With Our Backs to the Wall by David Stevenson
Victory and Defeat in 1918

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Synopsis

With so much at stake and so much already lost, why did World War I end with a whimper-an arrangement between two weary opponents to suspend hostilities? After more than four years of desperate fighting, with victories sometimes measured in feet and inches, why did the Allies reject the option of advancing into Germany in 1918 and taking Berlin? Most histories of the Great War focus on the avoidability of its beginning. This book brings a laser-like focus to its ominous end-the Allies' incomplete victory, and the tragic ramifications for world peace just two decades later.

In the most comprehensive account to date of the conflict's endgame, David Stevenson approaches the events of 1918 from a truly international perspective, examining the positions and perspectives of combatants on both sides, as well as the impact of the Russian Revolution. Stevenson pays close attention to America's effort in its first twentieth-century war, including its naval and military contribution, army recruitment, industrial mobilization, and home-front politics. Alongside military and political developments, he adds new information about the crucial role of economics and logistics.

The Allies' eventual success, Stevenson shows, was due to new organizational methods of managing men and materiel and to increased combat effectiveness resulting partly from technological innovation. These factors, combined with Germany's disastrous military offensive in spring 1918, ensured an Allied victory-but not a conclusive German defeat.

 

About David Stevenson

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David Stevenson is Professor of International History at London School of Economics and the author ofCataclysm: The First World War as Political Tragedy.
 
Published May 1, 2011 by Allen Lane. 736 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for With Our Backs to the Wall

Publishers Weekly

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The decisive counteroffensive, extending across Europe and into the Middle East, reflected above all the ability to manage resources at all levels, from a "superstructure of intergovernmental institutions" to the front lines of increasingly open, mobile warfare.

Jul 11 2011 | Read Full Review of With Our Backs to the Wall: V...

The Wall Street Journal

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Mr. Stevenson quotes Ferdinand Foch, the French general and, near the end of the war, the supreme commander of the Allied forces: "To continue to struggle would be to .

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The Wall Street Journal

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Behind the crucial matter of how wars begin lies the equally important matter of how they come to an end.

Sep 17 2011 | Read Full Review of With Our Backs to the Wall: V...

The Telegraph

Hindsight history is a fine thing, and in retrospect, it seems that the defeat of Germany in the First World War – with all its momentous consequences, both benign and malign – was inevitable.

Jun 07 2011 | Read Full Review of With Our Backs to the Wall: V...

London Review of Books

Paul von Hindenburg, a stolid general who effectively replaced the kaiser as the figurehead of the German war effort after being brought out of retirement to win spectacular victories on the Eastern Front early in the war, and Quartermaster-General Erich Ludendorff, the real driving force behind ...

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Bookmarks Magazine

This book brings a laser-like focus to its ominous end—the Allies’ incomplete victory, and the tragic ramifications for world peace just two decades later.In the most comprehensive account to date of the conflict’s endgame, David Stevenson approaches the events of 1918 from a truly interna...

Sep 20 2011 | Read Full Review of With Our Backs to the Wall: V...

Spectator Book Club

Post-war Germany would put its own fatal political spin on these defeats — the ‘stab in the back’ theory — but the real irony is that it was German military successes in the spring and early summer that brought on the crisis that would finally end the war.

Jun 11 2011 | Read Full Review of With Our Backs to the Wall: V...

Spectator Book Club

But to anyone at the end of 1917 looking at the disparate and conflicting aspirations and war aims of the belligerents, at the frustrating slow drip of American reinforcements — more than balanced by the collapse of Russia on the eastern front — or the growing legacy of sacrifice that made a nego...

Jun 11 2011 | Read Full Review of With Our Backs to the Wall: V...

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