Author(s): Max Hastings
From the acclaimed military historian, a history of the outbreak of World War I: the dramatic stretch from the breakdown of diplomacy to the battles--the Marne, Ypres, Tannenberg--that marked the frenzied first year before the war bogged down in the trenches.
In Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings gives us a conflict different from the familiar one of barbed wire, mud and futility. He traces the path to war, making clear why Germany and Austria-Hungary were primarily to blame, and describes the gripping first clashes in the West, where the French army marched into action in uniforms of red and blue with flags flying and bands playing. In August, four days after the French suffered 27,000 men dead in a single day, the British fought an extraordinary holding action against oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history. In October, at terrible cost the British held the allied line against massive German assaults in the first battle of Ypres. Hastings also re-creates the lesser-known battles on the Eastern Front, brutal struggles in Serbia, East Prussia and Galicia, where the Germans, Austrians, Russians and Serbs inflicted three million casualties upon one another by Christmas.
As he has done in his celebrated, award-winning works on World War II, Hastings gives us frank assessments of generals and political leaders and masterly analyses of the political currents that led the continent to war. He argues passionately against the contention that the war was not worth the cost, maintaining that Germany's defeat was vital to the freedom of Europe. Throughout we encounter statesmen, generals, peasants, housewives and private soldiers of seven nations in Hastings's accustomed blend of top-down and bottom-up accounts: generals dismounting to lead troops in bayonet charges over 1,500 feet of open ground; farmers who at first decried the requisition of their horses; infantry men engaged in a haggard retreat, sleeping four hours a night in their haste. This is a vivid new portrait of how a continent became embroiled in war and what befell millions of men and women in a conflict that would change everything.
Praise for All Hell Let Loose: 'Magnificent ... hypnotically readable' Sunday Telegraph 'A work of staggering scope and erudition, narrated with supreme fluency and insight, it is unquestionably the best single-volume history of the war ever written ... [Hastings] writes with a wonderfully clear, unsentimental eye and has a terrific grasp of the grand sweep and military strategy. But what makes his book a compelling read are the human stories ... at the end of this gruesome, chilling but quite magnificent book, you never doubt that the war was worth fighting' Sunday Times 'Majestic ... Hastings shapes all the stories, almost miraculously, into a single coherent narrative' Daily Telegraph 'No other general history of the war amalgamates so successfully the gut-wrenching personal details and the essential strategic arguments. Melding the worm's eye view and the big picture is a difficult trick to pull off - but Hastings has triumphed' The Times 'A fast-moving, highly readable survey of the entire war ... This is military history at its most gripping. A veritable tour de force' Evening Standard
Max Hastings studied at Charterhouse and Oxford and became a foreign correspondent, reporting from more than sixty countries and eleven wars for BBC TV and the London Evening Standard. He has won many awards for his journalism. Among his best-selling books 'Bomber Command' won the Somerset Maugham Prize, and both 'Overlord' and 'Battle for the Falklands' won the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize. After ten years as editor and then editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, he became editor of the Evening Standard in 1996. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he was knighted in 2002. He now lives in Berkshire.