The Vanquished

The Vanquished

Why the First World War Failed to End

Book - 2016
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A Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2016

An epic, groundbreaking account of the ethnic and state violence that followed the end of World War I--conflicts that would shape the course of the twentieth century

For the Western Allies, November 11, 1918, has always been a solemn date--the end of fighting that had destroyed a generation, but also a vindication of a terrible sacrifice with the total collapse of the principal enemies: the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. But for much of the rest of Europe this was a day with no meaning, as a continuing, nightmarish series of conflicts engulfed country after country.

In The Vanquished , a highly original and gripping work of history, Robert Gerwarth asks us to think again about the true legacy of the First World War. In large part it was not the fighting on the Western Front that proved so ruinous to Europe's future, but the devastating aftermath, as countries on both sides of the original conflict were savaged by revolutions, pogroms, mass expulsions, and further major military clashes. In the years immediately after the armistice, millions would die across central, eastern, and southeastern Europe before the Soviet Union and a series of rickety and exhausted small new states would come into being. It was here, in the ruins of Europe, that extreme ideologies such as fascism would take shape and ultimately emerge triumphant.

As absorbing in its drama as it is unsettling in its analysis, The Vanquished is destined to transform our understanding of not just the First World War but the twentieth century as a whole.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.
Edition: First American edition.
ISBN: 9780374282455
0374282455
Branch Call Number: 940.51 GER
Characteristics: 446 pages : illustrations, maps

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marydave
Sep 30, 2017

Very enlightening. Added so much to my already-extensive reading on the area and the period.

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dennismmiller
Jul 19, 2017

After the guns fell silent across the western front on the 11th of November, 1918, the Western Allies entered a peaceful reverie that lasted, with brief disturbances, until September of 1939. The result is a clear division between the world wars. But, as Robert Gerwath relates in The Vanquished, the experience of those decades was very different for those in the empires - German, Austrian, Russian, Ottoman - whose defeat in the War resulted in their dissolution. In the East, the War continued for years after peace was formally declared, as the lines drawn on a map at Versailles were rewritten in blood across the landscape, and the conventional rationales of the First World War were gradually replaced by a new, genocidal logic.

Gerwath briskly and readably relates the bloody chaos and anarchy, and even bloodier order, that attended the revolutions and counter-revolutions, civil wars and territorial wars, of the early twenties, The remainder of the inter-war period is only briefly summarized. There are some oddities of organization - the rise of Mussolini is described several chapters before the saga of D'Annunzio's seizure of Fiume, for example - but these do not prevent The Vanquished from being a compelling and informative account of a much-neglected but vitally important chapter in the history of the twentieth century.

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