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Attrition Fighting the First World War by William Philpott

Attrition Fighting the First World War

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Sue Baker's view...

It is only long afterwards that we can look back on historical events and gain a perspective that’s not available at the time, thus this new look at the First World War. William Philpott examines the causes, the fighting and the change to world order in 1918. World War 1 also needs to be re-examined as a bridge between conflict old and new, the first major war fought by entire populations at home and on the front line, the first war with mechanised support, the first use of aeroplanes and tanks. Take away the myth, the propaganda and you end up with a new narrative, The War of Attrition.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. This lucidly written book is a comprehensive analysis of the overriding, and ultimately successful, tactic that the Allies used to wear down the German Empire in an unprecedented war of attrition. By the beginning of 1915, after six months of intense fighting, both sides realised that the Great War was going to be a costly conflict with no easy victories, and from this point onwards the scale of the fighting escalated inexorably, with the mobilization of the masses and the development of new weapons. Whichever side was to win would have to out-produce, outfight and outlast the other. The choice was simply Pyrrhic victory or complete collapse. As the author cogently argues, this could only be done by an acceptance of the concept of attrition at all levels of society, from the front-line soldier through the generals and the politicians, to the industrialists, trades union leaders, and the news-paper owners, as well as the journalists.
~ Anthony Lafferty


Attrition Fighting the First World War by William Philpott

The First World War was too big to be grasped by its participants. In the retelling of their war in the competing memories of leaders and commanders, and the anguished fiction of its combatants, any sense of order and purpose, effort and achievement, was missing. Drawing on the experience of front line soldiers, munitions workers, politicians and those managing the vast economy of industrialised warfare, Attrition explains for the first time why and how this new type of conflict born out of industrial society was fought as it was. It was the first mass war in which the resources of the fully-mobilised societies strained every sinew in a conflict over ideals - and the humblest and highest were all caught up in the national enterprise.


'deftly combines narrative with analysis... William Philpott's boldly argued and engaging book is a timely rejoinder to simplistic views, and an implicit rebuttal of the notion that it was uniquely dreadful.'
Gary Sheffield

* Times Literary Supplement * 'William Philpott, Professor of the History of Warfare at King's College London, is an eminent academic who has written extensively on conflict and has the knowledge to enable readers to view the First World War in a fresh context. His new book, Attrition, is a highly readable account of the run-up to the conflict... a great book for those who want to look behind the propaganda and read detailed accounts of all aspects of the so-called Great War.
Steve Briggs

* Sunday Herald * A first-class overview of the whole war, and a useful addition to anyone's library * Military History * 'The great strength of Philpott's book is its magisterial overview of the whole war... a fine contribution to our growing understanding of the conflict.
Peter Parker

* Daily Telegraph * Philpott's achievement is to present a view of The Great War as an attritional conflict in a very readable fashion. 'Attrition
is an accessible work for the general reader rather than a denesley argued mongraph

...Attrition stands on its own merits, as an important contribution to an active and lively scholarly debateWilliam Philpott's boldly argued and engaging book is a timely rejoinder to simplistic views * Times Literary Supplement * A highly readable account . . . a great book for those who want to look behind the propaganda * Sunday Herald * A refreshingly balanced view . . . the great strength of Philpott's book is its magisterial overview of the whole war . . . a fine contribution to our growing understanding of the conflict -- Peter Parker * Daily Telegraph *

About the Author

Dr William Philpott is Professor of the History of Warfare in the Department of War Studies, King's College London. He is a specialist in the First World War, in particular British strategy and the history of the French army.

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Book Info

Publication date

14th August 2014


William Philpott

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Little, Brown an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group


416 pages


First World War
General & world history
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000



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