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October 9, 2010 9:26 AM   Subscribe

Interested in basic or alternative histories of World War I.

General reading has made me pretty familiar with what Germany wanted to achieve in World War II. The rights and wrongs of that war are pretty clear. Also, a number of alternative histories by writers as diverse as Philip K. Dick and Len Deighton have used a world in which the Nazis won that war as a plot background.

I'm finding myself curious about World War I. Basically, has anyone written against a background of a world where the Kaiser's armies triumphed? Less fancifully, what books would I read to get more of a handle on what Germany wanted out of that war? (I've got The Guns of August and am starting there.)
posted by zadcat to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The best analysis I know of the origns of the war is Europe's Last Summer, by David Fromkin. It's both scholarly and readable.
posted by dzot at 9:51 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Scott Westerfeld did an alternate history WW1.

For "real" history, John Keegans' "The First World War" is excellent, though more direct to your question is "Germany's Aims in the First World War" by Fritz Fischer.
posted by kjs3 at 9:55 AM on October 9, 2010

As always, nthing Europe's Last Summer. I am reading Tuchman for color and background right now, but I've read Fromkin's first. He had access to sources Tuchman did not.

For fabulous maps, see my other perennial recommendation, H.P. Willmot's World War I. He has a chapter about the role of women.

14-18 looks really, really good, but I haven't started it yet. It is a collection of essays.
posted by jgirl at 11:41 AM on October 9, 2010

Best answer: You might want to take a look at this thread for some history books to read.

There's at least one essay about a German victory in WWI in one of the two collections of alternate history essays edited by Robert Cowley, both entitled "What if?"--Amazon only has a table of contents for the second volume, though. You might notice that military historians reimagining world history tends to mean mostly boys.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood's Pashazade trilogy is set in roughly the present of a world where the Central Powers won the First World War. I've read the first one, and he has a lot of fun with what things might be different (there's still an Ottoman Empire, though it's a German dependency) and what might be the same (people making calls on their Nokia mobiles).
posted by lapsangsouchong at 12:28 PM on October 9, 2010

Oh, and one I completely forgot to mention in that last thread. Avner Offer's The First World War: an agrarian interpretation is meant to be a fascinating rethink of the war. Not sure if it's the sort of thing you're looking for, however.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 12:34 PM on October 9, 2010

Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War sounds exactly what you want, directly addressing the motivations of the various belligerent nations. But beware - this is a controversial and unconventional work. Read it as one of a number of works. I'd second John Keegan's history as the best starting point, and I also loved Europe's Last Summer.
posted by genesta at 2:04 PM on October 9, 2010

Apparently the "blundering into Armageddon, none were guilty" view of the war (as described by Barbara Tuchman in The Guns of August, for example) is incorrect.
posted by russilwvong at 2:44 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Slightly off-topic, but Robert Silverberg's story "Translation Error" involved a victory by Germany in WWI.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:12 PM on October 9, 2010

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