The Greatest Day in History: How, on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month, the First World War Finally Came to an End

Overview

The First World War was the bloodiest war of the twentieth century, sustaining more than 4 million casualties across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. The day the "Great War" finally ended was celebrated joyfully around the world.

Yet the war did not end neatly. After a dramatic week of negotiations, military offensives, and the beginning of a Communist revolution, Germany's Imperial regime collapsed and the Kaiser fled to Holland. The Allies eventually granted an armistice...

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First American Edition/First Printing. Hardcover. 320 pages. An exceedingly well-crafted panoramic overview of the last week of World War I. This is a brand new, hardcover review ... copy. 1/4" scuff to the top front cover edge, and light scuffs to the front dj flap corners. Small dent to the bottom front edge of the book, othewise a near fine dustjacket over a nearfine book. Unread. From my smoke-free collection. Read more Show Less

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The Greatest Day in History: How, on the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month, the First World War Finally Cam

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Overview

The First World War was the bloodiest war of the twentieth century, sustaining more than 4 million casualties across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. The day the "Great War" finally ended was celebrated joyfully around the world.

Yet the war did not end neatly. After a dramatic week of negotiations, military offensives, and the beginning of a Communist revolution, Germany's Imperial regime collapsed and the Kaiser fled to Holland. The Allies eventually granted an armistice to a new German government, and at 11: 00 A.M. on November II the guns officially ceased fire, but only after II.OOO casualties had been sustained, that morning.

The Greatest Day in History tells the dramatic story of the war's last days, drawing on the testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses, among them Marie Curie, Harry S. Truman, Ernest Hemingway, and a young and disillusioned Adolf Hitler.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Historian and novelist Best, former fiction critic for the Financial Times, offers a sophisticated presentation of the effects of the Great War's final week on its military and civilian participants. Day by day, he presents firsthand accounts from a spectrum of familiar and unfamiliar sources. On November 5, 1918, Scots Guards Pvt. Stephen Graham took part in an attack with an elite British division, while American artillery Capt. Harry Truman picked flowers to send his fiancée and contemplated running for Congress when-and if-he got home. On November 8, Evelyn Blücher, an Englishwoman married to a German prince, feared an outbreak of riots or revolution in Germany. And on November 11, Armistice Day, a crowd of Australians celebrated by storming Boulogne's red light district to the battle cry of "let's fuck 'em free!" What might have been merely a kaleidoscopic series of vignettes is given shape and focus by Best's skill at paraphrasing the narratives and synergizing the experiences of those who lived through "the greatest day in history," knowing they had survived the deadliest war up to then-and suddenly asking, "What happens now?" 16 pages of b&w photos. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The end of World War I was a time filled with joy, despair, anger, sadness, and confusion. Here, Best (former fiction critic, Financial Times; Trafalgar: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sea Battle in History) weaves personal accounts from the time into a broader narrative of events. All sides are represented, as are both contemporary and future leaders, e.g., the Kaiser, Churchill, Truman, and Hitler, whose histories are already well known. The value of this book comes from its detailed account of what ordinary men and women were thinking and experiencing at the time. Some were working for revolution in Germany, others were trying to imagine what peace would bring, and the soldiers were trying not to get killed before the Armistice, set for the time referred to by the subtitle. Few of these people could foresee how briefly this fragile peace was to last. Adding a new dimension to our understanding of World War I, this book can sit alongside Stanley Weintraub's A Stillness Heard Round the World: The End of the Great War, November 1918 and Joseph Persico's Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and Its Violent Climax. For all libraries. (Illustrations not seen.)
—Daniel K. Blewett

Kirkus Reviews
Comprehensive account of the military and diplomatic events immediately leading up to Armistice Day. British critic and historian Best (Trafalgar, 2006, etc.) describes the major happenings during this seminal week in fairly formulaic prose. While he covers all the historical bases and a great deal of information, in his hands the material doesn't sparkle as it might have if Doris Kearns Goodwin or Stephen Ambrose had tackled the subject. But Best conveys a good sense of the thoughts and feelings of rank-and-file soldiers, including future President Harry Truman and Serbian Sgt. Maj. Flora Sandes, one of the war's few female combatants. The author quotes frequently from primary and secondary sources, sometimes for several paragraphs, and often appears reluctant to inject himself into the narrative. Best's descriptions of military events are evocative, and he provides considerable descriptive detail but avoids an actual blow-by-blow account in most cases: "One of the grenades had exploded against Flora's revolver, which had shielded her from the full force of the blast . . . But Flora survived, albeit with 'half a blacksmith's shop' still inside her." The portions dealing with diplomatic maneuvers are less compelling. While he quotes from biographies and memoirs of key leaders and diplomats, he fails to vivify their behind-the-scenes maneuverings. However, he effectively shows how the treatment of Germany sowed seeds for the resentment that culminated in World War II. Overall, the text is capably organized, but additional analysis and a more personal voice would have made this a better book. Though it breaks little new ground, this thorough synthesis of existing material is likely to be awidely consulted primer on the end of World War I. Agent: Andrew Lownie/Andrew Lownie Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586486402
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 10/13/2008
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Nicholas Best is the former fiction critic for the Financial Times and the author of a number of novels, travel and history books. He lives in Cambridge, England.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Ch. 1 Monday, 4 November 1918 1

Ch. 2 Tuesday, 5 November 1918 23

Ch. 3 Wednesday, 6 November 1918 40

Ch. 4 Thursday, 7 November 1918 57

Ch. 5 Friday, 8 November 1918 80

Ch. 6 Saturday, 9 November 1918 105

Ch. 7 Sunday, 10 November 1918 133

Ch. 8 Monday, 11 November 1918, the early hours 162

Ch. 9 Monday, 11 November 1918, 11 a.m 191

Ch. 10 Monday, 11 November 1918, afternoon 225

Ch. 11 Monday, 11 November 1918, evening 256

Bibliography 289

Index 295

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