History 5012 German Military History
Dr. Antonio S. Thompson
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
These were two different wars with the common thread of a German
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
By contrast, Ian Passingham’s book, “
the Kaiser’s Men,
” is significantly less an academic piece and more designed for the
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
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.
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-
Wawro details a number of theses, including a thesis on the failure of Austrian
The main antagonist of the book is General Ludwig Benedek.
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.
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-
His poorly executed leadership style demoralized his troops by
shifting them from place to place, as Wawro describes like “opening and shutting
Mirroring Wawro’s depiction of failed strategy, Passingham provides a similar
In the case of the German leadership, there are three culprits whose failures
Moltke; Falkenhayn; and Ludendorff.
In “All the Kaiser’s Men”,
describes a German army that was far superior to the allies in soldiers,