Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War

Oxford University Press
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At seven o'clock in the morning on February 21, 1916, the ground in northern France began to shake. For the next ten hours, twelve hundred German guns showered shells on a salient in French lines. The massive weight of explosives collapsed dugouts, obliterated trenches, severed communication wires, and drove men mad. As the barrage lifted, German troops moved forward, darting from shell crater to shell crater. The battle of Verdun had begun. In Verdun, historian Paul Jankowski provides the definitive account of the iconic battle of World War I. A leading expert on the French past, Jankowski combines the best of traditional military history-its emphasis on leaders, plans, technology, and the contingency of combat-with the newer social and cultural approach, stressing the soldier's experience, the institutional structures of the military, and the impact of war on national memory. Unusually, this book draws on deep research in French and German archives; this mastery of sources in both languages gives Verdun unprecedented authority and scope. In many ways, Jankowski writes, the battle represents a conundrum. It has an almost unique status among the battles of the Great War; and yet, he argues, it was not decisive, sparked no political changes, and was not even the bloodiest episode of the conflict. It is said that Verdun made France, he writes; but the question should be, What did France make of Verdun? Over time, it proved to be the last great victory of French arms, standing on their own. And, for France and Germany, the battle would symbolize the terror of industrialized warfare, "a technocratic Moloch devouring its children," where no advance or retreat was possible, yet national resources poured in ceaselessly, perpetuating slaughter indefinitely.
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About the author

Paul Jankowski is Raymond Ginger Professor of History at Brandeis University. His many books include Stavinksy: A Confidence Man in the Republic of Virtue and Shades of Indignation: Political Scandals in France, Past and Present.
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Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jan 6, 2014
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9780199316908
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / France
History / Military / World War I
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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At seven o'clock in the morning on February 21, 1916, the ground in northern France began to shake. For the next ten hours, twelve hundred German guns showered shells on a salient in French lines. The massive weight of explosives collapsed dugouts, obliterated trenches, severed communication wires, and drove men mad. As the barrage lifted, German troops moved forward, darting from shell crater to shell crater. The battle of Verdun had begun. In Verdun, historian Paul Jankowski provides the definitive account of the iconic battle of World War I. A leading expert on the French past, Jankowski combines the best of traditional military history-its emphasis on leaders, plans, technology, and the contingency of combat-with the newer social and cultural approach, stressing the soldier's experience, the institutional structures of the military, and the impact of war on national memory. Unusually, this book draws on deep research in French and German archives; this mastery of sources in both languages gives Verdun unprecedented authority and scope. In many ways, Jankowski writes, the battle represents a conundrum. It has an almost unique status among the battles of the Great War; and yet, he argues, it was not decisive, sparked no political changes, and was not even the bloodiest episode of the conflict. It is said that Verdun made France, he writes; but the question should be, What did France make of Verdun? Over time, it proved to be the last great victory of French arms, standing on their own. And, for France and Germany, the battle would symbolize the terror of industrialized warfare, "a technocratic Moloch devouring its children," where no advance or retreat was possible, yet national resources poured in ceaselessly, perpetuating slaughter indefinitely.
En Verdún, los ejércitos franceses y alemanes, y sus máquinas, lucharon entre sí de acuerdo con la lógica y las convenciones de la época, sin ningún plan siniestro o noble propósito, impulsados por dos naciones-estado que gozaban de poderes sin precedentes sobre sus soldados. La mayoría no eran ni chovinistas ni pacifistas. Eran trabajadores haciendo su trabajo sin entusiasmo, tan bien y tan tenazmente que dejaron tras de sí un testimonio duradero de la capacidad destructiva de dos de las culturas nacionales más creativas de la historia.

 

A las siete de la mañana del 21 de febrero de 1916 el suelo empezó a temblar en el norte de Francia. Durante las siguientes diez horas más de 1.200 cañones alemanes barrieron un pequeño saliente de las líneas francesas. La inmensidad de las explosiones colapsó casamatas, arrasó trincheras, cortó las líneas de comunicación y volvió locos a los hombres. Cuando el bombardeó cesó, las tropas alemanas comenzaron a avanzar entre los cráteres de los obuses. La batalla de Verdún comenzaba. Diez meses y 300.000 muertos después la carnicería aún continuaba.

Paul Jankowski —uno de los estudiosos de la historia de Francia más prestigiosos del mundo— nos trae el relato definitivo de la batalla más famosa y larga de la Primera Guerra Mundial. En sus páginas nos descubre los motivos alemanes para atacar Verdún, ciudad que no tenía ningún valor estratégico, analiza la lógica infernal que condujo a los dos beligerantes a perpetuar en el tiempo aquella sangría sin sentido, busca entre los testimonios de los soldados franceses y germanos conductas heroicas, los sufrimientos indescriptibles, odios, revueltas… y nos descubre finalmente cómo esta batalla se ha convertido en el símbolo de los horrores de la Gran Guerra. 

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