The First World War

The First World War

The First World War

The First World War

Synopsis

This book provides a clear, chronological account of the campaigns on the Western and Eastern fronts, and then moves on to investigate the often ignored areas of the war, such as war poets, logistics, and the diplomacy of war aims and peace moves.

Excerpt

The appalling attraction of the First World War has not diminished in the decade since this book was written. In some respects, as the twentieth century draws to a close, its titanic character seems perhaps more difficult to grasp. It seems ever more remote from the lavish technological sophistication of small wars that have come and gone in the lifetime of this book. Such conflicts have been processed and packaged instantly on our television screens -- and then they have almost disappeared from memory. Despite fears sometimes expressed at their outbreak, these short and sharp wars have not expanded during this past decade into global conflicts into which great and small powers have been inexorably sucked.

The Great War, by contrast, holds our puzzled attention by virtue of its intensity. This was no fierce but transient Desert Storm. Once the long fuse had been ignited, there was no part of Europe, whether formally belligerent or not, which was left untouched by the ensuing struggle. This book, by design, offers some comments on its origins, but eschews a protracted immersion in conflicts of interpretation which have raged since 1914 itself. Prompted by convenient anniversaries, however, historians have continued over the last decade to reflect on what happened in 1914. Perhaps significantly, they have tended to write about the 'coming' or the 'origins' of the war rather than of its 'causes'. Use of the former words perhaps betrays a loss of confidence in the ability to identify 'causes' and order them into a hierarchy of importance. We understand now more about the forces and factors at work in the significant capitals of Europe than any contemporary did. How would statesmen and soldiers have behaved if they had known what we know about the assumptions of their opposite numbers?

So it is with the war itself. However it began, and whoever was to blame -- in greater or lesser degree -- it took on a complexity and character which few men in positions of power anticipated. Not surprinsingly, biographies of leading generals and politicians have continued to emerge from the presses, prompted by the still broadening stream of private papers. Reputations rise and fall in the . . .

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