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With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918
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With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  79 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
With so much at stake and so much already lost, why did World War I end with a whimper--an arrangement between two weary opponents to suspend hostilities? After more than four years of desperate fighting, with victories sometimes measured in feet and inches, why did the Allies reject the option of advancing into Germany in 1918 and taking Berlin? Most histories of the Grea ...more
Hardcover, 687 pages
Published September 19th 2011 by Belknap Press (first published 2011)
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David Nichols
Historians have spilled a great deal of ink discussing the causes of the First World War, but rather less than they should analyzing the conflict's end, which, author David Stephenson observes in this 2011 study, proved much more sudden and decisive than the combatants expected. Stevenson did a great deal of research for this book, and spares the reader none of it. His densely detailed narrative and reluctance to draw sharp conclusions make it difficult to summarize his findings. At the risk of ...more
May 08, 2012 happy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-ww-i
Good look at the last year of WW I, and not just the military operations. Stevenson looks at the econmics, social changes, and how events affected the home front which in turn affected the moral of the troops at the front. He also doesn't confine himself France/Flanders, but looks at all of the theaters of the war.

I think it is very well researched, but a little dry. Like a lot of books that are exhaustively researched sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. Worth the read though
Dec 26, 2014 Larry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When World War I began, the participants expected glorious victory in a fairly short, decisive time and as a result of a war of maneuver. The war ended as an endurance contest between two long-suffering, dug-in, reeling combatants following almost four years of deadlock and attrition. The Allies outlasted the Central Powers because of greater resources, barely better morale (better than it should have been until the Ypres campaign), and the arrival of a flood of American troops and materiel. Ste ...more
Jan 17, 2012 Heidi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had such high hopes for this book. I found it in the library and I was sure I was going to love it. I didn't love it...I persevered through it! It is a VERY comprehensive account of WWI which could have been so much more interesting. In some parts it felt like a dry, outdated high school history book. Then he surprised me with very fascinating chapters that kept me going. It was good to read I suppose, but I only finished it because I felt like it would be good for me. Kindof like eating my sp ...more
Serjeant Wildgoose
It is always sad to see a good book panned because it failed to meet the reader's expectations. This book is not a general history for the casual reader, but it is better than good. It is an academic work and highly accessible as long as you open it with the expectation that its emphasis is on informing and educating, rather than simply entertaining.

The Great War is a subject that continues to fascinate. Its end appeared somewhat abrupt, the 8 months of open warfare in the west between March and
Jul 18, 2012 Pctrollbreath rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a very informative book which builds a convincing argument about how the Entente powers defeated the central powers..... i.e. only just, and only because the Central Powers rate of collapse was faster than that of the Entente.

The book is well written and comprehensive, and you feel rewarded at the end with a deeper knowledge of the period.

The problem with this book is that, as a general reader, when I purchase a book and commit hours of my leisure time to reading it, I don't just want to
Jun 24, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Unlike the cataclysmic ending of World War II, the First World War seemed in many ways just to peter out. This very fine account explains the hows and the whys of the results of WWI, with most of the narrative devoted not to the battles, tactics and campaigns, but the underlying and overwhelmingly important issues, such as logistics, transport, and issues of the home front, such as labor relations, politics and morale. It turns out that food supplies was a major factor in the final outcome. Prof ...more
Mar 03, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
What an awesome title. It's the reason I bought the book.

So I have finally completed this book. My goal was to read all my World War I books in 2014, to honor the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict. Grad school got in the way. I have two more to go - "The Last of the Doughboys" and "Dead Wake," which I lumped in with WWI for obvious reasons.

This book is an excellent resource for looking at the messy, complicated and, ultimately, tragic end of WWI. The research is dense and throug
Bill Osborne
A good book for serious students of The Great War. Mr Stevenson does a great job of laying out the real impacts of 4 years of total industrialized warfare on all the participants and how that affected their conduct of the war in 1918 and the final shape of the armistice. He backs up his narrative and opinions with a tremendous amount of data--from the number and types of shells fired in each battle to the lack of underwear and coats available to the Austrio-Hungarian troops on the Italian front- ...more
Jun 19, 2015 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting book about the last year of World War I. Rather than focusing extensively on the battles, Mr. Stevenson explores the activities of both sides on the frontlines as well as the political and economic conditions in each of the combatants. If you want to know why the Allies finally prevailed after some setbacks this is a good book, but it will not cover the entire conflict. Also, it is more of an academic book rather than a popular book so there is a lot of evidence and so ...more
May 31, 2012 Matthew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Didn't care for this book at all.

The military analysis of both the German & Allied offensives of 1918 was really interesting but there was to little of it. The author spent to much time analyzing everything else (from inteligence changes to logisitics to the political dynamic) that he forgot to actually put some life into his prose & tell us why we should have cared which is a shame because the topics(s) were rife w/ possibilities but ultimately disappoints.
James Yee
Feb 12, 2014 James Yee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A very good look at how logistics, economics, and politics influenced how WW1 came to its rather unsatisfactory conclusion and set the stage for WW2. It starts off with the usual trench-warfare narrative, but that's just to set the stage. Then it dives into the aforementioned topics that are rarely analyzed in other books about WW1. A recommended read.
Dec 24, 2013 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a reasonable account of the Western Front 1918. It\'s quite readable; problem I think is that, after the first couple of chapters, it lacks narrative and becomes a series of facts. I don't know much about the author but I will certainly give him another go.
James Webster
Very comprehensive account of ending of WWI but approach of middle chapters seemed a bit repetitive. Needs (and does in the end reward) perseverance.
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