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November 1918: The German Revolution Reviews

November 1918: The German Revolution by Robert Gerwarth (Professor of Modern History at UCD and Director of the Centre for War Studies)

November 1918: The German Revolution

Robert Gerwarth (Professor of Modern History at UCD and Director of the Centre for War Studies)

3.80 out of 5

6 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 11 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9780199546473

The story of an epochal event in German history, this is also the story of the most important revolution that you might never have heard of.

3 stars out of 5
20 Dec 2020

"Gerwarth’s instincts as a historian are mildly conservative"

‘To this day Germany is crippled by the betrayal of 1918,’ Haffner ended his book. Those words can no longer stand, even if they do describe the divided, uncertain nation of 1968. While Angela Merkel’s Germany endures many epithets, ‘crippled’ isn’t one of them. But that a brave and brilliant revolution of expectations a hundred years ago did not fail but was betrayed – and by the leaders of the oldest and mightiest working-class movement in Europe – that remains true and terrible.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
Tony Barber
10 Jul 2020

"Gerwarth makes a powerful case"

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The social and economic basis for a stable liberal democracy was beginning to take shape. True, Weimar was dogged from the start by “the continuing refusal of small minorities on the extreme left and right” to accept the legitimacy of the 1918 revolution and the new polity. Yet Gerwarth makes a powerful case that it is an exaggeration to write off Weimar, as many historians have done, as “a republic without republicans”.

4 stars out of 5
Brendan Simms
2 Jul 2020

"Robert Gerwarth rescues the Weimar Republic from the ‘condescension’ of history"

This is a compact, lean book, about a third of which is the copious annotation backing up the author’s claims. He still finds space, though, for some remarkable pen portraits of the principal characters, and well as telling anecdotes. My favourite was the scene of the senior SPD leader, and later chancellor, Hermann Müller, who had his papers checked by revolutionary sailors during the revolution. They pointed out on returning his passport that it was several months out of date.

4 stars out of 5
Simon Heffer
27 Jun 2020

"a superlative piece of research into a sequence of events that are of immense importance"

Gerwarth’s scholarship cannot be faulted: he has combed primary and secondary sources for accounts of events in the defeated nation during the months after the Armistice. Occasionally his terminology is questionable – he casually uses the term “Right wing” when referring to people wedded to the old order, rather than those who would willingly embrace Hitler’s club of anti-Semites, thugs and nationalists – and he can be careless with facts that lie outside his specialism – Sir Rosslyn Wemyss was First Sea Lord at the time of the Armistice, not First Lord of the Admiralty. 

4 stars out of 5
27 Jun 2020

"Splendidly researched, and with a striking new thesis"

So should you buy this book? It’s fascinating, and the research ground-breaking, though be warned that there’s not much crowd-friendly shot-making. It’s more of a donnish slice of history, with extensive quotation and elucidation. But don’t be put off. This is a fascinating study, whose insights will stop you dead even if you thought, as I did, that you already knew this stuff.

 
4 stars out of 5
Martin Ivens
13 Jun 2020

"November 1918 is a perceptive study of an orderly people who proved that a revolution need not lead to extremes of left and right"

Here the reader is entitled to ask some hard questions. Should democracy have been employed like a Monopoly board “Get out of jail free” card at Versailles? After its terrible sacrifice, how could France tolerate an even greater Germany in the middle of continental Europe, even one led by the respectable Friedrich Ebert?

November 1918 is a perceptive study of an orderly people who proved that a revolution need not lead to extremes of left and right, but Gerwarth can’t quite dispel the air of doom hanging over the republic.