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A World Undone

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Drawing on exhaustive research, this remarkable, intimate account tells the story of how World War I reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed twenty million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today.

On a summer day in 1914, a nineteen-year-old Serbian nationalist gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. While the world slumbered, monumental forces were shaken. In less than a month, a combination of ambition, deceit, fear, jealousy, missed opportunities, and miscalculation sent Austro-Hungarian troops marching into Serbia, German troops streaming toward Paris, and a vast Russian army into war, with England as its ally. As crowds cheered their armies on, no one could guess what lay ahead: four long years of slaughter, physical and moral exhaustion, and the near collapse of a civilization that until 1914 had dominated the globe.

Praise for A World Undone

“Thundering, magnificent . . . [A World Undone] is a book of true greatness that prompts moments of sheer joy and pleasure. . . . It will earn generations of admirers.”—The Washington Times

“Meyer’s sketches of the British Cabinet, the Russian Empire, the aging Austro-Hungarian Empire . . . are lifelike and plausible. His account of the tragic folly of Gallipoli is masterful. . . . [A World Undone] has an instructive value that can scarcely be measured”Los Angeles Times

“An original and very readable account of one of the most significant and often misunderstood events of the last century.”—Steve Gillon, resident historian, The History Channel

From Publishers Weekly

Apr 10, 2006 – Meyer sets out to integrate the war's discrete elements into a single work of popular history and delivers a worthy counterpoint to Hew Strachan's magisterial three-volume scholarly project, The First World War. A journalist and author (Executive Blues), Meyer doesn't offer original synthesis or analysis, but he does bring a clear, economical style to the war's beginnings; the gridlock produced by the successes and failures of both sides; the divided military and political counsels that hobbled efforts at resolving operational and diplomatic stalemates; and above all the constant carnage, on a scale that staggers the imagination. Meyer provides brief, useful background on subjects from the Armenian genocide to the Alsace-Lorraine question topics he considers crucial to an understanding of the war, but too cursorily explained in most popular histories. Correspondingly, he blends "foreground, background, and sidelights" to highlight the complex interactions of apparently unconnected events behind the four-year catastrophic war that destroyed a world and defined a century. Constructing a readable, coherent text in that format is a demanding challenge, accomplished with brio.

Customer Reviews

Readable, balanced, thorough, informative

Meyer's one volume history of The Great War is nothing short of superb. It's long enough to be thorough but not so long as to overwhelm a general reader like me. The writing is clear and very readable, candid in its assignment of praise and blame and yet balanced and fair. I especially appreciated the excuses on various subjects that Meyer adds to each chapter.

The maps don't come through as well as I would like on my iPad but there are lots of maps on the Web. The photos are an unnecessary but agreeable bonus.

I had never read a book on WWI before reading Meyer's A World Undone and I have to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed at first. But this wasn't Meyer's fault at all. Yes, there are lots of names and personalities but Meyer does an amazing job of handling them clearly. The real problem was that the causes of the war truly are very complicated and confusing. I read Meyer up to the end of 1914, and I was hooked, but I knew it wasn't all sinking in as well as I wanted. So I stopped and read Michael Howard's excellent First World War: A Very Short Introduction. That helped me get a rough overview. But it's a sign of how good Meyer's book is that, after getting my bearings with Howard, I was eager to return to Meyer, and was then able to complete his book with understanding and great enjoyment.

As a one volume account of WWI, Meyer's book is remarkably solid. I enjoyed it greatly.

Comprehensive, Enlightening, and Entertaining

Meyer has outdone himself with this marvelous comprehensive single volume work on the Great War. He delves into the historical events which led each of the major powers to war. It is more than just a historical account of the Great War, it is an autopsy report of the death of four major empires: Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungry, and Ottoman. For the long term effects of the war were devastating to the "old empires." Enjoy this work, it belongs in the library of every serious and casual fan of history in general and more specifically, Military History.

A World Undone
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Military
  • Published: May 30, 2006
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 816 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings