Road to Verdun: World War I's Most Momentous Battle and the Folly of Nationalism / Edition 1by Ian Ousby
Pub. Date: 06/10/2003
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
In mid-February 1916, the Germans launched a surprise major offensive at Verdun, an important fortress in northeast France. By mid-March, more than 90,000 French troops had been killed or wounded. The fighting continued for seven long months, with
A powerfully immediate and controversial account of one of the longest and bloodiest engagements of World War I.
In mid-February 1916, the Germans launched a surprise major offensive at Verdun, an important fortress in northeast France. By mid-March, more than 90,000 French troops had been killed or wounded. The fighting continued for seven long months, with casualties on both sides mounting in astonishing numbers. By the end of the year, the battle had claimed more than 700,000 victims. The butchery had little impact on the course of the war, and Verdun soon became the most potent symbol of the horrors of the war in general, and of trench warfare in particular.
Ian Ousby offers a radical, iconoclastic reevaluation of the meaning and import of this cataclysmic battle in The Road to Verdun. Moving beyond the narrow focus of most military historians, he argues that the French bear a tremendous responsibility for the senseless slaughter. In a work that merges intellectual substance and great battle writing, Ousby shows that the roots of the disaster lay in the French national character-the grandiose, even delusional way they perceived themselves, and their relentless determination to demonize Germans, which began in the debacle of the Franco-Prussian War. Ousby analyzes the generals' battle plans, and provides a graphic, gripping account of the deprivations and inhumane suffering of the troops who manned the trenches. His incisive, moving descriptions make it painfully clear why the influential French critic and poet Paul Val?ry called Verdun "a complete war in itself, inserted in the Great War."
In telling the story of Verdun, Ousby demonstrates that theconfrontation marked a critical midpoint in Franco-German hostility. The battle not only carried the burden of history, but with the presence on the battlefield of France's future leaders-including Pétain and de Gaulle-it fed an increasingly venomous enmity between France and Germany, and lay the groundwork for World War II.
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