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The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919
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The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  517 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
This is the story of the First World War in Italy, a war that gave birth to fascism. Mussolini fought in these trenches, as did most of his collaborators. But so did many of the greatest modernist writers in Italian and German - Ungaretti, Gadda, Musil.
Hardcover, 454 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Faber & Faber
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Sep 06, 2011 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history, war
On the hardcover version of Mark Thompson’s The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, there’s a remarkable picture of tiny soldiers jumping out of their snow packed trenches. In front of them is the steep side of a mountain. Talk about the Mountains of Madness! But that’s pretty much the Italian front in World War 1. Overall Thompson does a fine job with this criminally overlooked part of the war, providing a good shapshot of Italian politics, military tactics, and the various historic ...more
Dec 15, 2013 Paola rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwi, 2013, history
The Guerra Bianca/White War is the term used to refer to the fighting on the Italian Alps during the First World War, on the Eastern Front, engaging mostly Italy and Austria.
In this very legible account of the White War, the strategy and conduct of war, the political situation in climate in both Italy and the Austrian-Hungarian empire and above all the status of the Italian soldiers at the front (and their shockingly incompetent Chief of Staff) are woven into perceptive analyses of how Italian c
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it really liked it
Picture the meat grinder trenches of WWI Flanders. Now, tilt them up 40 degrees and add Alpine weather conditions. Not to mention the deeply ingrained culture of full frontal attack to prove national spirit, the decimation by lot of units for even casual breeches of discipline (Cadorna deserves some ugly ring of hell), the shortage of supplies so bad winter rations were 1500 calories a day, the horrific many battles of the Isonzo (and Caporetto, good lord), the appearance of a 25-year old Erwin ...more
Ryan Wulfsohn
Jul 24, 2011 Ryan Wulfsohn rated it really liked it
Excellent! A most interesting and well-written book, on a subject about which I knew very little , the campaign between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian empire in World War I. Thanks to Mr Thompson I am now much better informed on this aspect of the war, during which most of the extremely bloody and fairly pointless fighting took place in difficult mountainous terrain (the Dolomites and the Isonzo valley, the latter of which must rate with the Somme, Verdun and Ypres as one of the great killing gr ...more
Honza Prchal
Feb 17, 2016 Honza Prchal rated it liked it
The author, mark Thomspon did two things quite well. He wrote elegantly to the point of occasional lyricism. He also picked a subject that has been disgracefully ignored because of historians' prejudices, both Italian and otherwise. If that were the end of it, I'd give the book four or five stars, and I unhestitatingly recommend it to people interested in the subject because it is the only game in town.
Mark Thompson knows his Italian literature encyclopaedically, but this book is not about that,
Apr 03, 2016 Ben rated it really liked it
" The White War" by Mark Thompson is an interesting and compassionate history of Italy's involvement in World War I.
The title " The White War refers to the operational area of the war, then the border between Italy and Austria-Hungary which traverses limestone and granite mountains. Those mountains gleamed as a bright white wall in the fierce summer sun, so bright that it hurt soldiers eyes , and in the frigid winter snows of 30 inch snowfalls, accentuated the sub-zero temperatures.

In these cen
Mar 29, 2012 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read of a severely undercovered front of World War I - the Italian Front. Thompson examines the brutal conditions associated with fighting in the Dolomite Mountains as well as the ineptness and harsh conditions within the Italian Army. The Italians, for all intents and purposes, treated their own prisoners of war as little more than dirt after being freed or repatriated.

In addition, he provides a great deal of cultural context on how the Italian people - united a mere 35 years prior
Genia Lukin
Apr 22, 2012 Genia Lukin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a horrible book. Not horrible because it's poorly written or badly researched. Rather, it is the sort of book that makes one want to gouge one's eyes out, or tear out one's hair in frustration.

WW1 on the Italian front is almost the ultimate definition of insanity, on levels seldom seen previously, or even after. A command that was a joke, conditions more abominable than almost any others in all the immense war theatre.

Especially interesting to me were the parts inquiring into the culture
Aalap Chikhalikar
May 12, 2016 Aalap Chikhalikar rated it really liked it
Great read. I had gone to Salzburg on vacation and was fascinated seeing a few rooms dedicated to uniforms, medals and paintings of the Austria-Italy war. At the time I had always envisioned it as a forgotten part of WW I but this book helped vividly put that in greater perspective. And more than most history books I've read - it helped explain how great nations/empires stumble into war, the futility of the enterprise and the incredible human misery that comes out of it. Thoroughly well-research ...more
Nov 04, 2008 NancyHelen rated it it was amazing
A fantastic, readable history of the Italian Front in WWI. Normally our knowledge of that war is limited to the Western and Eastern fronts and the trenches of Gallipoli, as these are the fronts most commonly documented. My knowledge of the Italian front was limited to reading Hemingway, so this book was a horrific revelation about the reality and bloodshed which occurred.

The book is thoroughly researched and well written.
Feb 09, 2015 Betsy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great book! It explains in great detail what the fighting was like on the Italian front. I have found only a few books about this facet of the Great War, and this is right there at the top.
Charles Van Buren
Feb 15, 2017 Charles Van Buren rated it it was amazing
Military and political history, March 24, 2016

This review is from: The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919 (Kindle Edition)

This is a well written and interesting account of the Italian front in World War One, an obscure subject to most Americans. The author brings home the hardships of life and combat on this front which were appalling. Also appalling was the quality of the national leadership and command on both sides, with that of the Italians being far the worse. The Ital
Feb 15, 2017 Valerie rated it it was amazing
This was a fantastic read. This wasn't just about Italy's tragic role in its attempt to conquer territories that it thought it deserved (even though they were not historically Italian). It was also an excellent account of how the first world war unfolded. All of these alliances had multiple countries competing against each other. Mark Thompson's arguments and use of sources were sound. I also enjoyed the chapter on Italian poetry and how its own poets tried to convince their own citizens that wa ...more
Jan 24, 2017 Kenneth rated it really liked it
I almost gave this book three stars for selfish reasons. Quite a few of the chapters did not strictly talk about the military matters occurring on the Italian Front, but delved into sociological matters using the contemporary literature of the time as a lens. This makes this book as much of a sociological study into why Italy entered the war, endured the hardships of the war, and emerged as a nascent fascist power after the war as it is a military history.

I'll be honest. I skipped a few of these
Feb 13, 2017 Brad rated it it was ok
One review called this work "a slog." That is as apt a description as any. There are few books in English on the Austro-Italian front, despite its major historical significance. The author here attempts to be exhaustive, but the style and organization of the book ends up being, well, mostly exhausting. A proper edit and closer focus could have made this work half as long and easily that much better. Alas, this book is one of so few it will be "the" book on the subject until someone writes the be ...more
May 15, 2014 Stephen rated it it was amazing
By 1915, what began as a conflict between Austria and Serbia had broadened into the Great War, whose largest contenders were not parties to the initial dispute. The war became truly global as countries the world over joined the Allies or the Central Powers, using the struggle to pursue their own ends; such was the case with Japan, which declared war on Germany not to avenge Belgium, but to snatch up the Kaiser’s Asian colonies. Closer to the heart of the battle was Italy’s role in the fray; alth ...more
Dvd (buonanotte popolo)

Il bello (?) è che ci stupiamo ancora oggi quando ascoltiamo telegiornali, inchieste, talk show e rimaniamo sbalorditi, disgustati, inebetiti da quel che vediamo o sentiamo. Forse, a stupirci, è il nostro stupore: è come se un meccanismo inconscio ci ricordasse d'improvviso come siamo noi, cosa sono le nostre elite, come è nato e s'è sviluppato questo paese. Ciò che è sempre stato e sempre perdura.

La grande guerra fu il più gigantesco e spaventoso massacro della storia dell'umanità; le grandi po
Dragan Buljevac
Dec 28, 2014 Dragan Buljevac rated it liked it
Boys, big and small: this is a book for you. If you are into things like battles, dispositions of armies and batallions, conquering mountintops, political intrigue big and small, arrogant generals, arms and armour and occasional personal reminiscence of a slaughter, well, this one will make you happy.
The book is well researched and rather good written. Its not splendid, and for some reason it does not spark like for instant "The guns of august" does. But hey, "Guns" are a masterpeace, this is a
Joyce Lagow
Jan 15, 2011 Joyce Lagow rated it it was amazing

Wars are no different from other human enterprises; those who conduct it can run the gamut from brilliant (few, as in any enterprise) to the truly stupid and incompetent. The problem with any hierarchical organization is that the possibility of the incompetent being in charge of the lives of millions of other human beings is very real. History has shown us time and again that this is the case with armies, where the rise to command is as much based on political influence, chance of birth or other
Procyon Lotor
Jan 27, 2014 Procyon Lotor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 09-storia
Dio strabenedica gli storici inglesi Mark Thompson ci ama e ci rispetta. Coerentemente talvolta ce le suona da levarci il pelo con ci� ha scritto un eccellente compendio della storia della prima guerra mondiale sul fronte italiano. Dalle origini con le trame del'immondo Salandra agli esiti dopo la fine. Chiarissima la continuit� del regime fascista con la societ� triturata dal primo conflitto e quindi che le palate di retorica - tuttora in uso - sul conflitto sono spesso proprio per mascherare d ...more
Aug 19, 2013 Kevin rated it it was amazing
A well-researched account of the sadly forgotten fighting between Italy and Austro-Hungary, which lost over a million men in failed bids to advanced through Alpine terrain during World War I, this book veers into asides for long chapters, some of which might be inserted into other chapters, or cut out completely. Thompson’s primary interest seems to be the thoughts and beliefs of Italy’s senior officers, which he ties to the eventual rise of fascism. Thompson seems especially driven to record th ...more
Apr 06, 2014 Bookwombat rated it really liked it
Mark Thompson's book is an excellent all round view of the Italian front during WWI. Indeed, the only thing that knocks the final star from my review is, as others have mentioned before me, that Thompson's coverage of the Astro-Hungarian side of the front is rather thin. What you get is thus very much in tune with the title, i.e. that's a predominately Italian perspective on this theatre of WWI. However, this does not mean that Thompson takes the Italian side, far from it, and he also highlights ...more
William Kirkland
Dec 06, 2012 William Kirkland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, ww-i, history
Nothing like good history, thoroughly researched and well written, helps better to put in place pieces of the immense human puzzle that leads to now. Mark Thompson’s 2008, The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919, is one of the best in recent years, and not only because of the specifics about the fierce fighting on the Italian front during its most deadly war.

The White War is more than a military history, though there is plenty of that with excellent and judicious passages a
Dec 04, 2014 Carlo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘La più colossale, assassina e male organizzata macelleria’. Come ben sapeva Ernest Hemingway, la Grande Guerra è stata talmente orribile che gli Alleati hanno poi concesso ad Hitler anche l’inconcedibile pur di allontanare l’inizio di un nuovo conflitto. Atroce sul fronte occidentale, lo scontro fu particolarmente insensato su quello italoaustriaco, grazie anche alla crudeltà del Comando italiano. L’inglese Thompson smonta con cura la mitologia nata attorno al ’15-‘18, anni di sangue voluti da ...more
Sep 15, 2015 Philippe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww1, italy
For those who, like me are interested in deepening your knowledge about WWI and at the same time knew nothing about the war on the Austr-Italian Front, this book is a MUST.
There is a thorough job of research about the why and how Italy got involved in a war it could have avoided.
There is also a dramatic description on how italians paid a high price to the nationalist spirit of Italian Leaders who were looking at building an empire without the proper means to do it or the militray intelligence or
Graham Russell
May 07, 2012 Graham Russell rated it it was ok
Military history isn’t just about battle plans, maps, troop movements, logistics and the like, but they are essential elements if the overall picture of events is to be understood, particularly when the author is covering the activities on an entire front over a 4 year period. Sadly, in my view this book largely ignores these aspects in favour of lurid details and odd side-bar chapters.

So, there’s no detail on why Italian mobilisation was so slow (potentially crucial, since as Thompson tells us,
Bob H
Dec 31, 2014 Bob H rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-history
A magisterial account, well-researched, of Italy's part in World War I. Prose is succinct and readable, with plenty of first-person accounts. Much of it is from the Italian side and highlights the carnage, squalor and human suffering of that war, and also illuminates how the campaign would lead to the rise of Fascism by 1922.

The campaign itself was a stupidly-chosen war; Italy had sat out the start of war in 1914 but would attack, on the Allied side, in May 1915, in hope of expanding its territo
Oct 12, 2016 Olivier rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book about a forgotten front: trenches in the Alps, in some places in everlasting snow. Absurd battles with the Italians attacking uphill against the Austrians, who can easily massacre them. The rout of Caporetto followed by a "resurrection". This is a brilliant subject. The book is remarkable and surpasses most of those I have read about WW1. The quality of its writing, especially, is outstanding. Thomson does not only tell the history of the battles but also devotes entire ...more
Fred Svoboda
Dec 01, 2015 Fred Svoboda rated it really liked it
The account of the multiple battles of the Isonzo redefines futility, but the real value of the book is the way that it links Italy's WWI experience backward to the formation of the Italian state and forward to the Fascism that was its result. Evocation of the world of the Italian soldiers and officers is also worthwhile. This book also will be of interest to readers of Ernest Hemingway's great novel "A Farewell to Arms" since it underlines and makes clearer what he has to say about the Great Wa ...more
Haydn Barlow
Jan 08, 2015 Haydn Barlow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Essential follow up read to Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. Mark Thompson lays bare the folly of Italy's brazen betrayal of Austria, and subsequent grab for land in 1915. He shows that superior numbers cannot make up for weak strategy, especially given Austria's commanding geography at the time. Indeed the geography of The White War has a central role in Thompson's retelling of this lesser known, but equally ferocious WWI front.
Few heros appear on these pages, and those who do, like Erwin Rommel
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads data base.

Mark Thompson is an award winning British historian. He has written three books including The White War (2008), an account of the travesties of the Italian army on the Austrian front during World War I, which discussed restoring the Roman practice of decimation, the random execution of troops in order to enforce
More about Mark Thompson...

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