Max Egremont

General Incompetence

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 736pp £30 order from our bookshop

It is often said that the Germans came nearest to winning the First World War twice – at the start in 1914 and near the end in 1918. In his new book, David Stevenson turns this on its head. He contends that the huge German offensives in the west that began in March 1918 set off a process that led to Germany’s defeat later that year. He also makes clear that when, with their ally Austria–Hungary, the Germans started the war in 1914, they took a terrific gamble the odds of which were already against them. So a predictable result was merely delayed by four years and the deaths of millions. The predictability, however, was obscured by the often poor generalship of Germany’s enemies.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,
    • 'Behind Berlusconi’s greasepaint and his rictus grin, the performance of Toni Servillo suggests the affectless holl… ,