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To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

3.9 38
by Adam Hochschild, Arthur Morey (Narrated by)

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World War I stands as one of history's most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation. In a riveting, suspenseful narrative with haunting echoes for our own time, Adam Hochschild brings it to life as never before. He focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the war's critics, alongside its generals and heroes. Thrown in jail for their opposition to


World War I stands as one of history's most senseless spasms of carnage, defying rational explanation. In a riveting, suspenseful narrative with haunting echoes for our own time, Adam Hochschild brings it to life as never before. He focuses on the long-ignored moral drama of the war's critics, alongside its generals and heroes. Thrown in jail for their opposition to the war were Britain's leading investigative journalist, a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, and an editor who, behind bars, published a newspaper for his fellow inmates on toilet paper. These critics were sometimes intimately connected to their enemy hawks: one of Britain's most prominent women pacifist campaigners had a brother who was commander in chief on the Western Front. Two well-known sisters split so bitterly over the war that they ended up publishing newspapers that attacked each other. Today, hundreds of military cemeteries spread across the fields of northern France and Belgium contain the bodies of millions of men who died in the "war to end all wars." Can we ever avoid repeating history?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Hochschild] has written an original, engrossing account that gives the war's opponents (largely English) prominent place." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Review
Christopher Hitchens
…moving and important…Hochschild has distinguished himself as a historian "from below," as it were, or from the viewpoint of the victims. He stays loyal to this method in To End All Wars, concentrating on the appalling losses suffered by the rank and file and the extraordinary courage of those who decided that the war was not a just one…This is a book to make one feel deeply and painfully, and also to think hard.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Yardley
Adam Hochschild does many things well in this account of World War I as experienced by Great Britain, not least taking a very familiar story and making it new…Hochschild writes sharp portraits of the many men and women, some of them warriors and some of them doves, who come under his microscope, and he is fair to them all. His depiction of life in the trenches is so vivid that some readers may have difficulty stomaching it, as is also true of his account of the awful battles at the Somme and Passchendaele; his ultimate judgment of "the war's madness" is fully earned by the evidence he presents. To End All Wars is exemplary in all respects.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
WWI remains the quintessential war—unequaled in concentrated slaughter, patriotic fervor during the fighting, and bitter disillusion afterward, writes Hochschild. Many opposed it and historians mention this in passing, but Hochschild, winner of an L.A. Times Book Award for Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves, has written an original, engrossing account that gives the war's opponents (largely English) prominent place. These mostly admirable activists include some veteran social reformers like the formidable Pankhursts, who led violent prosuffrage demonstrations from 1898 until 1914, and two members of which enthusiastically supported the war while one, Sylvia, opposed it, causing a permanent, bitter split. Sylvia worked with, and was probably the lover of, Keir Hardie, a Scotsman who rose from poverty to found the British Labor party. Except for Bertrand Russell, famous opponents are scarce because most supported the war. Hochschild vividly evokes the jingoism of even such leading men of letters as Kipling, Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and John Galsworthy. By contrast, Hochschild paints equally vivid, painful portraits of now obscure civilians and soldiers who waged a bitter, often heroic, and, Hochschild admits, unsuccessful antiwar struggle. (May)
Library Journal
At the end of this book, Hochshild (narrative writing, Graduate Sch. of Journalism, Univ. of California, Berkeley; King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa) writes that if only one event of the 20th century could be "undone," it should be World War I; many readers will agree with this statement. Covering almost exclusively the British perspective, he here tells the story of World War I through the eyes of its most prominent supporters and detractors. Hochschild's own sympathies lie with the conscientious objectors, socialists, and pacifists who opposed the war but were drowned out by the general public, politicians, and generals. The author is at his best when he describes horrible ironies of the war, such as a Swiss-arranged trade of essential war materials between Great Britain and Germany so the governments could more efficiently send their own soldiers to be slaughtered. VERDICT This book shares a similar thesis with David Stevenson's Cataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy and will be appreciated by anyone interested in the history of World War I or the stories of war dissenters.—Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary Lib., Oviedo, FL
Kirkus Reviews

From historian Hochschild (Bury the Chains: The First International Human Rights Movement, 2005, etc.), a selective history of the slaughter of innocents in World War I.

WWI effected the rupture of civilization on many levels—the efficacy of war machinery for mass murder, the collapse of colonial empires, the destabilization of the status quo by modern ideas such as socialism, women's suffrage and national self-determination—and the author skillfully harnesses these numerous and often contradictory currents. Hochschild focuses on Britain and many of the significant, prominent or otherwise typical protagonists whose lives and work underscored the cataclysmic changes in this era, from loyal aristocrats to pacifists and conscientious objectors. Among dozens of others, the characters include military leaders Douglas Haig and Alfred Milner, who led the war effort against the later aggressions of Germany and Austria-Hungary; Charlotte Despard, whose work with the Battersea poor prompted her to become a committed socialist and pacifist; and Rudyard Kipling, whose writing cast a nostalgic enchantment around the British empire. Hochschild plunges into the war year by year, 1914–18, when Britain swung from a country eager to fight the Germans, despite labor unrest, Irish agitation for home rule and antiwar demonstrations, to utterly stricken and bereft, with unbelievablenumbers of young men cut down in the trenches. Britain had "declared that the very fundamentals of civilization were at stake," yet the war wrought unfathomable carnage andprofoundquestions about its purpose. The lives of the author's many characters dovetail elegantly in this moving, accessible book.

An ambitious narrative that presents a teeming worldview through intimate, human portraits.

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Tantor Media, Inc.
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5.40(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

An early autumn bite is in the air as a gold-tinged late afternoon falls over the rolling countryside of northern France. Where the land dips between gentle rises, it is already in shadow. Dotting the fields are machine-packed rolls, high as a person’s head, of the year’s final hay crop. Massive tractors pull boxcar-sized cartloads of potatoes, or corn chopped up for cattle feed. Up a low hill, a grove of trees screens the evidence of another kind of harvest, reaped on this spot nearly a century ago. Each gravestone in the small cemetery has a name, rank, and serial number; 162 have crosses, and one has a Star of David. When known, a man’s age is engraved on the stone as well: 19, 22, 23, 26, 34, 21, 20. Ten of the graves simply say, “A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God.” Almost all the dead are from Britain’s Devonshire Regiment, the date on their gravestones July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Most were casualties of a single German machine gun several hundred yards from this spot, and were buried here in a section of the front-line trench they had climbed out of that morning. Captain Duncan Martin, 30, a company commander and an artist in civilian life, had made a clay model of the battlefield across which the British planned to attack. He predicted to his fellow officers the exact place at which he and his men would come under fire from the nearby German machine gun as they emerged onto an exposed hillside. He, too, is buried here, one of some 21,000 British soldiers killed or fatally wounded on the day of greatest bloodshed in the history of their country’s military, before or since.
 On a stone plaque next to the graves are the words this regiment’s survivors carved on a wooden sign when they buried their dead:

The devonshires held this trench
The devonshires hold it still
 The comments in the cemetery’s visitors’ book are almost all from England: Bournemouth, London, Hampshire, Devon. “Paid our respects to 3 of our townsfolk.” “Sleep on, boys.” “Lest we forget.” “Thanks, lads.” “Gt. Uncle thanks, rest in peace.” Why does it bring a lump to the throat to see words like sleep, rest, sacrifice, when my reason for being here is the belief that this war was needless folly and madness? Only one visitor strikes a different note: “Never again.” On a few pages the ink of the names and remarks has been smeared by raindrops — or was it tears?
 The bodies of soldiers of the British Empire lie in 400 cemeteries in the Somme battlefield region alone, a rough crescent of territory less than 20 miles long, but graves are not the only mark the war has made on the land. Here and there, a patch of ground gouged by thousands of shell craters has been left alone; decades of erosion have softened the scarring, but what was once a flat field now looks like rugged, grassed-over sand dunes. On the fields that have been smoothed out again, like those surrounding the Devonshires’ cemetery, some of the tractors have armor plating beneath the driver’s seat, because harvesting machinery cannot distinguish between potatoes, sugar beets, and live shells. More than 700 million artillery and mortar rounds were fired on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918, of which an estimated 15 percent failed to explode. Every year these leftover shells kill people — 36 in 1991 alone, for instance, when France excavated the track bed for a new high-speed rail line. Dotted throughout the region are patches of uncleared forest or scrub surrounded by yellow danger signs in French and English warning hikers away. The French government employs teams of démineurs, roving bomb-disposal specialists, who respond to calls when villagers discover shells; they collect and destroy 900 tons of unexploded munitions each year. More than 630 French démineurs have died in the line of duty since 1946. Like those shells, the First World War itself has remained in our lives, below the surface, because we live in a world that was so much formed by it and by the industrialized total warfare it inaugurated.
 Even though I was born long after it ended, the war always seemed a presence in our family. My mother would tell me about the wild enthusiasm of crowds at military parades when — at last! — the United States joined the Allies. A beloved first cousin of hers marched off to the sound of those cheers, to be killed in the final weeks of fighting; she never forgot the shock and disillusionment. And no one in my father’s family thought it absurd that two of his relatives had fought on opposite sides of the First World War, one in the French army, one in the German. If your country called, you went.
 My father’s sister married a man who fought for Russia in that war, and we owed his presence in our lives to events triggered by it: the Russian Revolution and the bitter civil war that followed — after which, finding himself on the losing side, he came to America. We shared a summer household with this aunt and uncle, and friends of his who were also veterans of 1914–1918 were regular visitors. As a boy, I vividly remember standing next to one of them, all of us in bathing suits and about to go swimming, and then looking down and seeing the man’s foot: all his toes had been sheared off by a German machine-gun bullet somewhere on the Eastern Front.
 The war also lived on in the illustrated adventure tales that British cousins sent me for Christmas. Young Tim or Tom or Trevor, though a mere teenager whom the colonel had declared too young for combat, would bravely dodge flying shrapnel to carry that same wounded colonel to safety after the regiment, bagpipes playing, had gone “over the top” into no man’s land. In later episodes, he always managed to find some way — as a spy or an aviator or through sheer boldness — around the deadlock of trench warfare.
 As I grew older and learned more history, I found that this very deadlock had its own fascination. For more than three years the armies on the Western Front were virtually locked in place, burrowed into trenches with dugouts sometimes 40 feet below ground, periodically emerging for terrible battles that gained at best a few miles of muddy, shell-blasted wasteland. The destructiveness of those battles still seems beyond belief. In addition to the dead, on the first day of the Somme offensive another 36,000 British troops were wounded. The magnitude of slaughter in the war’s entire span was beyond anything in European experience: more than 35 percent of all German men who were between the ages of 19 and 22 when the fighting broke out, for example, were killed in the next four and a half years, and many of the remainder grievously wounded. For France, the toll was proportionately even higher: one half of all Frenchmen aged 20 to 32 at the war’s outbreak were dead when it was over. “The Great War of 1914–18 lies like a band of scorched earth dividing that time from ours,” wrote the historian Barbara Tuchman. British stonemasons in Belgium were still at work carving the names of their nation’s missing onto memorials when the Germans invaded for the next war, more than 20 years later. Cities and towns in the armies’ path were reduced to jagged rubble, forests and farms to charred ruins. “This is not war,” a wounded soldier among Britain’s Indian troops wrote home from Europe. “It is the ending of the world.”

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"[Hochschild] has written an original, engrossing account that gives the war's opponents (largely English) prominent place." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Meet the Author

Adam Hochschild is the author of a number of books, including Half the Way Home, The Mirror at Midnight, and The Unquiet Ghost. Three of his books, including King Leopold's Ghost, have been named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review and Library Journal.

Arthur Morey has recorded over two hundred audiobooks in history, fiction, science, business, and religion, earning a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards and two Audie Award nominations. His plays and songs have been produced in New York, Chicago, and Milan, where he has also performed.

Brief Biography

San Francisco, California
Date of Birth:
October 5, 1942
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
A.B., Harvard College, 1963

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To End All Wars 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
SheilaCE More than 1 year ago
It was supposed to be the war to end all wars-the Great War. Millions gave the ultimate sacrifice, their very lives, and World War I is still to this day not entirely understood by historians. The violence and widespread carnage of those years simply cannot be understood by any rational means. It becomes necessary to look at the very real human elements, to delve into the hearts and minds of those that stood their ground in support of their own ideals and fought for that in which they so fervently believed, whether based in principles of peace or war, in order to comprehend the true nature of the period. There is a great deal of relevance here. The grand tension of this period is represented best by those who struggled most as either loyal proponents of military action or opponents of the first great global conflict. Adam Hochschild's latest work, To End All Wars, serves as an exploration not of the gruesome battles scenes and bloody victories of this war but of the soldiers and pacifists, the commanders and rebels who fought long and hard, sometimes to the point of their deaths, in order to maintain their own personal struggles in the hopes of prevailing. Both sides were pitted against impressive odds: families were torn apart by the disparate beliefs of their members, and citizens were arrested and imprisoned for their dissent. What reasons are there? What ideas and values were driving these people? To End All Wars is an intimate, captivating investigation into the people behind the action of World War I. Hochschild is a well-known and accomplished author who has contributed works to some of the world's most read publications. History is his specialty, and this is history at its finest. Journey beyond the textbook account to the very real struggle of those that fought in order to end all wars. To End All Wars is bound to be appreciated by non-fiction readers who delight in reading about the world of the past. Of course, those who have an obsession with the World War I era should consider this an absolute must-read. And fans of Hochschild's previous books already know to expect great things from this release.
grandmat03053 More than 1 year ago
Gritty, horrifying in places and a difficult read. There have been many books that glorify war; this is not one. Nor is it simply a condemnation of war. This book makes the shocking aspects of war uncomfortably real. It's well written and researched. I'd recommend it and will read it again.
Hommasse More than 1 year ago
If you ever needed to understand the stupidity of war, and the men who make them, read this book. One comes away wondering if such men exist today, somehow knowing that they do, and wishing it were not true. If you think war is ever necessary this book will, at the very least, give you reason to pause before allowing young men to go to war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting as an in-depth explanation of the anti-war movement in England during WWI.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is simply an outstanding book on every level. I highly recommend it to anyone interetsed in exploring how ordinary people's lives intertwine to create history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Picked this book up because I was interested in a book that could describe the reasons  and outcomes of a war I knew very little about. This book is written mostly from the British prospective. It focuses on that 19th century colonial power whose leaders had lost touch with or were ignorant of 20th century "modern" warfare. The accounts of chauvinistic military leadership expecting to fight a war with horses, riders, and swords and the unimaginable number of casualties, which could have been avoided -- on all sides was, even a century later, simply shocking. The story includes the workers' struggle in those early days of the 20th century -- a story that is as powerful, as  historical, as important, and as timeless as the military history of the times and what we humans never seem to learn from history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although it is a well written book- it drags. I found it hard to remember whom each person was and what their role was in WWI whether it be pro or anti war. While I found the book interesting, I was just looking for a bit more information in regards to the actual war not necessarily just the opposition to it primarily by well to do citizens. If you are looking for a book to show you how WWI impacted the average citizens life- this isn't it.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
This is an exasperating book, good on the personalities of those whom Adam Hochschild picks to represent the two sides of the divide – the pro-war activists and the opponents of the First World War – but it is superficial, impressionistic and anecdotal, more gossip than history. Hochschild has found some good material. For example, he cites an army officer who wrote, “A good big war just now might do a lot of good in killing Socialist nonsense and would probably put a stop to all this labour unrest.” Then as now the media assumed the morality of the state’s wars. Hochschild calls the British government’s publicity campaign, ‘The greatest political propaganda barrage history had seen’. John Buchan, one of its key writers, wrote, “So far as Britain is concerned, the war could not have been fought for one month without its newspapers.” The British state used its well-practised tactics of censorship: the government did not ban, where it could discourage, and it did not discourage, where it was safe or politic to ignore. Of the government poster, ‘Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?’, Bob Smillie, a leading Scottish miner, said his reply would be, “I tried to stop the bloody thing, my child.” Hochschild cites Rudyard Kipling’s lines expressing a soldier’s thought - “If any question why we died, Tell them, because our fathers lied.” However, this is not enigmatic, as Hochschild calls it, but clear and true. But the government did not just put out lies. It created organisations to back the state: Sir Alfred Milner founded the pro-war British Workers’ League, precursor of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and many others. So Hochschild does tell some good stories, but he writes far more about General Haig, Milner, Kipling and Buchan than he does about those who opposed the war: there are two index entries to General Sir John French, commander of the British army in Flanders, for every one to his anti-war sister Charlotte Despard, and two to Milner for every one to Bertrand Russell. More important, Hochschild never has a good word to say about those whose opposition to the war actually ended it. Milner had said in March 1918, “our real danger now is not the Boches but Bolshevism.” All the warring states turned to attack this new main enemy - and now Hochschild does so too. He slanders Lenin as writing only ‘acerbic articles and pamphlets attacking rivals on the left and predicting the imminent demise of capitalism’, ignoring his many articles opposing the war. Hochschild damns those present at the 1916 anti-war Kiental meeting, including Lenin, as ‘mostly sectarian ideologues’. This conference called for an immediate peace and called on all socialist deputies never to vote for war credits (unlike the Second International which had voted for war credits in 1914). Hochschild writes that Emily Hobhouse “was the sole person from any of the warring countries who actually journeyed to the other side in search of peace”, forgetting that he actually wrote about the Bolsheviks who travelled into German-occupied territory in December 1917 and negotiated an armistice. So, this is a divided book about a divided nation. Hochschild’s liberalism allows him to praise those who opposed the war as pacifists, but this same worldview stops him praising those who by making war on the war ended it.
jrwils56 More than 1 year ago
I well written book but it is so sad to see how pigheaded our leadership can big. How can civilized men think of war as a sport?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this up because I read Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost" and the author told the story of WWI in a similar, powerful storyline with multiple 3rd person viewpoints. Stories about trench warfare truly horrified me. Hochschild wrote about a big offensive in Belgium, and described how tens of thousands of soldiers drowned, being nowhere near the sea, because of severe rains and soldiers literally stuck in the mud in the trenches. Even though history has already been written, Hochschild wrote in a way that made me fervently hope the ending would be different for the soldiers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy history books
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And to think that we lost an entire generation of men because the world was being held hostage by three morons: King George of England, Nicholas the Russian Tsar and Cousin Willie the Kaiser Nicholas the Tsar of Russia, and dear old Cousin Willie.  Deprived of oxygen at firth for a substantial time he was a wee bit "off" but yet assumed the Throne and became Kaiser William of Prussia.  Talk about a travesty.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent story about WWI centered on true characters and events. So well-written it often made me angry to think this actually happened and yet only twenty years later we launched into WWII.
WriteReason More than 1 year ago
Well written, and researched.  It tells a lot about the lives of people during this Great Awful War.  The blundering leaders who could not understand the fast changing times--still clinging to antiquated ways to conduct war; calvary charges, throwing men continuously into harms way by having them charge over the tops of trenches into ravenous rapid firing machine guns, and tangled barbed wire.  The soldiers who bade the call to arms, and threw themselves into the turmoil of mud, blood and lead.  Those opposed to the war, and how their free government tried to hush their cries of outrage against the hundreds of thousands of young men ordered to throw their lives away in a totally needless war.  Well done.  It captures the time period, and reveals to us that war is not glorious, our leaders not always legitimate in knowing what's best for us, and that thousands of young lives were wasted  in a very futile war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well researched but should have focused more on the anti war movement. Seems like the author could have written two good books but instead wrote an average one
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heartbreaking to read about the horrors of WWII through the stories of war resisters and conscientious objectors. Sad and fascinating.
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