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1914-1918: the history of the First World War

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Published in USA as Cataclysm: the First World War as political tragedy

David Stevenson|
Basic Books, USA (1 June 2004); Allen Lane (Penguin Books, UK; 2 September 2004) 

The standard account of World War One says that the war happened because politicians lost control of events, and that once the war began, it quickly became an unstoppable machine. But in this major new work, historian David Stevenson shows that politicians deliberately took risks that led to war in July 1914, and that battle by bloody battle, their decision remained to continue fighting. Cataclysm presents the disturbing reality that the course of the war was the result of conscious choices - including the continued acceptance of astronomical casualties. 

Rather than the standard Germany versus England account, this book is a truly international history, drawing on previously undisclosed records from the Italian, Russian, Japanese and Ottoman governments. From the complex network of secret treaties and alliances that eventually drew all of Europe into the war, to the way that World War One reconfigured how societies mourn and memorialise wartime dead, Cataclysm is a major revision of World War One history. 

David Stevenson is professor of international history at LSE. He is author of numerous publications on this subject, including The First World War and International Politics and The Outbreak of the First World War: 1914 in perspective.


Press cuttings

Times Higher Education Supplement
P 24. General, in the library, with a plan (1 April 2005)
Book review of 1914-1918: the history of the First World War by David Stevenson, LSE.