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We began the war, not the Germans and still less the Entente I know that Baron Leopold von Andrian Westberg Ring of Steel Germany and Austria Hungary in World War I by Alexander Watson is the history of World War I from a German and Austrian setting Watson holds a PhD from Oxford University He lectures on the social, economic, military and political history of the First World War, the Second World War, and the Habsburg Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries He currently teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London Watson has published and has done extensive research on the history of World War I Ring of Steel holds the claim to be the first modern history of the war told from the Axis perspective The Axis powers mobilized on an unprecedented scale Germany mobilized almost 13.5 million men, 86% of the male population between the age of 18 and 50 passed through the armed forces between 1914 1918 Austria Hungary mobilized 78% of its military aged men during the years of the conflict Watson makes three main points with this work First the call to war was not just a state command in Germany support ran throughout the country and at all levels Secondly, he attempts to explain the growing and escalating violence of a war that was thought to be defensive by all sides The alliances put both sides on the defensive until the outbreak The third theme concerns the break up of societies by the war Germany and Austria Hungary were very different countries Germany became a state in 1871 and accepted a national identity rather smoothly Austria Hungary was a dual monarchy with two separate parliaments and a centralized foreign policy, military, and finance under the Habsburg leadership Austria Hungary was a collection of separate nationalities and eleven spoken languages Although under a collective empire, there was no ethnic, language, or national unity as in Germany A modern observer looking in at Austria Hungary would be curious as to how it held together Watson brings a few new thoughts to light in his book One event took me by surprise Unrestricted submarine warfare has been debated and is usually regarded as ineffective in the long run Despite the massive amounts of sunk cargo, it did not help Germany in the end Watson makes another point, this is the first time I have heard it, that unrestricted submarine warfare was responsible for Germany s defeat His argument is that England was going broke The war was costing England 2 million pounds a day,and England would be bankrupt by March 1917 and out of the war The United States was at odds with England over its strict contraband definitions and not respecting the rights of neutrals England effectively prevented trade with Germany Unrestricted submarine warfare changed the US position and doomed Germany Watson also concentrates on the social and economic effects of the war in Germany and Austria Hungary Jobs and food became scarce People began their own gardens and even pets changed Dogs and cats were replaced with edible pets rabbits, ducks, and goats Racial issues played a role in the war too The Russians began persecution of Jews in conquered lands The Entente propaganda created German atrocities that did not exist, and Russia s army actively prosecuted soldiers who raped women in occupied territory The Austrian public attacked their Croat soldiers for wearing Croat colors on their uniforms nationalism was an attack on the empire Inside Austria Hungary extreme enforcement of sedition laws were well publicized Ring of Steel gives a detailed look inside both Germany and Austria during WWI Military as well as civilian issues are covered in great detail Watson goes through great lengths to document all his writing Nearly one quarter of the book is bibliography and citations Ring of Steel is than a war history It is a social history that not only describes the war, but the war s effect on the people. Inside this giant of a tome is an average sized book crying to be freed I m fond of saying nobody cares about World War I That s because it s true Only strange people like me would first learn about the war at ten years old from a book in the school library It all began with an assassination in Sarajevo Hey, that sounds exotic Exciting I m in Now let s learn about propaganda and trench warfare and poison gas and the Red Baron Awesome stuff for bookworm boys.Little did I know I d end up living in the city where the war officially began, Belgrade Last year, a friend of mine visited and I took him to the place where the mighty Danube meets the equally excellent Sava Right there, I pointed across the confluence On that side of the river was the Austro Hungarian Empire And here, gunboats opened fire on the city Later my wife told me I d pointed at the wrong spot.Even those who ve heard of WWI know only the popular version, which goes something like this The evil Germans started the war in order to dominate Europe, if not the world.Only America stopped them.A hundred years later, this remains the gospel among those in the know Last year, the inimitable mayor of London, Boris Johnson, went out of his way to write an editorial urging us not to be swayed by other historical facts In the end, he said, Germany was to blame and Germany got what it had coming to them Never mind that Germany, which did declare war on Russia and France which did invade gallant little Belgium on its way to France nevertheless never declared war on Britain Britain sacrificed nearly a million of its own voluntarily.What s been needed for a long time is a history of our Satanic enemies, Germany and the Austro Hungarian Empire Ring of Steel provides that Unfortunately, it provides far too much of it.I have mixed impressions and really want to give this important work stars, but the fact is every time I read it, I felt like I had to outrun an avalanche of information when really, a quarter would have sufficed This is a shame because the writing is clear The writing is interesting The writing is well organized The writing is fair, all of which I love about a good history But there s too much to consume It even got to the point where I d read the first sentence of a paragraph only to skim the rest because I knew one interesting detail was inevitably going to be followed by ten not so interesting.As I write this, though, I must admit I did read one section thoroughly There must have been 20 pages or so dedicated to the Germans who served on the submarine fleet I thought it was fascinating And yet, the detail was no less than it was for other aspects of the war recorded in Ring of Steel So perhaps I should say that this comprehensive history has something for everyone, depending on what that something is Perhaps I should give it a future re read. I thought this would be a slog at 800 pages, but found it a surprisingly readable and a thought provoking book.Ring of Steel tells the story of World War 1 from the other side of the hill and claims to be the first modern history from this viewpoint.Being a World War 2 devotee this book really opened my eyes to the German Austro Hungarian viewpoint and decision making in World War 1 It really is a fascinating read telling the story of how Germany and Austria Hungary initially mobilised the support of their populations to but as military losses mounted, and Allied blockades caused hunger and hardship on the homefront, doubts set in Whilst politics are key to understanding the German Austro Hungarian position social and economic effects of the war are covered extensively too.Some nuggets from the book that I hadn t necessarily realised Russia mobilised before Germany, sparking German fears of invasion from the East that unified support across all political divides of the German and most of the Austro Hungarian populace.The general belief in Germany and Austro Hungary that the war was purely a defensive reaction contrary to the Allies view of Germany Austro Hungary as the aggressor.How complex the Austro Hungarian Empire was with its collection of separate nationalities and eleven spoken languages creating no ethnic, language, or national unity as in Germany.There s many , but I d recommend buying the book for those.Whilst a lot of books are currently being produced from the Allies point of view Alexander Watson has filled a vacant space in our knowledge of the German and Austro Hungarian viewpoint Highly recommended. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though the subject material was a little dry I particularly enjoyed the use of diary entries and letters from home the front which the author used to illustrate his points with a human touch.It explores the societal effects of the war on the populations of the main Central Powers Germany and Austro Hungary It shows how initial enthusiasm turned to disappointment and dejection as the war dragged on and the loss of men and materiel mounted This was not helped by the dastardly English blockarding ports so that the civilians on the Home Front were slowly starved.The loss of support amongst the civilians at home set up a feedback loop when the wave of troops released from the Eastern front in early 2018 failed to provide the knockout blow to France and England as had been anticipated In the end the German army was barely holding on, and Austria collapsed from within as its constituent nations voted with their feet.Stupidly the victorious Entente imposed a swinging peace, leading to resentment and rancour, which all but guaranteed a re match This duly occured in 1939 as a populist orator exploited the myth that the undefeated armies at the front were betrayed by treasonous civilians, the stab in the back dolchsto legende to lead an aggrieved nation back to war Not that it worked out any better for the Germans.Well worth a read. ( DOWNLOAD EPUB ) ⚇ Ring Of Steel ☢ For The Empires Of Germany And Austria Hungary The Great War Which Had Begun With Such High Hopes For A Fast, Dramatic Outcome Rapidly Degenerated As Invasions Of Both France And Serbia Ended In Catastrophe For Four Years The Fighting Now Turned Into A Siege On A Quite Monstrous Scale Europe Became The Focus Of Fighting Of A Kind Previously Unimagined Despite Local Successes And An Apparent Triumph In Russia Germany And Austria Hungary Were Never Able To Break Out Of The The Allies Ring Of SteelIn Alexander Watson S Compelling New History Of The Great War, All The Major Events Of The War Are Seen From The Perspective Of Berlin And Vienna It Is Fundamentally A History Of Ordinary People In Both Empires Were Flooded By Genuine Mass Enthusiasm And Their Troubled Elites Were At One With Most Of The Population But The Course Of The War Put This Under Impossible Strain, With A Fatal Rupture Between An Ever Extreme And Unrealistic Leadership And An Exhausted And Embittered People In The End They Failed And Were Overwhelmed By Defeat And Revolution Ring Of Steel Germany and Austria Hungary in World War I, by Alexander Watson, is just as it sounds A gigantic tome of information on the life and times of the Central Powers excluding Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire as they fought in World War I Germany and Austria Hungary are often maligned as the evil empires that started WWI I much of the Anglo Saxon world, and as both powers lost the war, history continues to be written, mostly, by the victors Watson takes the opposite approach, looking at the Central Powers perceptions of the war and its beginnings To be sure, the Austro Hungarian and German governments did wish a war to commence, especially against the alarmingly powerful Tsarist Russia Germany also had a bit of a grudge against France, which had been ongoing for than a century Austria Hungary had a beef with Serbia as well.So, when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria Hungary, was assassinated by a terrorist group with either tacit or explicit support from the Serbian government, and the Russians began to mobilize a bit to much for their liking, the German and Austrian high command thought it a good opportunity to act France and Russia themselves seemed to want a war, as each coveted territory held by Germany or Austria Hungary Britain became involved, as the narrative goes, after the implementation of the Schliffen plan, a German offensive through neutral Belgium that would circumvent the massive fortifications on the German France border However, Britain seemed poised to attack Germany at any time as well, calling on their age old policy of divide and conquer in Europe, to keep any one nation from getting to big This book follows these issues from the German and Austrian perspective Serbia had a long history of antagonism toward Austria and vice versa and France had been looking for white hot revenge on Germany for the latters victories in 1871 and 1898 Russia had racially motivated claims on Austrian Galicia Britain wanted to contain German power on the continent and expand its colonial holdings at both Germany and the Ottomans expanse Clearly, the evil empire theory can be expanded to include all combatants Watson also examines the viewpoint of the German and Austro Hungarian people at this time The food shortages that hit the Central Powers due to mismanagement, hostile blockade, and poor yields was devastating for most people War fervour, loyalty and national hegemony are examined This period also saw the rise of racially motivated cleansings perpetrated by the central powers and a few of the Entente members as well targeting those deemed disloyal Predictably, Jews, Polish, Ruthenian and Czech subjects of both Empires were targeted with deportation, and sometimes martial violence, often unfairly Watson notes that Jewish volunteers in both Empires came out in droves at the beginning of the conflict, and racial minorities in the Hapsburg domains often came out to try and curry favour for greater autonomy This autonomy was suspect to the ruling German and Hungarian landed gentry, and was often met with outright hostility later in the war.The soldiers on the front line and the war are also examined in detail German soldiers faced the same hardships as those they fought, with terrifying artillery bombardments, suicidal charges into machine gun fire, and trench life dominating Psychological strain and physical harm befell them everyday, and many fought bravely in a conflict that was deemed to be defensive by the citizens of the Central Powers The war aims of the Central Powers are also examined They originally started off as small, with Austria wishing to teach Serbia a lesson, and possibly set up a puppet government or even directly annex the state German war aims were much modest off the bat, however Germany originally wanted France to destroy her border fortresses, and possibly set up a puppet state in Belgium They also wanted to move Russia as far away from our borders as possible which was ambiguous enough, but probably entailed freeing the Baltic states and possibly creating a sovereign state of Russian controlled Congress Poland However, as the war expanded, their war aims grew Security became the watchword, and Germany wanted to dismember both France and Russia to ensure security for all time Watson takes a look at all of these things using an unbiased lens and tone He does not fall for the history of the victors, but looks at the Central Powers for what they were European states that had their own aspirations, insecurities and social, racial and class issues This can be said of all powers at the time, including Entente Russia who collapsed in 1917 due to class strife France with its multi ethnic colonial Empires and class issues and Britain ditto with France Watson s take on this is refreshing The book itself is an interesting social history of the Central Powers during WWI It is a side of the conflict that is rarely scene, and the deep examination of German and especially, Austro Hungarian society is fascinating as it is rare in modern history books A small criticism would be the lack of economic information on the Empires at this time Although Watson examines the crop yields of Germany and Austria Hungary, and comments briefly on the inflation experienced during the war, he does not go into detail on the economic background of these issues Although some would find that dry, it would have tied the whole book together neatly, and would have helped to offer a background on some of the monetary issues faced by the Central Powers Alas, another book maybe.All in all, a great read and a refreshing take on WWI that is often unheard of in Western historical literature Worth a read for WWI buffs and those interested in Germany and Eastern Europe. Most books about the First World War are in one thing clear Germany and Austro Hungarians were the bad guys and their opponents were the good ones This is why we often see things from the side of these good people, often overlooking what happened on the other side This lack is trying to supplement this book and I think it does in an impressive and historically correct way It does not, of course, take their place, nor the writer try to overlook their responsibility for the start of the war and the very great crimes they have done during the war, what it does is to show us their own perspective, the suffering of their peoples, but also the crimes of their opponents who shaped their thoughts to a certain extent He does this by presenting us a comprehensive chronicle of the participation of these two countries in the first World War, the causes that made them engage in this armed conflict, until the causes of their final defeat After reading, I can say that I feel that I have a complete picture of the First World War, so that is a book that I recommend to those who are interested in this issue. This is an outstanding work It speaks of Germany and Austria Hungary as surrounded by a ring of steel in World War I Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, later the United States, and some smaller countries They were outnumbered.This story is told from the perspective of Germany and Austria Hungary It is the story of government and the people It is less of a military history If you wish a detailed description of the masterful defeat of Russian forces at Tannenberg, you won t get it There are only four pages out of a volume of 566 pages that even mention this battle Of course, there are other volumes that focus on the battles and campaigns in great detail e.g., Collision of Empires The War on the Eastern Front in 1914 , and one can refer to them for that aspect of the war.The volume provides considerable information on how warfare affected the people back home Over time, with the British blockade of sea lanes, which Germany depended upon for food and other key goods, there was a slow strangulation of Germany Austria Hungary Some of its bread basket was occupied by Russian forces for a time, creating great hardship at home Indeed, there is much discussion in this book of the interrelation of military issues and what was occurring in the two home countries There is also considerable discussion of the political consequences in both Germany and Austria Hungary from the war.We learn a great deal about major figures in Germany, from Hindenburg and Ludendorff and the Kaiser and Western generals to key political leaders The same with key players from Austria Hungary One immediate lesson military leaders in the German military were much able than their colleagues from Austria Hungary.This is a terrific book Sometimes, reading becomes a bit tedious from the massively detailed discussion of various elements of the conflict But persevering is very much well worth the effort. An excellent and comprehensive history of the Austrian and German war effort during the First World War One of Watson s main arguments is that the history of these nations from 1914 1918 played a major role in Europe s later catastrophe in the 1930s and 1940s The great material and emotional investment, of Germany and Austria Hungary, he writes, ensured that defeat, when it came, would have a catastrophic impact on their societies Germany s defeat was to a large degree psychological.Watson describes all of the ill formulated decisions made by the governments in Berlin and Vienna, governments that, Watson argues, knew little about their society s suitability for total war, or lack thereof For example, the crisis atmosphere in Vienna before the war was to some degree justified by problems related to its ethnic diversity, but most of these ethnic groups simply wanted autonomy, rather than full independence, and were willing to compromise, one of many distinctions that Vienna failed to appreciate At the same time, the disconnect between German diplomacy and military strategy was one of the causes for the war s outbreak, and one of the causes for America s entry into the war Watson does a great job showing these two powers at war, from their initial victories to their eventual defeat He describes the ebb and flow of the Central Powers fortunes and the impact it had on the civilian population His depiction of Germany,a powerful, modern nation state, and Austria Hungary, a backward multi ethnic melting pot held together by flimsy compromises was very interesting He also explores many related issues that other histories tend to overlook, like how the people of both nations reacted to inept leadership, and how the war prompted invasions and forced migrations that led to considerable ethnic tensions later The Central Powers administration of the territory they conquered is also given good treatment Watson shows how both powers were surrounded on all sides by hostile nations with superior forces and stronger economies, and how this influenced their decision to try for a quick victory in the west before bringing overwhelming strength to bear on the east But, of course, 1914 turned out to be disappointment, and they were stuck with a costly eastern front and the eventual intervention of the US forced by German ham handedness into a war it wanted to avoid , which blocked any hopes of any kind of victory on the western front They were able to keep fighting for so long or less because they simply had no choice, and because they were successful in stirring up their populations against the enemy, although this was easier done in Germany than in Austria Hungary.A great history of these nations war efforts Much of the book s perspective deals with the Central Powers military and population, meaning we get little regarding their intellectuals, or the German politics of the war still, Watson does an admirable job explaining this from Austria Hungary s perspective, since that side of the issue is so much complicated. There isn t much popular history available which provides an internal view of the Central Powers during WW1, so this book is a worthwhile read on that basis This is a survey history, so it necessarily covers a great deal of ground at a high level However, the prose is readable, and Watson provides enough details to keep it interesting, for example, a sentence about a Steiff playset of a French POW transport.It s greatest value lies in its description of how the multi ethnic communities of pre war Central Europe became, over the course of 1914 1918, a preview of the bloodlands of WW2, and of how the slave labour economy of the WW2 Third Reich was rehearsed in 1914 1918 They did not spring ex nihilo from the mind of Adolf Hitler It may in some ways explain why Ludendorff found Hitler s ideas congenial enough to join him in the failed beer hall putsch of 1923, and why Hindenburg accepted Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany in 1933 In that regard, there is a lamentably short discussion of how the German army developed skills in propaganda and indoctrination in the latter stage of WW1 Hitler was a great beneficiary of this in his transition from army indoctrination cadre to Bavarian politics in 1919 We are still seeing aftershocks of this today in the Eastern Ukraine.