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The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0393088632
ISBN-10: 0393088634
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The ramifications of WWI, profound and persisting to this centennial year of its outbreak, have been so contested that it takes an accessible, perceptive historian like Reynolds to interpret them fairly. To simplify the task, he divides WWI’s effects into two periods, the 1920s–30s, when political and economic consequences were pressing postwar imperatives to victors and vanquished, and the time since WWII, whose even greater destructiveness compelled reconceptualization of the meaning of the war now rebranded as the First World War. Reynolds alights upon the major combatants of WWI, with special emphasis on Britain. Keen to test the validity of the popular impression of the war as futile slaughter, Reynolds examines popular attitudes at the time as expressed in reactions to newsreels and, later, in the 1920s, to literature and war memorials. Public sentiment cannot, in Reynold’s presentation, be called antiwar. Such a view became widespread mainly through television productions, documentaries, and historical studies made since the 1960s. Concluding with his analysis of that cultural output, Reynolds demonstrates with authoritative acuity how malleable an object the history of 1914–18 has been. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

[World War I has] been analyzed before, but never with such depth of perception or range of understanding. Reynolds is able to speak with authority on economics and philosophy; literature and art; politics, diplomacy and memory. He is a historian of immense skill, utterly confident of his wisdom and deservedly so. (Gerard De Groot - Washington Post)

The Long Shadow is an extraordinary work. With deep perception and knowledge David Reynolds tells the story and assesses the significance of the Great War from its beginnings to the present day. . . . Many books on the Great War have already appeared and will continue to do so during these centennial years. It is hard to imagine that there will be a better one. (Peter Stansky, Stanford University)

Brilliant…the most challenging and intelligent book on the Great War and our perceptions of it that any of us will read this, or any other year. (John Charmley - The Times (UK))

[A] masterly look at what the war meant and how its meaning changed by decade. (David Shribman - Boston Globe)

The Long Shadow is a fluent corrective to our preoccupation with our own individual and family war stories, and offers a truly global perspective on the conflict’s long shadow. (Nigel Jones - The Telegraph (UK))

Who better as remembrancer than David Reynolds, with his customary lucidity, his long view, his comparative perspective, his contemporary sensitivity, his scholarly sanity and his crisp humanity? …This is the work of a master historian. (Alex Danchev - The Times Higher Education Supplement (UK))

Transcends conventional histories about World War I …The kind of book that challenges readers to think. (Ed Timms - Dallas Morning News)

A comparative perspective on the ways the First World War shaped the 20th century…. The Long Shadow forces us to pull back from the Western Front and examine the war with fresh eyes. (Matthew Price - The National (UK))

Brilliant…. As an introduction to the controversies and complexities of a period of history that will be on all our demands next year, it is unlikely to be bettered. (Tom Holland - History Today)

Here at last among the plethora of predictable books on the anniversary of the great war is an intelligent and critical assessment… presented with a masterly array of sources across a busy century, at once thought-provoking and thoroughly informed. (Richard Overy - The Guardian)

Explores the political, cultural and social legacy of the First World War, and offers correctives to many popular delusions. Perspective is critical to a comprehension of history, and Reynolds has no peer in helping us to achieve this. (Max Hastings - The Sunday Times)

Written by an outstanding historian at the height of his powers, The Long Shadow is a brilliant study in ‘legacies and refractions.’ (Piers Brendon - The Independent)

This is a masterly study in every sense: by an historian at the top of his game, deploying wide-ranging research in important arguments, sustained alike with rich detail and with dry wit. (Peter Clarke - Financial Times)

Eloquent… This book’s deepest message is about the inescapability of history, whether we choose to live in its shadow or to turn our backs on the warnings it offers to the present. (Christopher Clark - The Daily Mail)

Brilliant… As an introduction to the controversies and complexities of a period of history that will be on all our demands next year, it is unlikely to be bettered. (Tom Holland - History Today)

Provocative. (Publishers Weekly)

Compelling… Reynolds ably and dramatically depicts the many unforeseen and unimagined consequences of war―not just for the dead and wounded, but also for the living and the yet to be born. (James Norton - Christian Science Monitor)

Fascinating. (Andrew Roberts - Wall Street Journal)

Reynolds’s call to move the understanding of World War I out of the trenches and into broader contexts is a fundamental challenge as the centennial begins. (Dennis Showalter - MHQ)

Deploying the Great War as his lens, Reynolds has given us one of the most illuminating studies in the history of ideas to appear for many years. Beautifully written, with a masterly command of the diverse subject matter it addresses, The Long Shadow is an immensely rich book… If our leaders really want to learn from history, they could start by reading this book. (John Gray - The Literary Review)

Reynolds’s analysis provocatively contextualizes the interwar British experience. (Publishers Weekly, Starred review)

A lifetime of scholarship informs this highly readable analysis of what the author calls ‘the forgotten conflict.’ (Kirkus Reviews)

Reynolds demonstrates with authoritative acuity how malleable an object the history of 1914-18 has been. (Booklist)

A clear-eyed appraisal of the First World War’s consequences. (Michael F. Bishop - The Daily Beast)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 12, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393088634
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393088632
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Cross on July 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The reviews of this book were universally positive, so I got it from my library and found it to be one of the best histories I've read in years, and certainly the most perceptive about this horrific War. I had previously admired Paul Fussell's THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY - a book Mr. Reynolds, persuasively and gently, debunks. I now realize that my reading on this war was sadly narrow. I had not understood to what extent the anti-war fever of the 1960's, in which I was formed, set the Great War in a deep resin, hardening what had happened until it could make no sense and supported our anti-Vietnam rhetoric with its "absurd" casualties. It seemed to us then that the entire Western world was simple-mindedly self-destructive in creating and sustaining such horrific slaughter. Reynolds actively deconstructs the myths and static "truths" of The Great War, returns it to what all history is - an event created in real time, where horrible ends are not foreseen and men and women are fallible and full of confusion, anger and denial. The author is brilliant in tracing how the Great War was transformed in the decades after its conclusion in 1918, decade by decade, even into the 21st century. In so doing, our illusions and convictions alter constantly without necessarily making the events of the War easier to understand. Reynolds is balanced and authoritative and his nuanced interpretation makes many earlier works I have read seem shrill and simple-minded. I actually felt a pang for the thousands of veterans of the Great War whom my generation treated largely as cretinous imbeciles, abused by a corrupt system, when in fact they had suffered for causes they believed in, however much disillusion later set in. All in all, a revelation and a book I shall long ponder.
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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By David Shulman on June 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Cambridge history Professor David Reynolds has written a kaleidoscopic history of the influence of the Great War on the politics and culture of the twentieth century and early twenty first century. Although he discusses all of the major combatants, his primary focus is on the United Kingdom and Ireland. He goes well beyond the inter-war years that are covered very well by Richard Overy and Zara Steiner, and that is a major contribution. In my view his book is more of an academic history than a popular history and as a result I give it four stars, not five.

Reynolds covers the role of the anti-war poets (e.g. Sassoon, Owen and Blunden) and their impact in fermenting the anti-war sentiment that percolated through British society in the 1920s and 30s. Their views would be revived in America during the anti-war movements of the 1960s.

In economics he discusses the pressure to return to the pre-war gold standard the deflation it wrought on the global economy. But make no mistake he really doesn't emphasize economics and he leaves out completely the London Economic Conference of 1933. He does cover the British economy well by highlighting the fact that the 1930s were far better for Britain than the 1920s and the adoption of a very aggressive housing policy by the Tory government. The Tory property owning society of the 1930s became the Republican ownership society in the early 2000s.

Most striking to me was the influence of the propaganda exaggerations of the German atrocities in 1914 Belgium anesthetized British and U.S. policy makers and public opinion to the reality of the 1942-45 extermination of European Jewry. Simply put all too many policy makers refused to believe that the holocaust was taking place.
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103 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reviewer TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
With the centenary of the First World War, a global war concentrated in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918, fast approaching, there seems to be a deluge of books and memoirs about war. One truly outstanding and extraordinary book which takes an insightful look at the impact of the Great War, gives a detailed account of what happened during and after the war, and which makes for a mesmerizing reading is The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds.

Author David Reynolds needs no introduction. He is one of the finest & leading historians writing in English today, a professor of International history at Cambridge University historian and winner of the Wolfson Prize for his 2005 monumental work In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War.

The Long Shadow scans the indelible bearing The Great War had on the cultural and political landscape of five combatant nations – Great Britain, Russia, Germany, France and the United States. Taking a very British view of the issue, the author also explores the impact The Great War had on The British Empire and Commonwealth Countries. While the subject in itself is vast, the book is not voluminous as the author has a clear defined goal of what to bring to the reader’s attention. Divided into two parts – Legacies and Refractions, the first part of the book Legacies contained six chapters - Nations, Democracy, Empire, Capitalism, Civilization and Peace. The second part of the book, Refractions, consists of Again, Evil, Generations, Tommies and Remembrance.

Full of facts, figures, information, insights, illustrations, and useful references, David Reynolds in writing The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century has set a bench-mark for all future works on this particular subject.
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