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14-18: Understanding the Great War

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  144 ratings  ·  24 reviews
With this brilliantly innovative book, reissued for the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker have shown that the Great War was the matrix on which all subsequent disasters of the twentieth century were formed. Three elements of the conflict, all too often neglected or denied, are identified as those that must be ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Hill and Wang (first published 1998)
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Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a good book on the general meaning of WW1 and on the historiography of the war -- how the story told by historians has changed over the years. The broad question is really about how to understand why WW1 was such a watershed and how it changed most everything that came after it. This is not a book about battles, campaigns, and peoples. Readers who want such historical detail should read some of the many fine one volume histories that have come out prior to the centennial. This book is ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Jul 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
The war to end all wars..............that was the statement made after WWI. Of course we know differently but why was this war unique from all that went before? All war is devastating but the Great War engenders particular horror to those who have studied it and the author posits, correctly I believe, that it was "the matrix on which all subsequent disasters of the 20th century were formed". This book is not about the battles and the gas and trenches but rather a sociological work which attempts ...more
Brendan Hodge
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-great-war
14-18 is a social rather than a military or political history; it examines how people thought about the Great War during the war itself, how the people it touched were changed by the war, and how the view of the war changed afterward as a result of those experiences.

It is a fascinating book which relies heavily on primary sources. More importantly, it looks at what people said during the war as well as what they said after the war, and examines the changes the differences between these attitudes
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was more of a case study on WWI than a true history. However, still definitely worth the read as it was clearly influential; most books on the Great War that came before (written 2000) as these authors were willing to record the tales of atrocities and what the war actually meant to the belligerents. We now see it as a horrific bloodshed, pointless in the fact that it was about nationalistic patriotic and religious fervor, but on all sides, in most cases even the same faith. Assuming this ...more
David C Ward
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite good not least for laying out the questions that still need to be asked (let alone answered) about WWI. Not a history but a linked series of three essays - engagements, to use a term French scholars like - on Violence, Crusade (Why People/Nations Fought) and Mourning. Especially sharp on the need for historians to act like historians and reclaim the war from veterans and politicians. It moves adroitly between the individual and the mass: the societal experience of mass death and the ...more
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for the Great War historian!
I've read this book, and quote it many times while I was in the university.
It gives such an approach!
Jim Gallen
Aug 02, 2015 rated it liked it
“14-18: Understanding The Great War” helps the reader understand the War through the understandings of those who fought it, lived through it and commemorated it. Chapter by chapter the authors examine how civilized societies turned into brutal warriors, collectively and individually, and how they dealt with this transformation.

The magnitude of the struggle was unprecedented. The neat wars of the past between professional armies were replaced by total war as masses were inducted into the military
Vincent DiGirolamo
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm enjoying this brief book immensely. It doesn't attempt to summarize the events of the war, but to examine how we might think anew -- or teach anew -- about this event, now a century past. It's really a series of essays or lectures by two very smart and sensitive people who know the facts, but believe more is necessary for a better understanding. How, for example, are we to think about the extraordinary violence of the war? A product of technology? propaganda? "race" hatred? barbarism? They ...more
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I haven't read French academic work before (besides a handful of economics articles in school) and now I'm wondering why I haven't because this book was very readable. I have read a lot of German academic works and they are a bear to slog through (really long convoluted sentences = better writing in Germany) so that's what I was expecting. If you're looking for a military history or a look at the actual physical movement of the war look elsewhere. 14-18 looks at the psychological impact of the ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, war
Somehow felt unsatisfying after reading it, perhaps because I was never really convinced it was saying something that wasn't already intuitive or that we weren't already taught about WWI. Apparently it is a significant academic writing about WWI history but, coming from a layman's point of view, the nuances are too subtle for us to care about. This is a very broad book that covers a lot of aspects of the war and is less interesting for those interested in more focused books. The book also seems ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: normandy, favorites
"14-18" is complicated, anthropological, and wholly interesting in its examinations of the societal impact of the Great War. They answer questions of greatness, of intimacy, of mourning, of religion, and of the body. Audoin-Rouzeau and Becker make their presentations seem simple and logical, but they have flawlessly consolidated volumes and decades of research and insight into something fresh and unique. This book is sure to completely change one's perspective on the war that really threw the ...more
Michael Duane  Robbins
The world suffers from a collective amnesia, in which our vision is limited to trenches and flying aces. This book opens a dialogue on the atrocities committed by both sides, and the occupation that brutalized Belgium and France, which was as bad or worse than what they suffered in WWII. No one considers the effect of the blockade on Germany, how their people too were starving. Propaganda paints it as a glorious, which this book puts the lie to.
Apr 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Historians/Those interested in WWI
This book challenges and explains what the Great War was like culturally for those fighting and those not fighting. Moving. This book really explains the formation of the Red Cross, religion/spirituality and its development, as well as what the war was like for women and children. It also poses the question why is WWI often overlooked in favor of WWII, when it was equally ugly.
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: goodreads-win
Goodreads win. Will read and review once received.

THis was an okay read. It was a little hard to get through because of the writing style. Not something I am really into and the book didn't help out any. I will admit at times the book got my attention. One thing I did enjoy about the book is how well the author knew the facts.
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
More about World War I scholarship than about WWI. Not what I'm looking for right now. Maybe one day I'll return to it, but I doubt I'll ever be so interested in scholarship, history, and WWI as to do so.
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well that was dark.

Also very, very interesting study of the personal/individual emotional journey of the war with the collective/societal narrative. Unusually focused on the experiences of women and children, which was fascinating and unexpected.
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting consideration of the human cost beyond the battlefield in WWI, particularly the discussion of collective grief.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it
A tough read regarding the Historiography of WWI. I struggled with the style, but it provided good information on the war and historian thoughts on it.
Nov 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. I'm finally coming to understand what people mean when they talk about the shattering impact of WWI.
Lorraine Herbon
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. It has some drawbacks--the authors use the book as a vehicle to suggest further research to other historians. Still, as a cultural history of WWI, it was a good read.
Jun 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Attempt by French authors to achieve the title. Interesting, but not the place to start an exploration of WWI.
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Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau is a French historian. He is co-director of the Research Center of the Museum of the Great War (Historial de la Grande Guerre), based in Péronne, in the Somme.

He is the son of Philippe Audoin(-Rouzeau), a surrealist writer who was close to André Breton, and the brother of the historian, archaeologist and writer Fred Vargas (alias Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau) and the painter