A generation of European manhood was massacred, and a wound was inflicted on European civilization that required the remainder of the twentieth century to heal. But with all its sacrifice, trench warfare did not win the war for one side or lose it for the other. Over the course of four years, the lines on the Western Front moved scarcely at all; attempts to break through led only to the lengthening of the already unbearably long casualty lists. For the true story of military upheaval, we must look to the sea. On the eve of the war in August 1914, Great Britain and Germany possessed the two greatest navies the world had ever seen. When war came, these two fleets of dreadnoughts--gigantic floating castles of steel able to hurl massive shells at an enemy miles away--were ready to test their terrible power against each other. Ultimately, the distinguishing feature of Castles of Steel is the author himself. The knowledge, understanding, and literary power Massie brings to this story are unparalleled.
Hastings turns his hand to the run-up to and first battles of World War I. Acknowledging that history has never come to a consensus about blame for the catastrophe, Hastings clearly sympathizes with the Allies and the soldiers and civilians who suffered the terrible decisions of their leaders. The Austrians, in their war against Serbia and Russia, combined the brutality of the Germans with the incompetence of the Allies. Hastings clearly describes the political background to hostilities without getting bogged down in the minutiae of Balkan politics. While he spends a good while describing the Eastern political situation, his battlefield focus lies on the western front. His descriptions of the battles that led to three years of trench warfare emphasize how military expertise did not keep pace with military technology at the turn of the century. (Library Journal)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Robert K. Massie (Peter the Great) has written a richly textured and gripping chronicle of the personal and national rivalries that led to the twentieth century's first great arms race. Massie brings to vivid life, such historical figures as the single-minded Admiral von Tirpitz, the young, ambitious, Winston Churchill, the ruthless, sycophantic Chancellor Bernhard von Bulow, and many others. Their story, and the story of the era, filled with misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and events leading to unintended conclusions, unfolds like a Greek tratedy in his powerful narrative. Intimately human and dramatic, Dreadnought is history at its most riveting.
For readers who may be new to the chronology and character of World War I, popular historian Persico illustrates the struggle by treating its last day as typifying the war. About 2,700 Allied and German soldiers died in combat on November 11, 1918, about the average daily toll for the war. The difference is that many perished under officers knowledgeable of the imminent armistice. Why? That is the fundamental question Persico's story poses. Although there are explanations (French Marshal Foch and American General Pershing opposed terminating the war and let their existing offensives continue), Persico contrasts them with the actual results. Implicitly, he is instilling the dominant historical conception of WWI as mindless wastage as he sutures personal memoirs into a two-level narrative. Effectively marshaling his source material, Persico powerfully reconstructs Armistice Day as an emblem of the war. (Booklist)
The First World War was a tragic and unnecessary conflict. So begins a thorough military history of the Great War by distinguished historian Keegan. He clearly contrasts the frenetic period of 1914, when huge fronts burst forth across Europe, with the paralyzing, deadly trench warfare of the following three years. The dizzying violence of 1917 and 1918, in which four great empires (Russian, Ottoman, Hapsburg, and German) quickly collapsed, is described with particular vigor. While focusing on armies, battles, and generals, Keegan doesnt ignore the human suffering of the drab millions who plodded to death on battlefields like the Somme and Ypres. (Library Journal)
An abridged version, The illustrated history of the First World War, is also available.
WWI historian and journalist Nelson (The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War) relates the heroic story of five former Harvard students who became combat leaders, inspiring the infantry "doughboys" of WWI. Based primarily on the letters of the lieutenants, Nelson describes the men's maturation as leaders and their combat training in France. The book culminates with the battle of Cantigny in May 1918, where three of the friends became casualties. Writing with great knowledge of and sensitivity for his subject, Nelson ensures that the experiences, thoughts and aspirations of the young Harvard men of 1918 are not lost to future generations.
In this autobiography, first published in 1929, poet Robert Graves traces the monumental and universal loss of innocence that occurred as a result of the First World War. Written after the war and as he was leaving his birthplace, he thought, forever, Good-Bye to All That bids farewell not only to England and his English family and friends, but also to a way of life. Tracing his upbringing from his solidly middle-class Victorian childhood through his entry into the war at age twenty-one as a patriotic captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, this dramatic, poignant, often wry autobiography goes on to depict the horrors and disillusionment of the Great War, from life in the trenches and the loss of dear friends, to the stupidity of government bureaucracy and the absurdity of English class stratification. Paul Fussell has hailed it as "the best memoir of the First World War" and has written the introduction to this new edition that marks the eightieth anniversary of the end of the war.
Events in Europe leading up to--precipitating--World War I are viewed through a purposefully narrow lens in this excellent example of consistently gripping, smoothly flowing narrative nonfiction. Clay sets herself the task of investigating the degree of personal responsibility for contributing to the outbreak of war in 1914 that can be placed on the shoulders of three European monarchs who not only ruled more than half of the world but also were cousins on close terms with one another: erratic, out-of-control Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany; likable but ineffectual Czar Nicholas II of Russia; and the much more ordinary but much more successful keeper of his throne, King George V of Great Britain. The author inquires into their upbringing, education, marriages, and relations with each other--in essence, everything about them as individuals that can speak to how and why World War I broke out. As so graphically witnessed here, family history back then, when the family happened to be royal, often made national history. (Booklist)
Miranda Carter covers similar ground in George, Nicholas and Wilhelm.
In 2003, 85 years after the armistice, Rubin managed to find dozens of American veterans of World War I, aged 101 to 113, and interview them. All are gone now. They were the final survivors of the millions who made up the American Expeditionary Forces. Self-reliant, humble, and stoic, they kept their stories to themselves for a lifetime, then shared them at the last possible moment, so that they, and the World War they won, might at last be remembered.
A narrative chronicle of World War I's Arab Revolt explores the pivotal roles of a small group of adventurers and low-level officers who orchestrated a secret effort to control the Middle East, demonstrating how they instigated jihad against British forces, built an elaborate intelligence ring and forged ties to gain valuable oil concessions.
This book was inspired by the authors discovery of an extraordinary cache of letters from a soldier who was killed on the Western Front during the First World War. The soldier was his grandfather, and the letters had been tucked away, unread and unmentioned for many decades. Intrigued by the heartbreak and history of these family letters, Fletcher sought out the correspondence of other British soldiers who had volunteered for the fight against Germany. This resulting volume offers a vivid account of the physical and emotional experiences of seventeen British soldiers whose letters survive.
In this soundly reseached collection of World War I writings, literary and feminist scholar Higonnet (Nurses at the Front: writing the wounds of the Great War) has gathered a wide array of texts by women who participated on both the battlefront and the homefront during the war. Whether political tracts, speeches, news articles, diaries, memoirs, letters, interviews, short fiction, or poetry, these testaments are heartfelt, vivid portrayals of the horrors of war: displacement, starvation, injuries, disease, imprisonment, rape, and death. The contributors hail from the Middle East, Africa, and India as well as the United States and Europe. (Library Journal)
In a maritime disaster that occurred one month before the WWI armistice, a troop transport, HMS Otranto, sank with hundreds of American soldiers and British sailors aboard. Discovering that an ancestor survived the catastrophe and that no complete account of it existed, the late Scott resolved to research and write the story. The ship, which escaped destruction in the 1914 Battle of Coronel, was four years later the flagship of a convoy carrying doughboys to Europe. After chronicling the men's enlistment, training, and embarkation, Scott meticulously chronicles the fateful voyage, which was beset by a hurricane-force storm. Blown off course, the convoy found itself in sudden peril of grounding on the Hebridean island of Islay. The convoy commodore ordered an emergency turn to port, but one ship turned to starboard and collided with the Otranto.
Captain B.H. Liddell Hart is the foremost authority on World War I. In The Real War, the author has fused exhaustive research and creative brilliance with brevity and precision. Thus we have in one volume the war transformed into literature -- an understandable, kaleidoscopic masterwork of military history. (Library Journal called this a classic work on the Great War.)
The Versailles peace conference, held between the Allied victorious powers and Germany following World War I, attempted to create a lasting peace-and parcel out the world. The great powers felt that they should inherit much of it; inhabitants of the countries to be parceled out felt otherwise. The shortsightedness of the conferees produced a world that fragmented in unexpected ways and arguably generated a century of continuous conflict. With chapters on some of those present, such as the young Ho Chi Min, on the shared goals of Emir Feisal and Chaim Weizmann, and on the abortive stab at making peace in revolutionary Russia, Andelman (executive editor, Forbes.com) casts a bitter light on the rest of the 20th century. The author's constant theme is that the failures of the Versailles conference laid the groundwork for World War II, the iron curtain, the Vietnam War, the various Middle East conflicts, and the Balkan wars. (Library Journal)
In the early months of World War I, on Christmas Eve, men on both sides of the trenches laid down their arms and joined in a spontaneous celebration. Despite orders to continue shooting, the unofficial truce spread across the front lines. Even the participants found what they were doing incredible: Germans placed candlelit Christmas trees on trench parapets, warring soldiers sang carols, and men on both sides shared food parcels from home. They climbed from the trenches to meet in "No Man's Land" where they buried the dead, exchanged gifts, ate and drank together, and even played soccer. Throughout his narrative, Stanley Weintraub uses the stories of the men who were there, as well as their letters and diaries, to illuminate the fragile truce and bring to life this extraordinary moment in time. (Syndetics summary)
An authoritative chronicle, drawing on new research on World War I, traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute narrative that examines the decades of history that informed the events of August 1914.
The question of the causes of the Great War has occupied historians for decades and promises to continue to intrigue. MacMillan, prize winner for Paris 1919, reviews the dynamic tensions in Europe prior to 1914. She reminds readers that the leaders of several European nations were dealing with such issues as fears of revolution at home and abroad while maneuvering for an advantage in the military sphere. The series of crises in the Balkans may have convinced political and military minds that any impending conflict would be of short duration. So, as MacMillan notes, the war was perceived as one that would have almost a cleansing effect on the European world. It turned out much differently. (Library Journal)
World War I changed the face of the 20th century. For four long years the major European powers, later joined by America, fought in a life or death struggle that would topple the crowned heads of Europe and redraw the map of the Continent. It was a conflict unparalleled in its scale, which in turn fuelled devastatingly rapid developments in military technology, technique and innovation as the belligerent powers sought to break the deadlock on the Western Front and elsewhere. In the centenary of the outbreak of the conflict, fourteen renowned historians from around the world examine some of the key aspects of the war, providing a wide-ranging analysis of the whole conflict beyond but including the stalemate in the trenches of the Western Front.