The Road to Verdun: France, Nationalism and the First World War
`This is an outstanding book, rich in its insights, and written with verve and style...
In a piece of bold craftsmanship, the author launches his narrative of the battle,
then spools back to explore the psychological and cultural journey that brought France
from her nadir in 1815, following the defeat of Napoleon, to her life-
Malcolm Brown, Guardian
`This is a book as careful to touch its readers’ emotions as it is to deepen their understanding.’
Times Literary Supplement
`It is a story that still has the power to shock and horrify... consistently intelligent and readable... an engaging and important book.’
‘The real richness of this book for military historians is his culling of French soldiers’ memoirs and diaries. His text is studded with quotable and memorable descriptions of the horrors of the battle.’
`Brilliantly told... magnificent... Piercing insight, controversial political analysis... telling character portrayal, historical and military study and individual human tragedy is all skilfully knit together in one seamless whole...a masterpiece.’
Verdun was the largest, the longest and the bloodiest battle between the French and Germans in the First World War, lasting from February 1916 until the end of the year and claiming more than 700,000 casualties. For the French in particular, it was always more than just a battle, being rather (in Paul Valéry’s words) ‘a complete war in itself, inserted in the Great War’.
Ian Ousby’s masterly book gives a dramatic and brilliantly illuminating account of
the generals’ planning and the troops’ suffering. At the same time it challenges
the narrow horizons of military history by locating the experience of Verdun in how
the French had thought about themselves since the debacle of the Franco-