In The Pity of War, Niall Ferguson makes a simple and provocative argument: that the human atrocity known as the Great War was entirely England's fault Britain, according to Ferguson, entered into war based on naïve assumptions of German aims—and England's entry into the war transformed a Continental conflict into a world war, which they then badly mishandled, necessitating American involvement The war was not inevitable, Ferguson argues, but rather the result of the mistaken decisions of individuals who would later claim to have been in the grip of huge impersonal forces That the war was wicked, horrific, inhuman,is memorialized in part by the poetry of men like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, but also by cold statistics More British soldiers were killed in the first day of the Battle of the Somme than Americans in the Vietnam War; indeed, the total British fatalities in that single battle—some ,—exceeds the entire American fatalities for both World Wars And yet, as Ferguson writes, while the war itself was a disastrous folly, the great majority of men who fought it did so with enthusiasm Ferguson vividly brings back to life this terrifying period, not through dry citation of chronological chapter and verse but through a series of brilliant chapters focusing on key ways in which we now view the First World WarFor anyone wanting to understand why wars are fought, why men are willing to fight them, and why the world is as it is today, there is no sharper nor stimulating guide than Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War WWI has always been a fascination of mine and Niall Ferguson went a long way to answering my biggest question: how did they get hundreds of thousands of otherwise clever men to climb out of muddy trenches and WALK across a patch of land, all the while being shot at Not being a man, I'm not sure I will ever understand it (it's GOT to be a guy thing), but now I can a little bitintellectually appreciate the why.If you are even a little bit interested in the topic, Ferguson is very readable, the chapters are broken out by topic and can be read in any order (I skipped arpund a lot) and it's anything but a dry history. Challenging and provocative A little heavygoing but steadily blasts away at some wellestablished but lazy Great War myths. Dr Ferguson seeks to overturn some longheld beliefs about WWI He does this primarily through a masterful wielding of statistics For example, the myth of war enthusiasm in Britain He is able to show that this was something very shortlived, which occurred mostly at the beginning of the war He is able to argue, too, that there were real alternatives for Britain if she had stayed out of the war The Entente was after all a gentleman's agreement There was no formal treaty committing British forces to the defense of France Would Britain have been held in contempt by the international community for taking such a position, probably, but it was a real option whose upside was never given proper consideration in Britain Among other things Ferguson believes that without Britain in the war the result would have been a limited general European conflict Once Britain entered, however, with her unparalleled foreign possessions (colonies) it became a global imperialist war Perhaps my favorite parts of the book are the statistics Ferguson is able to marshal to show how muchefficient Germany was on the battlefield Germany killed something like 5 Entente soldiers for every 4 Central Power soldiers killed And Germany did this on the cheap It's budgetary constraints are discussed in comparison to those of the Entente Powers There's no question that Germany was able not only to killEntente soldiers over the long term, they were able to do it farcheaply than their enemies This is a book for those who already know the course of the war through previous reading and who wish to expand upon that knowledge by closer study of its underpinnings, social, cultural, political and financial Do not pick this book up if you what you want are depictions of combat No question that that sort of strict military history can be very engaging, but that's not what Dr Ferguson is up to Actual fighting is only described to the extent that it illuminates the political, cultural, and social history, especially on the various home fronts of the Entente and Central Powers Other topics covered include: (1) the myth of an ingrained militarism in Germany; Ferguson believes there was not one (2) an examination of why men fought, this in a chapter titled The Death Instinct in which the author invokes Freud, Jung and others; and the prickly problem of taking prisoners I found it fascinating throughout Highly recommended. The recent centennial anniversary of Great War has renewed a number of dormant debates around various topics including inevitability, predictability, necessity, and aftermath of the war not to mention reevaluation of its causes and guilt attributions Ferguson has always been vocal on the subject and his take on the war has been characterized by many as revisionist and radical I disagree Yes, he does indeed take an opinionated view of the events but overall his position is actually pretty nuanced and analysis sharp and fresh The book is very readable yet it is a nononsense work of a serious scholar – focused, organized, detailoriented and supported by facts The short answer to the questions of causes, aftermath, and guilt is “it's complicated”, while the answer to whether the war was necessary and inevitable is a resounding “no” Read it and you will become as convinced as I am that Niall once again has a point. Controversial and brilliant A fascinating reassessment of the Great War using primary sources and a significant amount of new economic data, Ferguson questions some of the fundamental assumptions about the war In particular, he discusses the issue of the inevitability of war, which has become so entrenched, based on the system of treaties between the various empires Almost everyone would agree with the statement that the war was mismanaged by the 'old contemptibles' but Ferguson argues that Britain had such an economic superiority over Germany that it is almost a crime the war wasn't brought to a swift conclusion I wasn't swayed by all of it, but I was totally fascinated And lest you think this is a dryasdust economic history, be assured that it's not His prose is beautiful, his frame of reference cultural and social as well as economic, and some of his chapters, while difficult to swallow and very perturbing, gave me a very different insight into the nuts and bolts of the men who fought The trade in death cards and photographs, for example, the macabre souvenir collecting, while I suppose wholly human, force you to confront the fact that the war itself has been rather glorified, and bring you smack down to earth Not an easy read, and definitely not one to be swallowed in one gulp, but really highly recommended, and for me, an excellent reference tome. An engrossing dense and scholarly thesis on WWIThis is an advanced book discussing the causes and effects of WWI Ferguson particularly argues that the conflagration was Britain's fault not Germany's This is a dense and scholarly book Ferguson addresses ten questions in support of his thesis (p 442) The book requires a bit of familiarity with macroeconomics, and a background in WWI history (I have read over fourteen nonfiction and over eight fiction books) I would not take up this book as my first exposure on WWI history It takes alot of discipline and persistence to make it through But if you are interested in WWI history, it raises interesting ideas. I started this book because Taleb mentioned how Ferguson used intercountry spreads on 10year bond yields as a proxy for measuring estimated instability and I wanted to understand this method However, I forgot that Ferguson is a great writer who managed to craft a series of compelling alternative narratives describing the war that most Americans ignore because it lacked a Steven Spielberg film or awardwinning video game That said, this book should be accompanied with a viewing of Kubrick's Paths of Glory. World War I was the greatest mistake of modern time Ferguson makes the case better than I could that the war was not inevitable, that without British intervention it would have been a relatively quick German victory, and that the results of a quick German victory would have been better for everyone (including the French and British).Ferguson downplayed the extent that WW1 essentially ruined Europe permanently (particularly if you combine WW1 with WW2), and didn't particularly describe the horrible impact it had on the US (and states generally) by making them all muchcentralized and interventionist. Thorough history the way only Ferguson does, treats every aspect of the war's rise and its prosecution to underscore the ongoing tragedy of the conflict One of the few books to focus on British culpability for the war's beginnings.