Academic journal article Military Review

The French Army and the First World War

Academic journal article Military Review

The French Army and the First World War

Article excerpt

THE FRENCH ARMY AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR

Elizabeth Greenhalgh, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2014, 468 pages

In the size of France's fielded forces, the scale of its industrial output, and the vastness of the price it paid in blood, the French contribution to Allied victory in World War I was enormous. What is more, in the decisive theater of war, the Western Front, the French army was the dominant Allied force through most of the war. Yet, a hundred years afterward, the mountain of World War I books provided by British authors has encouraged American readers to undervalue the French contribution to victory. In recent years, authors such as Leonard Smith and Robert Doughty have helped to balance this distorted perspective on the war. In her new book, The French Army and the First World War, Elizabeth Greenhalgh takes another important step closer to getting the story right.

Greenhalgh's study of the French army provides a chronological narrative that takes the reader from France's preparation for war to victory and demobilization in 1919. In doing so, she uses three relationships as her thematic framework: the French army to the French nation and the republic's political leaders, the French army to France's allies, and the French army to its enemies. Each relationship tells us something important. First, Greenhalgh describes the way a succession of French military commanders sparred with the civil government while, at the same time, depending on the politicians to mobilize and remobilize public support for the war. …

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