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Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany
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Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  122 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
In a book that is at once a major contribution to modern European history and a cautionary tale for today, Isabel V. Hull argues that the routines and practices of the Imperial German Army, unchecked by effective civilian institutions, increasingly sought the absolute destruction of its enemies as the only guarantee of the nation's security. So deeply embedded were the ass ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 12th 2006 by Cornell University Press (first published December 31st 2004)
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Michael Kleen
Aug 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany by Isabel Hull is a problematic and contradictory book. It is a good example of what happens when a historian begins with a thesis and then shoehorns data to fit that thesis.

Hull’s core argument is that the Imperial German military (between the years 1904 and 1918) practiced institutional extremism, which led to the unchecked extermination of civilian populations in Africa and Europe. The unlimited application o
Joseph Stieb
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Isabel Hull uses Part 1 of her book on military culture in the Imperial German Army to show their military culture in practice in the colony of Southwest Africa (SWA). Hull describes the German response to the Herero Revolts from 1904-1907 as escalating towards genocide because of German military culture. In the rebellion’s early stages, the Germans failed to achieve their institutional concept of victory, defined as a total and decisive crushing of the opponent by military means, or Vernichtung ...more
Jessica Injejikian
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: grad-school
Absolute Destruction is the most compelling work I have read about military practice, which typically bores me to tears. Hull unexpectedly relies on some anthropological/sociological concepts to support her work, which I found fascinating. Her writing style kept me involved; she is the only historian I have seen utilize lists throughout their work for brevity and clarity. Hull is extremely concise, yet her thesis is well supported. Her writing style should be looked to as a historical standard, ...more
morning Os
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
She gives a nice framework and a new angle to explain what people vaguely stereotype about German soldiers. It is interesting because her argument (especially the implicit stickiness of "German" military culture) is politically sensitive. I do not buy her clear distinction of 'culture' from ideologies. Overall the argument is theory-driven, and I see how (sociological) theories could be helpful in forming a new historical narrative.
Sam Schulman
May 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
A little dry - but one of those wonderful books that show that what everyone says, but can't be true, is true - in this case, that the Imperial German army was unusually bloodthirsty and cruel, even by white male standards, and that the colonial wars in SW Africa predicted the Hun and the Nazi, and their toleration by bien-pensant German civilian opinion.
Mar 05, 2011 marked it as to-read
Shelves: wwi, own
A look at the German army and how it's experiences in South Western Africa and the primacy of military reasoning resulted in brutal behaviour by German forces in WWI and disregard for the needs of the civilian population at home.
May 21, 2013 rated it did not like it
Too dull. It took an interesting topic and dissected it so much that it became too stretched out
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Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting take on Germany before and during the First World War. Highly Recommended.
May 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Appreciably forceful, but ultimately reductionist, argument.
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Isabel Virginia Hull is the John Stambaugh Professor of History and the former chair of the history department at Cornell University. She specializes in German history from 1700 to 1945, with a focus on sociopolitics, political theory, and gender/sexuality.