Geoffrey Wawro's Books

Sons of Freedom by Geoffrey Wawro

The definitive history of America's decisive role in World War I

 The American contribution to World War I is one of the great stories of the twentieth century, and yet it has all but vanished from view. Historians have dismissed the American war effort as largely economic and symbolic. But as Geoffrey Wawro shows in Sons of Freedom, the French and British were on the verge of collapse in 1918, and would have lost the war without the Doughboys. Field Marshal Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, described the Allied victory as a "miracle"--but it was a distinctly American miracle. In Sons of Freedom, prize-winning historian Geoffrey Wawro weaves together in thrilling detail the battles, strategic deliberations, and dreadful human cost of the American war effort. A major revision of the history of World War I, Sons of Freedom resurrects the brave heroes who saved the Allies, defeated Germany, and established the United States as the greatest of the great powers. 

Did you know?

Humphrey Bogart served in World War I, as did Ty Cobb, Teddy Roosevelt's four sons (one KIA, two severely wounded), Fiorello La Guardia, Harry Truman, Ernest Hemingway, Gene Tunney, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, and so many others.  It's all in the book.

A Mad Catastrophe by Geoffrey Wawro

A masterful account of the Hapsburg Empire’s stumbling entry into World War I, and its brutal defeat

 The Austro-Hungarian army that marched east and south to confront the Russians and Serbs in the opening campaigns of World War I had a glorious past but a pitiful present. Speaking a mystifying array of languages and lugging outdated weapons, the Austrian troops were hopelessly unprepared for the industrialized warfare that would shortly consume Europe.

As prizewinning historian Geoffrey Wawro explains in A Mad Catastrophe, the doomed Austrian conscripts were an unfortunate microcosm of the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself-both equally ripe for destruction. After the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914, Germany goaded the Empire into a war with Russia and Serbia. With the Germans massing their forces in the west to engage the French and the British, everything-the course of the war and the fate of empires and alliances from Constantinople to London-hinged on the Habsburgs’ ability to crush Serbia and keep the Russians at bay. However, Austria-Hungary had been rotting from within for years, hollowed out by repression, cynicism, and corruption at the highest levels. Commanded by a dying emperor, Franz Joseph I, and a querulous celebrity general, Conrad von Hötzendorf, the Austro-Hungarians managed to bungle everything: their ultimatum to the Serbs, their declarations of war, their mobilization, and the pivotal battles in Galicia and Serbia. By the end of 1914, the Habsburg army lay in ruins and the outcome of the war seemed all but decided.

Drawing on deep archival research, Wawro charts the decline of the Empire before the war and reconstructs the great battles in the east and the Balkans in thrilling and tragic detail. A Mad Catastrophe is a riveting account of a neglected face of World War I, revealing how a once-mighty empire collapsed in the trenches of Serbia and the Eastern Front, changing the course of European history. 

Did you know?

The Austro-Hungarian army made world-famous artists and moderns like Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele fulfill their military service in WW1 by sitting at desks in the war ministry with pencils and rulers to draw graph paper for the general staff.  It's all in the book, which was shortlisted for the prestigious Cundill History Prize.

Quicksand by Geoffrey Wawro

An unprecedented history of American involvement in the Middle East.

 In this definitive and revelatory work, noted historian Geoffrey Wawro approaches America’s role in the Middle East in a fundamentally new way-by encompassing the last century of the entire region rather than focusing narrowly on a particular country or era. With verve and authority, he offers piercing analysis of the region’s iconic events over the past one hundred years-from the birth of Israel to the rise of Al Qaeda. Throughout, he draws telling parallels between America’s past mistakes and its current dilemmas, proving that we’re in today’s muddle not just because of our old errors but because we keep repeating those errors. 

Did you know?

 The Pentagon had a plan to march on Baghdad and remove Saddam during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 to facilitate “a long-term U.S./Western military presence in the region” — remarkably like the disastrous Operation Iraqi Freedom plan of 2003.  Cooler heads prevailed, Bush 41, Schwarzkopf, Powell, Scowcroft, and even Cheney arguing that a total defeat of Saddam and his Sunni clique would merely trap the U.S. in a "new Lebanon" (Powell's words) and hand a weakened, Shia-dominated Iraq over to the Iranians, precisely the unintended but none the less inevitable result achieved by Bush 43 in his Iraq War.  Make these kind of salient connections in this fascinating study that spans 100 years of American involvement in the Middle East.

The Franco-Prussian War by Geoffrey Wawro

The most shocking and pivotal war of the 19th century

 The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 violently changed the course of European History. Alarmed by Bismarck's territorial ambitions and the Prussian army's crushing defeats of Denmark in 1864 and Austria in 1866, French Emperor Napoleon III vowed to bring Prussia to heel. Digging into many European and American archives for the first time, Geoffrey Wawro's Franco-Prussian War describes the war that followed in gripping detail. While the armies mobilized in July 1870, the conflict appeared "too close to call." Prussia and its German allies had twice as many troops as the French. But Marshal Achille Bazaine's grognards ("old grumblers") were the stuff of legend, the most resourceful, battle-hardened, sharp-shooting troops in Europe, and the French infantry carried the Chassepot rifle, which was far better than the Prussian "needle rifle." From the political intrigues that began and ended the war to the bloody battles at Gravelotte and Sedan and the last murderous fights on the Loire and in Paris, this is the definitive history of the Franco-Prussian War. 

Did you know?

The long-service French were heavy favorites in the war: seasoned veterans of the Crimean and Italian Wars.  The short-service Prussians were the underdogs, derided by the French as "an army of lawyers and oculists."  Every great-power army would study this war obsessively from 1871 until 1914.  Many readers call this their favorite among my books.  

Warfare and Society in Europe 1792-1914 by Geoffrey Wawro

Required reading at West Point

Before the U.S.M.A. abandoned books for a web-based curriculum, my Warfare and Society was required reading in West Point's core Military Art course.  It blends the critical political, social, technological, and military trends that shaped strategy, warfare, and history in the crucial period between the French Revolution and the First World War in a highly readable and engaging way. Combining original research with the latest scholarship, Warfare and Society in Europe, 1792 - 1914  examines war and its aftermath from the Age of Napoleon to the first shocking battles on the Western and Eastern Fronts of World War I. Throughout, this fine book treats warfare as a social and political phenomenon no less than a military and technologial one, and includes discussions on:

* The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars
* Napoleon III and the militarization of Europe
* Bismark, Molkte, and the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71
* new technologies and weapons
* seapower, imperialism and naval warfare
* the origins and outbreak of the First World War.

For anyone studying, or with in interest in European warfare, this book details the evolution of land and naval warfare and highlights the swirling interplay of society, politics and military decision making.

Did you know?

Nobody read Clausewitz in his time and everybody read Jomini.  Now nobody reads Jomini and everybody reads Clausewitz.  Why exactly?  Read Warfare and Society and discover the answer to this and so many other fascinating questions.

The Austro-Prussian War by Geoffrey Wawro

The forgotten war of German unification

The Franco-Prussian War confirmed the rise of Prussia, but the no less important Austro-Prussian War inaugurated it in seven weeks of brutal combat in the old Central European cockpit of Bohemia.  This is a new history of the Austro-Prussian-Italian War of 1866, which paved the way for German and Italian unification. Geoffrey Wawro describes Prussia's successful invasion of Habsburg Bohemia, and the wretched collapse of the Austrian army in July 1866. Bismarck was able to dissolve the old Austrian-led German Confederation and replace it with a Prussian-led Germany because of Moltke's victories over Benedek and the Austrians, all of which are thrillingly recounted in this book.  No less interesting is Wawro's account of the fighting in Italy, where a numerically superior Italian army fumbled away all of its advantages and was beaten badly by the little Austrian South Army, setting back the cause of Italian unification.  Blending military and social history, Wawro describes the panic that overtook Austria's largely Slavic regiments in every clash with the Prussians. He reveals the colossal blundering of the Austrian commandant Benedek, who fumbled away key strategic advantages and ultimately lost a war --crucial to the fortunes of the Habsburg Monarchy-- that most European pundits had predicted he would win. 

Did you know?

The Austro-Prussian War was decided on July 3, 1866 in Bohemia -- today's Czech Republic -- on the banks of the Elbe River.  The fate of Germany, united or divided, hinged on this one famous campaign, which was the biggest combat in Europe since the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813.  The decisive battle played out on fields just north of an Austrian fortress that gave the battle its name.  What was it?