1917: War, Peace, and Revolution

1917: War, Peace, and Revolution

1917 was a year of calamitous events, and one of pivotal importance in the development of the First World War. In 1917: War, Peace, and Revolution, leading historian of World War One, David Stevenson, examines this crucial year in context and illuminates the century that followed. He shows how in this one year the war was transformed, but also what drove the conflict onwar...

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Title:1917: War, Peace, and Revolution
Author:David Stevenson
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1917: War, Peace, and Revolution Reviews

  • Joseph

    1917: War, Peace, and Revolution by David Stevenson is the history of a single year of World War I. Stevenson studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge, before receiving a Ph.D. from the same university. He became a Lecturer at the London School of Economics in 1982. In 1998, he was appointed Professor of International History. Between 2004 and 2005, he also received a Leverhulme Research Fellowship “for research on supply and logistics in 1914-1918”

    The war had been fou

    1917: War, Peace, and Revolution by David Stevenson is the history of a single year of World War I. Stevenson studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge, before receiving a Ph.D. from the same university. He became a Lecturer at the London School of Economics in 1982. In 1998, he was appointed Professor of International History. Between 2004 and 2005, he also received a Leverhulme Research Fellowship “for research on supply and logistics in 1914-1918”

    The war had been fought to a stalemate for the last two and a half years. Its toll was growing on the population of Europe. England was near bankruptcy and running low on food. It required a great deal of imported food as well as oil to fuel its fleet. Germany was going through its turnip winter. The Russian population was suffering more than ever — food shortages, loss of life on the front, and a vodka ban. France was mostly self-sufficient in foodstuff, but it was being bled white. Germany remained effectively blockaded. It, in turn, tried to blockade England with unrestricted submarine warfare.

    1917 was a year of risks and taking chances hoping for a breakthrough that would finally turn the tide of the war. England had turned to the United States supported convoys. Germany stepped up its submarine warfare knowing that it would bring the United States into the war. Germany underestimated US strength and overestimated its advantages of Russia leaving the war and its own submarines. Germany’s main ally the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was falling apart quickly and proving to be ineffective. England’s large navy remained essentially out of the war and its army was still small. France was bearing the burden of being the main army for the allies although the British commonwealths were fighting bravely.

    Peace advances from the Vatican and Wilson were rejected by each side neither wanting to back down. There was the hope and belief that each side was nearing its breaking point and it was just a matter of time and lives before victory would be claimed. Russia’s exit from the war created a race to bring the US into the war before the German’s could transfer resources. In a further overestimation, Russia left the war giving Germany favorable terms because Russia thought the rest of Europe would fall into revolution shortly and differences from the hasty peace would be corrected with a communist Germany and Europe.

    What makes this book on World War I special is that Steveson does not only concentrate on the Western Front. Germany’s invasion of Italy and Japan’s attack on German colonies and ships are covered. England’s request to Japan was accepted and German assets in China were attacked and Japan began to set itself up as a colonizing power in China. India is discussed as well as the British plan for a Jewish Homeland. It was during this year that Latin American countries joined the allies, mostly in word over deeds. Greece, Siam, and China would also join the allies in 1917. The European war became a world war.

    1917 is a well-written history that goes deeper into World War I than most histories since it concentrates on a single year, although a pivotal year. 1917 set the stage for the war’s end and the uneasy peace to follow. It examines the many misconceptions that the warring countries held to and the belief that a decisive victory could be won.

  • Stephanie

    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 t

    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.

  • Omar Ali

    I did not finish this book, but I hope to do so when I get it back from the library. What I did read was very detailed and very thoroughly researched.

  • John Plowright

    As the year of the German resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Zimmerman Telegram and US entry into the First World War; Passchendaele or Third Ypres, Cambrai, and the mutinies in the French Army following the failed Nivelle offensive on the Western Front; the defeat of Italy at Caporetto; the February and October revolutions in Russia; and the Balfour Declaration, 1917 was clearly a pivotal year not only in the Great War but in global history, and in David Stevenson, who has alread

    As the year of the German resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, the Zimmerman Telegram and US entry into the First World War; Passchendaele or Third Ypres, Cambrai, and the mutinies in the French Army following the failed Nivelle offensive on the Western Front; the defeat of Italy at Caporetto; the February and October revolutions in Russia; and the Balfour Declaration, 1917 was clearly a pivotal year not only in the Great War but in global history, and in David Stevenson, who has already written or edited several books about the causes, course or consequences of the First World War it clearly has an author well qualified to do it justice.

    His book, ‘1917. War, Peace, and Revolution’, is not intended to cover everything but instead resembles Arno Mayer’s ‘Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917-18’, in centring on the way in which American intervention and revolution in Russia impacted upon the war, although it was not of course until 1918 that American troops started arriving in France in large numbers or until the March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that Russia formally withdrew from the conflict (Ludendorff’s Spring 1918 offensive representing the last chance for Germany to effect a knock-out blow in the West before the odds turned irredeemably against her).

    In particular Stevenson is concerned to detail the elite decision-making processes which resulted in the war grinding on, rather than pursuing seemingly less perilous and painful options. In this context Stevenson’s treatment of the former Foreign Secretary Lord Lansdowne is somewhat surprising.

    Lansdowne appears in Stevenson’s List of Principal Personalities and indeed his book begins by quoting Lansdowne addressing the British Cabinet in November 1916 to the effect that those who needlessly prolong the war bear as heavy a responsibility as those who needlessly provoked it, but the Lansdowne letter of 29 November 1917 gets a single sentence and there is no mention at all of the formation of the Lansdowne Committee to support his proposal of a negotiated peace, let alone the formation in Germany of an active group of independent moderates, led by Dr. Kurt Hahn (the future founder of Gordonstoun) to persuade their government to respond positively to Lansdowne’s initiative. It might be argued that this makes sense insofar as this peace offensive had no positive results but the same point could be made in the military context in relation to Passchendaele, yet Stevenson devotes an entire chapter to that particular mud-caked exercise in futility.

    Historical events and themes rarely coincide neatly with the units by which we measure time and Stevenson’s ‘1917’ focuses on the months of January to November in that year, as well as more broadly engaging with the period December 1916 to March 1918. The book itself is engaging and informative, resting as it does upon an academic lifetime’s reflection as well as impressive and judicious use of archival and secondary literature, although the avowedly selective bibliography finds no space for the work of John Keegan or Niall Ferguson and makes no mention of the admittedly more obscure but highly germane six articles collectively entitled ‘Searching for peace, 1914-1918’ by David Woodward, Arthur S. Link, James Joll, Harold Kurtz, Hugh Seton-Watson, and Robert Blake respectively, which were originally broadcast on the Third Programme and then published in ‘The Listener’ between the 9th and the 14th of July 1966.

  • Casey Wheeler

    I received a free Kindle copy of 1917: War, Peace & Revolution by David Stevenson courtesy of Net Galley and Oxford University Press, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.

    I requested this book as I have read a number of books on World War I, but not one that focused on the critical year of 1917 by it

    I received a free Kindle copy of 1917: War, Peace & Revolution by David Stevenson courtesy of Net Galley and Oxford University Press, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review to Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my nonfiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google Plus pages.

    I requested this book as I have read a number of books on World War I, but not one that focused on the critical year of 1917 by itself. This is the first book by David Stevenson that I have read.

    This book, while immensely detailed, is well researched and written. It holds your interest while dealing into the decisions or nondecisions that prolonged World War I when there was some possibility of ending it sooner. It focuses on the time period of January through November of 1917 and deals with subjects as Germany's decision to escalate submarien warfare and the United States decision to finally give up its neutral status and join the war on the side of the Allies.

    I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in World War I and in particular the events of 1917 that ended up prolonging the war.

  • Gordon

    Years ago, I watched the class of one of HPA's budding master teachers, Bill Davis. One section of his English class had been devoted to WWI, the trench poets and a very fine book, Regeneration, by Pat Barker, along with a bewildering amount of research on WWI by his students. I went on to read the other two books in the trilogy and continue to study the Great War, the War to End All Wars. This book is a meticulous study of the birth of the Twentieth Century as it was untimely ripped from the bi

    Years ago, I watched the class of one of HPA's budding master teachers, Bill Davis. One section of his English class had been devoted to WWI, the trench poets and a very fine book, Regeneration, by Pat Barker, along with a bewildering amount of research on WWI by his students. I went on to read the other two books in the trilogy and continue to study the Great War, the War to End All Wars. This book is a meticulous study of the birth of the Twentieth Century as it was untimely ripped from the birth canal of the Edwardian era. After the trench warfare of 1914,15, and 16, the Tsar was deposed, the German people had starved and were about to respond to the revolutionary call that Lenin and Trotsky had made to the world, and England and France were no longer the world powers they had been before they had gone to war over a scrap of paper. What is more important, the youth of Europe would no longer believe in the kings and leaders that had always led them. By the end of 1917 and all of the mistakes, understandable and mystical, the US was the world power, France and England were avowedly pacifist, and Germany was watering the garden of monsters with its bloody hunger for revenge. This book is a bit to read, but it is worth the time and energy. Sassoon said it best.

    THE GENERAL (April 1917)

    ‘Good-morning, good-morning!’ *

    the General said

    When we met him last week on our way to the line.

    Now the soldiers he smiled at are **most of ‘em dead,

    And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.

    ‘He’s a cheery old card,’

    grunted Harry to Jack

    As they slogged up to ***Arras with rifle and pack.

    ****But he did for them both by his plan of attack

  • Daniel Ligon

    Detailed but dry, David Stevenson's

    is a thoroughly researched political history of the fourth and penultimate year of the First World War. I enjoyed the international scope of the book, but felt that it got overly bogged down in the behind-the-scenes planning and political infighting, leaving very little room for narrative about the war itself or description of the battles and conditions. Rather than being strictly chronological,

    moves chapter by chapter in describing specific plot li

    Detailed but dry, David Stevenson's

    is a thoroughly researched political history of the fourth and penultimate year of the First World War. I enjoyed the international scope of the book, but felt that it got overly bogged down in the behind-the-scenes planning and political infighting, leaving very little room for narrative about the war itself or description of the battles and conditions. Rather than being strictly chronological,

    moves chapter by chapter in describing specific plot lines such as unrestricted submarine warfare or the Russian revolution. I think that this isn't a bad approach, but it's nonetheless hard to keep track of the dozens (or hundreds) of politicians and soldiers involved. Overall, the tone of the writing was a bit too dry for me, and I had to struggle through sections. I did enjoy the chapter on the role of India within the war and the chapter about the Balfour Declaration and the beginnings of the Jewish Homeland.

    Those who are deeply interested in the history of World War 1 will likely enjoy this book, but it is likely too academic for the casual reader. I received a digital copy of this book for free from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I express in this review are entirely my own.

  • John

    This was a very informative book that showed in dramatic fashion how the events of the First World War, especially those of 1917, shaped the world we live in today. Stevenson marshals an impressive array of facts and also covers the war’s consequences in places as far away as Siam and China. My only objection to the book was in the writing; Stevenson seems overly fond of the expression “none the less” and his long sentences often required re-reading two or three times. Still, this book is well w

    This was a very informative book that showed in dramatic fashion how the events of the First World War, especially those of 1917, shaped the world we live in today. Stevenson marshals an impressive array of facts and also covers the war’s consequences in places as far away as Siam and China. My only objection to the book was in the writing; Stevenson seems overly fond of the expression “none the less” and his long sentences often required re-reading two or three times. Still, this book is well worth a read for those seeking an in-depth look at a crucial year.

  • Michael Neiberg

    My review of this books is at:

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