Book Review: Imperial Germany and the Great War, 1914-1918


by Roger Chickering

Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xvi, 272. Illus., maps, tables, figures, notes, biblio., index. $34.99 paper. ISBN: 1107691524

Germany in the World War

Prof. Chickering (Georgetown) has thoroughly revised his social, economic, and political history of Germany in 1914-1918 which appeared well over 20 years ago, for this third edition, which appeared in time for the centenary of the World War. 

Chickering opens with a brief look at German government and society on the eve of the war. There follow three chapters that focus on the conduct of the war and the military and societal problems it engendered, which were largely due to the mismanagement of the country and its economy by the German high command, which largely took over running the government. Chickering touches upon the management of manpower shortages, the problem of feeding soldiers and civilians, and the need for industrial, financial, and social mobilization. 

He follows with a chapter on the effects of the war on the German people, including the effects on the economy, social class and mobility, gender roles, generational conflict, and religion, addressing how these affected both the battle fronts and the home front. Chickering makes note of the many problems that are obvious in retrospect, but were not anticipated at the time, such as the effects of mobilization on education or health care, as large number of male teachers and physicians were called up for active duty.  

He follows this with a look at how the initial broad political and social support for the war began to deteriorate, and follows that with a discussion of Germany’s efforts to achieve peace, first by the desperate gamble of the Kaiserschlacht and then through diplomacy, before finally agreeing to a highly unfavorable Armistice. Chickering’s final chapter looks at the consequences of the war, including the rise of the “Stab in the Back” myth. 

Throughout the work Chickering carefully points out the interrelationship between events at the front and developments at home, a matter often neglected in general histories of wars. 

A volume in the Cambridge series “New Approaches to European History,” Imperial Germany and the Great War is of particular value not only to those interested in World War I, but also to anyone trying to understand how nations make war.    

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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