Cover image for Ring of steel : Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I
Ring of steel : Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I
Watson, Alexander, 1979- , author.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Basic Books, [2014]
Physical Description:
xv, 787 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
A comprehensive analysis of the war efforts of the primary Central Powers, Germany and Austria-Hungary.
General Note:
Originally published: London : Allen Lane, 2014.
Decisions for war -- Mobilizing the people -- War of illusions -- The war of defence -- Encirclement -- Security for all time -- Crisis at the front -- Deprivation -- Remobilization -- U-boats -- Dangerous ideas -- The bread peace -- Collapse -- Epilogue.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library D515 .W335 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Audubon Library D515 .W335 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Hamburg Library D515 .W335 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Kenmore Library D515 .W335 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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For Germany and Austria-Hungary the First World War started with high hopes for a rapid, decisive outcome. Convinced that right was on their side and fearful of the enemies that encircled them, they threw themselves resolutely into battle. Yet, despite the initial halting of a brutal Russian invasion, the Central Powers' war plans soon unravelled. Germany's attack on France failed. Austria-Hungary's armies suffered catastrophic losses at Russian and Serbian hands. Hopes of a quick victory lay in ruins.

For the Central Powers the war now became a siege on a monstrous scale. Britain's ruthless intervention cut sea routes to central Europe and mobilised the world against them. Germany and Austria-Hungary were to be strangled of war supplies and food, their soldiers overwhelmed by better armed enemies, and their civilians brought to the brink of starvation. Conquest and plunder, land offensives, and submarine warfare all proved powerless to counter or break the blockade. The Central Powers were trapped in the Allies' ever-tightening ring of steel.

Alexander Watson's compelling new history retells the war from the perspectives of its instigators and losers, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians. This is the story not just of their leaders in Berlin and Vienna, but above all of the people. Only through their unprecedented mobilisation could the conflict last so long and be so bitterly fought, and only with the waning of their commitment did it end. The war shattered their societies, destroyed their states and bequeathed to east-central Europe a poisonous legacy of unredeemed sacrifice, suffering, race hatred and violence. A major re-evaluation of the First World War, Ring of Steel is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the last century of European history.

Author Notes

Alexander Watson is Lecturer in History at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been a college Research Fellow and British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge and, from 2011-13, a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at the University of Warsaw. His first book, Enduring the Great War , won the Fraenkel Prize.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

University of London historian Watson (Enduring the Great War) makes a major contribution to the ever-growing historiography of WWI with this comprehensive analysis of the war efforts of the primary Central Powers: Germany and Austria-Hungary. Watson makes a strong case that "fear, not aggression or unrestrained militarism"¿ impelled them to war in 1914. Fear fueled the unexpected popular consent that sustained both Hohenzollern and Habsburg empires in a "war of illusions"¿ that devolved into a "war of defense"¿ and finally into a war for survival. From the beginning, the Central Powers were overmatched and overextended. They answered the resulting "desperation and alienation"¿ with failed policies of "compulsion and control,"¿ a series of disastrously bad policy decisions such as the U-boat war, and a doubling-down on autocracy and repression at the expense of peace and reform. In 1917, both empires suffered from a deep "crisis of legitimacy"¿: only the possibility of "quick and total victory"¿ sustained the foundering alliance. A series of desperate offensives produced military, political, and above all social collapse. Watson concludes that the "suffering, and the jealousies, prejudices, and violence that spawned or exacerbated"¿ in Central Europe laid the foundations of WWII far more than anything decided at Versailles. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Watson (history, Univ. of London; Enduring the Great War) tells the story of World War I from the perspectives of Austria and Germany. He examines the political causes and goals of the war, popular support for the battle in Germany and Austria-Hungary, and moral culpability for atrocities committed during the war. His tone is especially sympathetic to Germany, while maintaining some criticism of Austria-Hungary. However, there is heavy criticism of Russia for turning what could have been a localized Balkan conflict into a worldwide conflagration and for brutalities carried out by the tsar's military and government. Watson's descriptions of civilian conditions during the war also bring into question the morality of Britain's blockade of the Central Powers. (France and Turkey are noticeably absent in his analysis.) The evidence is persuasively presented, especially since Watson fairly handles alternative views. VERDICT This account is an excellent contrast to recent books that have emphasized German culpability and brutality such as Max Hastings's Catastrophe 1914. In a centennial anniversary crowded with titles on World War I, Watson's book stands out and will appeal both to readers with a casual interest in the history of the Great War and to specialists seeking a balanced and nuanced view of the event.-Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Watson (Goldsmiths, Univ. of London, UK) has contributed a definitive resource to the literature on the strategic enigma being debated during the centennial of WW I. Whereas historians such as Margaret MacMillan, Sean McMeekin, and Christopher Clark have spread cause/blame for the war between Entente and Central Powers, only Geoffrey Wawro (A Mad Catastrophe, CH, Sep'14, 52-0431) has concentrated on the problems of Austria-Hungary in peace and war, 1914-18. Watson has determined that blame for the start of the war falls first on Austria-Hungary and then on Germany. He meticulously details how Austrian diplomats and military refused to accept the possibility in July 1914 that a "punitive" war versus Serbia could expand into a larger war. He then shows that in early July 1914, Germany in effect gave Austria carte blanche to deal with Serbia as it saw fit in the wake of the archduke's assassination in Sarajevo. Though he recognizes that Russian mobilization belatedly forced Germany to admit the inevitability of war (as Clark states), Watson does not excuse the kaiser and his ministers from responsibility. Finally, he argues that the Central Powers created a people's war that inevitably destroyed much of Eastern Europe by the end of the Versailles peace treaty and destabilized Europe until WW II. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. --Andrew Mark Mayer, College of Staten Island

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