Academic journal article Military Review

Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I

Academic journal article Military Review

Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I

Article excerpt

RING OF STEEL: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I Alexander Watson, Basic Books, New York, 2014, 832 pages

The one hundredth anniversary of the Great War has unleashed a drumfire barrage of new books on the conflict. While the duds in this barrage will be quickly forgotten, the books of lasting value will expand and enhance our understanding of the war. Alexander Watson's Ring of Steel is a very solid entry in this second category.

In an earlier work, Enduring the Great War, Watson provided a thoughtful comparison of the war as experienced by German and British soldiers on the Western Front. In this new book, Watson's more ambitious goal is to examine and compare the war experience of the two societies: the German Reich and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, together the most important of the Central Powers. Within that goal, the author's focus is on the mobilization of the two societies to support a total war unlike any seen before. He finds that although Germany was far more modern and ethnically homogeneous than its multinational ally, both empires were initially successful in unifying their people for the war effort. However, over time, the enormous bloodletting on the battlefield, along with political and economic mismanagement, would have a disintegrating effect on social and political unity in both countries. Germany seemed more resilient; however, Watson contrasts how in the last two years of the war, Hindenburg and Ludendorff's military dictatorship continued to seek vast conquests while seeming to ignore the great longing for peace among German people. …

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