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The Road to Verdun: World War I's Most Momentous Battle and the Folly of Nationalism
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The Road to Verdun: World War I's Most Momentous Battle and the Folly of Nationalism

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  100 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
On February 21, 1916, the Germans launched a surprise offensive at Verdun, an important fortress in northeastern France, sparking a brutal and protracted conflict that would claim more than 700,000 victims. The carnage had little impact on the course of the war, and Verdun ultimately came to symbolize the absurdity and horror of trench warfare.

Ian Ousby offers a radical re
Paperback, 432 pages
Published June 10th 2003 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2002)
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Buyer beware: his book is NOT a classic study of the battle of Verdun (February-October 1916) and has a distinct schizophrenic feel. Ousby did not set out to write a battle history, but couldn’t properly examine the mentality surrounding Verdun without dipping a toe in the trenches. Unfortunately, the two halves don’t quite come together, even if the middle chapters that concern themselves with the fight proper also focus with martial vocabulary such as tenir, cran & défaillance which was ...more
Sep 20, 2013 Jerome rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ousby’s book is less a conventional military history of the battle of Verdun than a study in the sociology of the war, and has a greater emphasis on questions of “why.” Ousby’s main goal is to explain how the historical events and the rise of nationalism made the battle possible, which is both interesting and at times seemingly irrelevant: if you want to read a history of the battle of Verdun that includes Julius Caesar, the Gauls, the Franks, Louis XIV, Louis XVI, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Napole ...more
Dave Hoff
Oct 21, 2012 Dave Hoff rated it it was ok
A hard read about a battle fought in trenches for years costing thousands of lives, it was finally won by the Americans 3 days before the Armistice. My interest was because my dad, an ambulance driver in the U.S. Army was attached to the French Army div. "Cock of Verdun" wearing a red rooster on his shoulder. He arrived at the battlefield after the Armistice was signed.
How was a battle like Verdun possible? The question has been answered often in its political, military, and technological aspects, but here Ian Ousby sets out to find its social origins.

At first this might sound odd, but consider that about 70% of the French army was rotated through the meat grinder of Verdun during the battle of February to December 1916 with at least 150,000 dying there and leaving the front line little changed. Why did men put themselves through this?

We know that politics a
Kristi Thielen
Aug 19, 2013 Kristi Thielen rated it it was amazing
Densely written but excellent book about one of the most horrific battles of all times: the historical underpinnings, why it was fought, how officers and men prepared to fight it, what they experienced as opposed to what they expected to experience and most important of all, what it came to mean in the national mythology of the French and German people.

That the battle of Verdun - that the Great War - led to loss of life that is staggering, isn't a revelation to anyone who has read about World W
Robert Allen
There is a lot of good information but just not much about the battle of Verdun. The author does a good job at presenting quotes and references that describe the horor of the battle and the effects on the men. He also provides a good insight into how the men came to distrust the upper leadership and politicians. Most of the time the book just swings from as early as the Roman times past WWII. I'm still trying to figure out what Napoleon I, Napoleon III, Louis XIV and Louis XVI had to do with Ver ...more
Jun 09, 2014 Maduck831 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww1
liked it, at first didn't like that the middle chapter moved away from the battle but after going over my notes and reading the prologue i came to appreciate it...imo don't read this without some knowledge of ww1 and verdun...i admittedly didn't know much about verdun going in which might have impacted my initial reaction...while a lot of great ideas are looked at, part of me wishes the author would've just spent time on "one theme" and explored it...i do like that i got some good sources for th ...more
Mikey B.
Sep 02, 2008 Mikey B. rated it really liked it
Shelves: france, world-war-i
A very good book

...on the First World War - among the best that I have read.

It does a very good job of connecting past (1870), present (1916) and future. The emotional side of war in the trenches is well brought out by diary excerpts. The leaders as well as the 'Poilu' are described. The impact of the war of 1870 is explained - Verdun is near Metz which at the time was territory occupied by Germany. European antagonisms are well brought out. The historical flow of France and Germany are well d
Rob Barry
Mar 23, 2016 Rob Barry rated it liked it
I felt that the author appropriately addressed what I had expected. Specifically, to invite the reader to consider whether Verdun was a vindication or indictment of militant nationalism.

The author's narrative kept me engaged and fired my imagination. For example, the imagery associated with a small French unit moving to the front: "They're the next course; it'll be time to serve another before long, since the ogre has a taste for sport."

Well worth the time spent in considering this author's wor
Oliver Kim
Apr 28, 2012 Oliver Kim rated it really liked it
Deeper and more illuminating than a simple battlefield account, this is an excellent and incisive analysis of the powerful force that is nationalism - and its dangers, exemplified by the Battle of Verdun. The novel does have a few quirks, though: its sole focus is the French (the German perspective is hardly considered), and the mid-volume analysis of the post-1870 French national psyche may have fit better at the start of the novel.
Jun 05, 2007 Daniel rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Nationalism, WWI, and mass slaughter demonstrated, and pretty aptly explained.
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I an Ousby's life began - and ended - in tragedy. The birth was tragic, or at least bleak, because his army officer father had been stabbed to death in the India of 1947, independence year, while his mother was pregnant with him. The death was tragic, or at least deeply sad, because his industry, insight, versatility, critical and literary skills, which had created a considerable reputation for hi ...more
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