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Romania and the First World War

The Romanian Battlefront in World War I (Modern War Studies) - Glenn E. Torrey

While there is no shortage of books covering the various battles and campaigns of the Western Front, other areas of the war have long gone unaddressed by English-language historians. One of those areas is the Romanian front, where a country surrounded on nearly all sides by members of the Central Powers nevertheless joined the conflict in 1916 and suffered mightily as a result. One of the few scholars outside of Romania to have studied this period is Glenn Torrey, and this book represents the culmination of his work. The fruit of a lifetime of archival labors, it provides to English language readers for the first time an accessible history of the Romanian war effort and its impact on the broader conflict.

 

Beginning his book with Romania’s decision to join the war in 1916, Torrey describes ambitions unmatched by preparation, as the Romanian leadership courted war with their desire to annex Transylvania yet did little to ready the Romanian army for the conflict. Though they initially enjoyed the advantage of surprise, the Romanians were soon reeling under the successive counter-offensives launched by the Central Powers. With French assistance the Romanians were able to rebuild their devastated army, but the collapse of the Russian war effort over the course of 1917 left the Romanians facing insurmountable odds and with little other choice but to surrender. Having promised to demobilize their army, the Romanians dragged it out as news of the failure of the Ludendorff Offensive gave them new hope. As Torrey makes clear, however, their reentry into the war in its last days proved less important to their subsequent success at the Paris Peace Conference than their efforts to stabilize the Balkans once the Central Powers had surrendered.

 

Overall, Torrey’s book provides readers with a superb history of this unjustly-overlooked front of the war. Its main flaw is in Torrey’s habit of overstating the importance of events in the area to the overall events of the war. This is a minor complaint, though, when assessed against the magnitude of the author’s achievement. What he had provided is a history of Romania’s war that will serve as the go-to study for decades to come for anyone interested in the topic.