Fighting for peace during a World War
One type of book that I can never get enough of is 'hidden history' books. These books take what you learned in your high school history class and reveal the shades of gray, the unknown or forgotten men and women who played roles in shaping our world, and make our current world much easier to understand. While history books are intimidating to many, I think if you find one on a subject that interests you, you will be converted to the ranks of history lovers.
One book I would recommend to anybody interested in the history of peace movements, military futility or just the general history of the 20th century is Adam Hochschild's To End All Wars. World War I takes center stage, but the military manuevers and strategy is only the backdrop. Instead, Hochschild focuses on the British men and women who didn't want war. The sprawling account covers the lives of generals and representatives, blue collar workers and suffragettes. Each account is interwoven with the events of the war, but is not overbearing in it's retelling of the battles or larger strategy. There is nothing to fear here if you are bored by stiff battlefield description. Hochschild examines very complex individuals, all of whom played some role in trying, and failing, to stop the war.
Hochschild previous book, the equally excellent King Leopold's Ghost (about the colonization of Africa) is what initally led me to this book. While the subjects may be broad, Hochschild's accounts often read like fiction and keep you turning the pages. The book is exhaustively researched, and brings to light compelling incidents that had been lost to history, ranging from how pacifists were shipped to the front lines as punishment, to the relationship of one of Britian's generals with one of it's leading anti-war speakers (They were brother and sister, and remained close throughout the war). To have these mini-histories revealed is like sharing in a great secret, one that you want to tell everyone about.
I don't find myself gushing about books too often, but this was a well-written and thoroughly interesting book. The one caveat I will add is that it helps to have some background (or at least interest) in early 20th century history, but Hochschild does a good job keeping even the casual history buff filled in on the events of the World War. If you are searching for a book that examines protests and the 'Great War' in a new light, this may be the next book for you.