Book Review: Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War


by Paul Jankowski

Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xii, 324. Illus., maps, chron., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0199316899

An Outstanding Account of the Most Iconic Battle of the Great War

Verdun, originally published in France in 2013, is hard to categorize. Prof. Jankowski (Brandeis) gives us an outstanding account of the battle, which lasted 30 2 days, from late February through mid-December of 1916, and has come to stand as an iconic symbol of all the horrors of the Great War. 

But Jankowski does far more than merely give us a history of the battle. Jankowski makes frequent comparisons between Verdun and other battles, many that were both bloodier and more decisive, and explores why this battle rose to such symbolic status. He explores the many myths of the battle, what it was all about being one of them, looks at the life of the men in the trenches and the thinking of their generals and political leaders, how tactics and technology evolved during the fighting, examines the surprisingly similar ups and downs in the morale of the troops on both sides, and more. 

That “more” covers the postwar influence of the battle . This includes the erection of the many monuments and the frequent observances that marked the site, the most remarkable being the international veterans’ gathering in the name of peace held in 1936 (with the German veterans gave the Nazi salute! ), and its continuing status in public and official memory and regular memorialization. 

Jankowski has written what is clearly one of the best books on Verdun, and one well worth reading by anyone interested in war.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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