Verdun was the largest, the longest and the bloodiest battle between the French and Germans in the First World War, lasting from February 1916 until the end of the year and claiming more than 700,000 casualties. For the French in particular, it was always more than just a battle, being rather (in Paul Valery's words) 'a complete war in itself, inserted in the Great War'. Ian Ousby's book gives a vivid, insightful account of the general's planning and the troops' suffering. It challenges the narrow horizons of military history by locating the experience of Verdun in how the French thought about themselves, their nation and their relations with their eastern neighbour. Verdun emerges as the mid-point in the cycle of Franco-German hostility, carrying both the burden of history and the seeds of the future.