Midterm Project

Midterm Project - Thomas Lennemann History 5012 German...

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Thomas Lennemann History 5012 German Military History Dr. Antonio S. Thompson Midterm Project Comparative Book Reviews of books by Geoffrey Wawro and Ian Passingham When comparing the two books assigned for this project it is easy to spot the major differences. These were two different wars with the common thread of a German belligerent. Digging deeper into each of the books it becomes clear that each book was intended for different readers. Geoffrey Wawro’s book, “ The Austro-Prussian War, ” is a significantly detailed academic work that describes the strategic, operational, and political aspects of the mid-19 th century war. By contrast, Ian Passingham’s book, “ All the Kaiser’s Men, ” is significantly less an academic piece and more designed for the casual reader. In Wawro’s book, he begins by detailing the state of affairs in Central Europe leading up to the war. His description of the decline in Austria and its Hapsburg Empire, coupled with the rising economic gains of Prussia, paints the picture of old versus new money. While seated at the big table as one of the “Major Powers”, it was clear that Prussia did not fare well at the Vienna Congress in 1915. The European powers attempted to sustain numerous and separate German states in order to maintain the balance of power throughout the continent. The fear was that if one of the four powers were to absorb their German neighbors, they would be too powerful and look to dominate the rest of Europe. 1 Leading up to the 1866 war, Austria held most of the influence within the outlying German states. As her power waned, Prussian power increased. Following a joint attack on Denmark for control of the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein disputes about the new German territories came to the forefront of Austro- Prussian politics. 2 Wawro details a number of theses, including a thesis on the failure of Austrian leadership. The main antagonist of the book is General Ludwig Benedek. Wawro gives credit to Benedek as a quality tactical commander, but when placed in a position that required strategic planning, the Austrian commander failed in every way. Wawro’s depiction of Benedek is similar to that of Robert E. Lee: when leading troops in the field Benedek was a national hero, but when placed in the position to plan and adapt a strategy both were lacking. Wawro places the blame on Benedek’s fundamental incomprehension of his own military strategy and his constant meddling and cancellation of his half- completed orders. His poorly executed leadership style demoralized his troops by shifting them from place to place, as Wawro describes like “opening and shutting drawers.” Mirroring Wawro’s depiction of failed strategy, Passingham provides a similar thesis. In the case of the German leadership, there are three culprits whose failures Passingham details: Moltke; Falkenhayn; and Ludendorff. In “All the Kaiser’s Men”, Passingham describes a German army that was far superior to the allies in soldiers,
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Midterm Project - Thomas Lennemann History 5012 German...

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