The First World War

The First World War
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Published: 2000
ISBN13: 9780375700453
Goodreads Rating: 3.5
A history of the Great War chronicles the events of the conflict from early diplomatic efforts to avert war, through the nightmarish campaigns and battles, to the end of the war and its repercussions. The First World War created the modern world. A conflict of unprecedented ferocity, it abruptly ended the relative peace and prosperity of the Victorian era, unleashing such demons of the twentieth century as mechanized warfare and mass death. It also helped…

Probing the mystery of how a civilization at the height of its achievement could have propelled itself into such a ruinous conflict, Keegan takes us behind the scenes of the negotiations among Europe’s crowned heads (all of them related to one another by blood) and ministers, and their doomed efforts to defuse the crisis. He reveals how, by an astonishing failure of diplomacy and communication, a bilateral dispute grew to engulf an entire continent.

But the heart of Keegan’s superb narrative is, of course, his analysis of the military conflict. With unequalled authority and insight, he recreates the nightmarish engagements whose names have become legend – Verdun, the Somme and Gallipoli among them – and sheds new light on the strategies and tactics employed, particularly the contributions of geography and technology. No less central to Keegan’s account is the human aspect. He acquaints us with the thoughts of the intriguing personalities who oversaw the tragically unnecessary catastrophe – from heads of state like Russia’s hapless tsar, Nicholas II, to renowned war-makers such as Haig, Hindenburg and Joffre. But Keegan reserves his most affecting personal sympathy for those whose individual efforts history has not recorded – “the anonymous millions, indistinguishably drab, undifferentially deprived of any scrap of the glories that by tradition made the life of the man-at-arms tolerable.”

By the end of the war, three great empires – the Austro-Hungarian, the Russian and the Ottoman – had collapsed. But as Keegan shows, the devastation ex-tended over the entirety of Europe, and still profoundly informs the politics and culture of the continent today. His brilliant, panoramic account of this vast and terrible conflict is destined to take its place among the classics of world history.

Review

John Keegan’s The First World War is a good one volume look at the first world war and John Keegan is a fair historian. If I had to rate this book on content alone I would probably give it a 5-star rating. The research is thorough and impressive but the level of detail is perhaps too much. I found it difficult to keep engaged at times when a lot of names and dates were being listed in quick succession.

Another issue I have with Mr. Keegan’s book is he refers to many towns and areas in Europe that do not appear on the included maps. This requires additional research on the readers part to put dates and locations into perspective. Mr. Keegan should have added either more maps or maps with greater detail.

The final issue I have with the book is Mr. Keegan’s writing style. He has some really strange sentence and paragraph structures; sentences run on and on and paragraphs frequently cover an entire page (or more).




3.5Overall Score

The First World War

A history of the Great War chronicles the events of the conflict from early diplomatic efforts to avert war, through the nightmarish campaigns and battles, to the end of the war and its repercussions.

  • Rating
    3.5

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