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To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion

A fresh look at the tragic ironies of World War I.

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, By Adam Hochschild, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 480 pp.

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It would all be over, the British thought, in a jiffy. In, out, and done. Wars could be slogs, mind you, but many were quick affairs that inevitably led to victory and honor enough to go around.

In fact, sending men into battle might be just what Britain needed to do to avoid going soft in the early years of the 20th century. “The severest war wreaks little practical injury,” declared a newspaper commentator who lacked the benefit of imagination or foresight.

Others feared the worst. There was the woman who’d seen the horror of deprivation and mistreatment during a war in South Africa, and the labor and women’s suffrage activists who watched helplessly as their causes evaporated amid an epidemic of European war fever.

But really, how bad could things get? Awful beyond anyone’s comprehension, shows author Adam Hochschild in To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, his gripping new book, an instant classic of military and social history.

Writers like Barbara Tuchman have expertly told the story of World War I, which we now see as a ridiculous, futile war launched by nations that plowed forward heedlessly into the abyss. But there’s still more to understand, and Hochschild uses his expert storytelling skills to take a fresh look at the fighting on both the front lines and the home front. Everyone comes alive in this tale – soldiers and politicians, peace activists and warmongers, bereaved families and a horrified British nation.

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