons were killed, the explosive energy of workers who were finally feeling their power, and the horrific hell-on-earth that was trench warfare in World War I. Through Hochschild and Morey the listener is both mesmerized by the story and humbled by the sacrifices made by so many for ultimately, so little. Carole Chouinard
Thrown in jail for their opposition to the war were Britain's leading investigative journalist, a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and an editor who, behind bars, published a newspaper for his fellow inmates on toilet paper. These critics were sometimes intimately connected to their enemy hawks: one of Britain's most prominent women pacifist campaigners had a brother who was commander in chief on the Western Front. Two well-known sisters split so bitterly over the war that they ended up publishing newspapers that attacked each other.
Today, hundreds of military cemeteries spread across the fields of northern France and Belgium contain the bodies of millions of men who died in the "war to end all wars". Can we ever avoid repeating history?
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Tad Davis on 06-09-11
A story of personalities
Outstanding account of the Great War from an English point of view. Hochschild covers most of the military action of the war, but the further the action gets from the Western Front, the more summarized it becomes. What he's really after are the personalities: the generals John French and Douglas Haig; antiwar activists like French's sister Charlotte Despard, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Bertrand Russell; government officials like Alfred Milner and Keir Hardie. It's a grim, bloody story, and Hochschild thinks it wasn't worth it. What was gained, he wonders, to compensate for opening the door to the horrors of total war, mechanized slaughter, and genocide? Arthur Morey narrates the details in a matter-of-fact way, but his voice gathers a hard edge as he recounts events like the execution of men who were emotionally shattered by the constant bombardment, or the ghastly experience of watching new shells further shredding the remains of buried comrades. When he gets to the epilogue, the march of numbers (one million, ten million, fifty million) becomes almost unbearable.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful
By Michael on 08-17-11
Should be a guide to history writing
Anyone who feels the tale of war can be told by totaling up troop and equipment will be disapointed with this full juicy and robust telling of WW1.
The reasons and ego's behind the decisions that killed millions of sons and daughters is brought to the fore and fills in preconceptions regarding the period and attitudes of the goverments and popular figures. In some ways more importantly, the family bickering of "kings and queens" that brought a generation of bright and energetic young men to it's knees is what I found most repulsive.
A cautionary tale of the highest order and should be taught in classrooms or given to your kids. It is open ended and I think honest. Every chapter made me want to purse a side issue that was brought up, but not really expanded upon which is a gift in itself.
Well done Adam and I hope you write again soon.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful