Over the years, I have gone through periods of fascination (obsession?) with WW I, reading fiction and nonfiction. It’s always been something I never could quite get my hands around in terms of understanding – we learned in school about Archduke Franz Ferdinand, trench warfare, etc. but that was just skimming the surface. With the recent disaster surrounding U.S. involvement in the Middle East making me struggle to learn more about the history and reasons for the seemingly random carving up of the Middle East, I welcomed the opportunity to receive a copy of David Stevenson’s 1917 from Oxford University Press and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Stevenson, a renowned WW I scholar and historian at the London School of Economics and Political Science, has several previous books including Armaments and the Coming of War: Europe, 1904-1914 (1996), 1914-1918: The History of the First World War (2004), and With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 (2011). Clearly he is up to the task of presenting his readers with the facts about the events of this pivotal year.
But this is more than just facts. The full title of the book is 1917: War, Peace, and Revolution, and while it focuses on how events in one year can transform history, it also examines what made the war escalate in subsequent years. Stevenson focuses on two areas in particular: the Russian Revolution and American intervention. He looks at key decisions that were made along the way, including the German campaign of “unrestricted” submarine warfare, he official declaration of war by the U.S. in response, the abdication of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, and Britain’s actions in the ill-fated Third Battle of Ypres.
In addition to his close look at 1917, Stevenson points out the consequences involving other countries (including, India, Brazil, China the promise of a Jewish national home in Palestine). Both military history and political history are included and, as noted above, Russia and the U.S get the prime focus.
TBH, this book is awesome but may have been even more than I needed to know about 1917! For anyone with a particular interest in this time period, or wanting to delve into the root causes and trace the horrible branches of turmoil that continue to this day in the Middle East, this book will be treasured. Superb history! Five stars.