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Historian Alexander Watson (author of Ring of Steel – The Sunday Times History Book of the Year for 2014)for the first time tells the First World War from the Central Powers’ perspectives. Their leaders initiated the conflict. Their peoples would pay a terrible price. The talk explores why Germans and Austro-Hungarians followed their leaders to war in 1914 and why they endured over four years of conflict. It traces their extraordinary ordeal. From Lviv in the east to Lorraine in the west, societies underwent total mobilisation. They faced mortal threat. Terrifying Russian invasions ravaged their border provinces. A ruthless British naval ‘starvation blockade’ isolated them from the world and contributed to the deaths of a million Central European civilians. This ordeal, the talk explains, set Central Europe on a ghastly path. At the front, mass death traumatised a generation. At home, deprivation shattered societies, inflaming class antagonisms and spawning vicious anti-Semitism. Radical plans for eastern empire and brutal exploitation techniques developed in the war would inspire the Nazis. Defeat fatefully bequeathed to the region a poisonous legacy of unredeemed sacrifice, suffering, race hatred and violence.
Alexander Watson is Lecturer in History at Goldsmiths, University of London. Previous to this position, he completed a doctorate at Oxford University and then held research fellowships at Cambridge and Warsaw Universities. He has published widely on the First World War. His latest book, Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914-1918 (London: Allen Lane, 2014) was chosen as The Sunday Times History Book of the Year.