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The Road to Verdun: France, Nationalism and the First World War Paperback – January 2, 2003

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Verdun has been called the Stalingrad of World War I. Paul Valery went further, calling it 'a complete war in itself, inserted in the Great War.' However that might be, the statistics still amaze: one death per minute, for the 10 months that the battle lasted. After his prize-winning account of the Nazi occupation of France, Ousby has undertaken in his latest book to give a comprehensive account of the battle itself - as well as of the events that led up to it, and of its consequences. The result promises to be a fascinating mixture of military and political history. It's being widely promoted by Cape, and is sure to generate wide review coverage on its own merits. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (January 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712664300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712664301
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,887,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
History written as a series of conjoined events makes for an interesting story but history requires an deeper understanding of causes and motives. These histories look below the surface of the water into the motions of the water underneath that ultimately govern the movements above. For this, the historian needs to convey the reasons that compel events. It is in this tradition of history telling that Ian Ousby’s relatively short volume, The Road to Verdun, stands.

Ousby spent most of his career wading into the intracacies of English literature. He was not, at the start, a historian. Perhaps for this reason, that he moved so facilely between describing events while looking deeper into the psyche that drives men and nations, that his history of the most devastating battle of World War succeeds so well.

Verdun is a small, regional town in the east of France, close to the German border, about 130 miles east of Paris, of no particular consequence in either a military or industrial sense. But it became the most savage killing ground of the war. Each meter of ground was contested in a life and death struggle. Neither the French army, initially led by the hero of the Marne, Marshal Joffre, nor the German army, led by Count Moltke, would give an inch. Verdun, as one Frenchman called it, was a “slaughterhouse”. And it was precisely that: more than 700,000 casualties on both the French and German sides and more than 300,000 deaths.

The battle itself was brutal, made even bitter by the personalities of the German and French states. It is here, in the description of the almost psychotic refusal to give an inch of ground by either side, that Ousby’s history reaches full flight.
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