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The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century

The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century

by David Reynolds

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Winner of the 2014 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for the Best Work of History. "If you only read one book about the First World War in this anniversary year, read The Long Shadow. David Reynolds writes superbly and his analysis is compelling and original." —Anne Chisolm, Chair of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize Committee, and Chair of the Royal Society of


Winner of the 2014 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for the Best Work of History. "If you only read one book about the First World War in this anniversary year, read The Long Shadow. David Reynolds writes superbly and his analysis is compelling and original." —Anne Chisolm, Chair of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize Committee, and Chair of the Royal Society of Literature.

One of the most violent conflicts in the history of civilization, World War I has been strangely forgotten in American culture. It has become a ghostly war fought in a haze of memory, often seen merely as a distant preamble to World War II. In The Long Shadow critically acclaimed historian David Reynolds seeks to broaden our vision by assessing the impact of the Great War across the twentieth century. He shows how events in that turbulent century—particularly World War II, the Cold War, and the collapse of Communism—shaped and reshaped attitudes to 1914–18.

By exploring big themes such as democracy and empire, nationalism and capitalism, as well as art and poetry, The Long Shadow is stunningly broad in its historical perspective. Reynolds throws light on the vast expanse of the last century and explains why 1914–18 is a conflict that America is still struggling to comprehend. Forging connections between people, places, and ideas, The Long Shadow ventures across the traditional subcultures of historical scholarship to offer a rich and layered examination not only of politics, diplomacy, and security but also of economics, art, and literature. The result is a magisterial reinterpretation of the place of the Great War in modern history.

Editorial Reviews

Peter Stansky
“The Long Shadow is an extraordinary work. With deep perception and knowledge David Reynolds tells the story and assesses the significance of the Great War from its beginnings to the present day. . . . Many books on the Great War have already appeared and will continue to do so during these centennial years. It is hard to imagine that there will be a better one.”
John Charmley - The Times (UK)
“Brilliant…the most challenging and intelligent book on the Great War and our perceptions of it that any of us will read this, or any other year.”
Nigel Jones - The Telegraph (UK)
“The Long Shadow is a fluent corrective to our preoccupation with our own individual and family war stories, and offers a truly global perspective on the conflict’s long shadow.”
Alex Danchev - The Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)
“Who better as remembrancer than David Reynolds, with his customary lucidity, his long view, his comparative perspective, his contemporary sensitivity, his scholarly sanity and his crisp humanity? …This is the work of a master historian.”
Matthew Price - The National (UK)
“A comparative perspective on the ways the First World War shaped the 20th century…. The Long Shadow forces us to pull back from the Western Front and examine the war with fresh eyes.”
Tom Holland - History Today
“Brilliant… As an introduction to the controversies and complexities of a period of history that will be on all our demands next year, it is unlikely to be bettered.”
Richard Overy - The Guardian
“Here at last among the plethora of predictable books on the anniversary of the great war is an intelligent and critical assessment… presented with a masterly array of sources across a busy century, at once thought-provoking and thoroughly informed.”
Max Hastings - The Sunday Times
“Explores the political, cultural and social legacy of the First World War, and offers correctives to many popular delusions. Perspective is critical to a comprehension of history, and Reynolds has no peer in helping us to achieve this.”
Piers Brendon - The Independent
“Written by an outstanding historian at the height of his powers, The Long Shadow is a brilliant study in ‘legacies and refractions.’”
Peter Clarke - Financial Times
“This is a masterly study in every sense: by an historian at the top of his game, deploying wide-ranging research in important arguments, sustained alike with rich detail and with dry wit.”
Christopher Clark - The Daily Mail
“Eloquent… This book’s deepest message is about the inescapability of history, whether we choose to live in its shadow or to turn our backs on the warnings it offers to the present.”
Gerard De Groot - Washington Post
“[World War I has] been analyzed before, but never with such depth of perception or range of understanding. Reynolds is able to speak with authority on economics and philosophy; literature and art; politics, diplomacy and memory. He is a historian of immense skill, utterly confident of his wisdom and deservedly so.”
David Shribman - Boston Globe
“[A] masterly look at what the war meant and how its meaning changed by decade.”
Ed Timms - Dallas Morning News
“Transcends conventional histories about World War I …The kind of book that challenges readers to think.”
James Norton - Christian Science Monitor
“Compelling… Reynolds ably and dramatically depicts the many unforeseen and unimagined consequences of war—not just for the dead and wounded, but also for the living and the yet to be born.”
Andrew Roberts - Wall Street Journal
Dennis Showalter - MHQ
“Reynolds’s call to move the understanding of World War I out of the trenches and into broader contexts is a fundamental challenge as the centennial begins.”
John Gray - The Literary Review
“Deploying the Great War as his lens, Reynolds has given us one of the most illuminating studies in the history of ideas to appear for many years. Beautifully written, with a masterly command of the diverse subject matter it addresses, The Long Shadow is an immensely rich book… If our leaders really want to learn from history, they could start by reading this book.”
“Reynolds demonstrates with authoritative acuity how malleable an object the history of 1914-18 has been.”
Michael F. Bishop - The Daily Beast
“A clear-eyed appraisal of the First World War’s consequences.”
Library Journal
Reynolds (international history, Cambridge Univ.; From Munich to Pearl Harbor) presents a British-centered and encompassing look at World War I and its global impact. Alternating between economic, historiographical, political, cultural, revolutionary, and literary motifs, this work (winner of the 2014 PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize) reasserts and clarifies the influence the years from 1914 to 1918 had on the modern world. Reynolds deftly blends a variety of thematic approaches and viewpoints, drawing together resources and documents from across the globe to present a picture of a world impacted by and reacting to this massively altering event. The author's use of Britain as the focus for his discussions is slightly overwhelming in the earlier sections for someone not well versed in British politics of the early 1900s and 1920s, but it ultimately provides a connecting thread for the book. Intriguing and well written, each of the chapters could easily form a stand-alone work. VERDICT Especially relevant on the eve of the 100th anniversary of World War I, this title collects decades of research, literature, film, and understanding to provide a reasoned, compelling take on a conflict that changed the face of the world. It will be appreciated by armchair historians and academics alike. [See Prepub Alert 11/3/13; for more nonfiction reviews on World War I, see "The Great War" roundup, LJ 4/15/14 or go to ow.ly/waeq8.]—Elizabeth Zeitz, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH
Kirkus Reviews
A scholar who has written often about 20th-century warfare (In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War, 2005, etc.) returns with a comprehensive account of the many effects of World War I. Reynolds' (International History/Cambridge Univ.) theses are more intriguing than complicated. Although he reminds us continually of the dire human costs of the Great War—tens of thousands of soldiers died in the initial hour at the Battle of the Somme—his focus remains on how the war affected the principal combatants, especially his native England. England, he argues, entered the war not due to any threat of invasion or attack but for what he characterizes as moral reasons. He also reminds us that the United States entered the war very late (the spring of 1917) and did so not out of fear of attack (though some did occur on the seas) but also for moral reasons. Reynolds shows how the great prewar empires imploded during and after the war; the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, for example, and the consequent redrawing of maps in the Middle East have had enduring effects to the present moment. Reynolds also looks at the arts during and after the war—poetry (especially those wonderful British poets like Sassoon and Owen), fiction and film. Similarly, he examines how the various combatants honored their warriors, fallen and otherwise, and shows how countries dealt with the recent deaths of the war's final veterans. He charts, as well, the involvement of Australia; shows how the war affected relations between England and Ireland (and Northern Ireland); and examines how the war affected the writing of history in various countries. We also see how the term "Great War" became "World War I." A lifetime of scholarship informs this highly readable analysis of what the author calls "the forgotten conflict."

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author

David Reynolds is a professor of international history at Cambridge University. He is the author of books including The Long Shadow and In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War, which won the Wolfson Prize.

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