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The First World War

3.9 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 860-1401166023
ISBN-10: 0670032956
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From Publishers Weekly

One of the leading historians of WWI offers this superior one-volume version of his massive projected three-volume work, the first volume of which, To Arms, clocked in at 1250-plus pages last year. Strachan strenuously avoids the traditional focus on the Western Front (and the British) and the conventional assumptions of generals' stupidity and soldiers' valor. The war as he sees it was a race among generals on all sides to create new weapons and tactics faster than their opponents, a race that the Triple Entente won. It was also a race among soldiers to fight with these new weapons and tactics instead of raw courage and numbers wherever possible. Yet Russia and the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were totally unfit for a large modern war (one reason the czar and his empire fell in 1917) and were a source of fatal weakness to Germany's alliance even before Italy changed sides. The political background (including the rising consciousness of colonial nationalities conscripted for the war), social consequences and diplomatic finagling all face an equal amount of revision, leaving the book organized more thematically than chronologically. Readers already familiar with the sequence of events in strict order will benefit most. But all readers will eventually be gripped, and even the most seasoned ones will praise the insights and the original choice of illustrations. This is likely to be the most indispensable one-volume work on the subject since John Keegan's First World War, and will draw serious readers to the larger work.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Strachan provides a comprehensive and gripping account of one of the most bloody and important wars in human history, bringing to readers a reality beyond its grim reputation. His greatest contribution is to restore the worldwide dimension to this conflict, for it was a war that was fought in Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, and Eastern Europe, as well as in Western Europe. Furthermore, he shows the widespread effects of the war wherever it was fought, and he delineates the meaning the conflict had for its combatants. Some of his judgments might be debatable, but his accomplishment with this book is not. Well written and well illustrated with photographs, the volume lifts readers' eyes from the mud of Flanders.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0670032956
  • ASIN: B000F4LMQC
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,536,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Few scholars today can match Hew Strachan's grasp of World War One's history. This is an excellent work that describes how global the war truly was and how it impacted its own generation as well as the next century to come. Anyone interested in World War One should consider reading this work.
The book covers many topics and it is somewhat interesting to see the placement of relatively obscure theatres, Africa, the high seas, and the middle east placed early in the book. Most other works relegate these areas to one combined chapter or footnotes to a larger picture. But these show how the war affected the entire world and rightly deserve their own chapters.
What is most appealing about this book is how it refuses to lay total blame on Germany for the war. Ever since Versailles, France, Britain, and to a lesser extent, the United States, have sought to blame Germany for everything the war caused. In this respect, Strachan follows Holger Herwig's argument on his work covering Germany and Austria-Hungary's relationship. Each power went to war with specific aims and all were legitimate in their own opinions. By losing, Germany got the short end of the stick. Of course Germany's harsh treaties with Russia and Romania were prophetic in that they were a preview of things to come at Versailles.
Strachan argues the Central Powers stood little chance of outright military victory (mainly because Germany had no serious allies to support them) and thus sought to weaken the Entente in any way possible. Most belligerents assumed there would be a 1919 campaign and were somewhat surprised when the Central Powers ultimately imploded in October and November 1918.
The book is well-written and very readable. It has many photographs but no maps.
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Format: Hardcover
Hew Strachan has written an excellent history of the war that deals with how Germany and its allies lost the war politcally and militarily. According to Strachan, Germany lost the war politically because it did not have any civilian agencies for wartime concerns such as rations and the making of munitions. Due to this weak civic structure, the military took over areas of the government that should have been dealt with by civilian ministries and as a result Germany became ecnomically impaired during the First World War. Germany also failed to use the forces of nationalism to its advantage in Africa and its plan to exploit Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East faltered because it was in direct opposition to Turkish secular nationalism.
Germany struggled in the war due to the fact that it did not have a common strategy with Turkey and Austria.The Turks and Austrians launched military operations that did not directly benefit Germany's war aims because of this lack of strategic planning. The British, French, and the Americans, however, in 1918 were able to put aside their national differences and launch coordinated attacks on the Germans. The three above mentioned nations were also able to out produce the Germans in the latest technological equippment such as tanks.The only weakness of the book is that Strachan appears to skim over the Eastern Front but for anyone who wants a concise history of the war I would highly reccomend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
This new account may not uncover any new scholarship but its picture packed pages ensure that it is a worthwhile read. Nearly half the book has pictures in it and there is a wonderful inset of color photos. The color photos show the unique international character of the allied armies, from Senegalese French troops to Vietnamese and Sikhs. The rest of the text is a plodding, sometimes enjoyable read about the first world war and its important events. From Jutland to Serbia to the Fall of Russia, the French mutinies and Gallipoli the war is covered. There is not quite enough coverage of the Turkish-Russian theatre or of the Armenian genocide but this is to be expected. There is good coverage of the many weapons used, including the German rail guns, the 250mm long guns. Scant coverage is given to German surface raiders or Von Spee but `Castles of Steel' is the superior choice for the naval war anyway. In final summation this is a good read and the pictures are excellent.
Seth J. Frantzman
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Format: Hardcover
Hew Strachan's The First World War is a very rapid 340-page overview of the war from its origins through its legacy. Its ten chapters cover such things as the global aspect of the war (Japan and Africa), the Ottoman Empire, the western front, the naval war, revolution in Russia and mutinies in France and Italy, Germany's last gamble, and the peace settlement. Unlike most books on the subject, Strachan covers the war in Africa, the Ottoman Empire, and the war at sea (economically as well as militarily) as, if not more, extensively as he covers the western front. The book also briefly covers the home front. The section on wartime diets was very interesting (pg. 218) as was the author's point that the war did not bring women into the workforce as much as it caused women to change jobs within the workforce (pg. 171). The military campaigns are described briskly which makes it difficult to follow for a reader like myself who is not up on the geography of the time and military strategy. He includes maps at the front of the book, but they are individual maps for separate battle fronts. A clear overview map would really help. I found Strachan's description on the ways in which tactical experience changed the focus of production and use of tanks and aircraft very interesting and well-written (pg. 313).

I do not recommend this book to someone who is just beginning to read about the First World War, as Strachan moves through events very quickly and drops a lot of names which may not be familiar to those just learning about the war. For example, he mentions such concepts as "live and let live" and the three-tiered voting system in Germany without giving the reader any background information (although he expertly explains Germany's "stab in the back" theory).
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