Academic journal article Military Review

1916: A Global History

Academic journal article Military Review

1916: A Global History

Article excerpt


A Global History

Keith Jeffrey, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2016, 448 pages

Published at the perfect time, the one hundredth anniversary of the Great War, Keith Jeffrey's 1916: A Global History uses a novel approach to covering this year of consequence. As stated in his introduction, his "aim in this book has been to use emblematic events from each month of 1916 as hooks for a series of reflections through which the astonishing range, variety and interconnectedness of the wartime experience can be charted." These hooks include Gallipoli, Verdun, Ypres, Jutland, the Somme, and various other chapters that cover Asia, Africa, the Balkans, and issues in the United States and Russia.

Aside from his interesting approach to the entire work, the material he covers in each chapter also sheds light on underappreciated aspects of the war. Of note for those of us on the west side of the Atlantic are internal issues in the United States in 1916 and American reactions to the war in Europe. For example, Jeffrey admirably discusses the "potential for traditional allegiances to colour responses to the war"-namely, the impact such groups as the German-American, British-American, and Irish-American communities had on national decision making. This influence included both propaganda and sabotage; the latter focused on reducing the industrial capacity of the United States to provide Britain and France with war materiel.

Another interesting aspect covered by Jeffrey is the way the American political and economic elite entered the war, despite the neutrality of their government. Americans supported the war by enlisting in the Canadian and British armies, by flying in the Royal Air Force (where "among military occupations ... flying was the only one [now that the cavalry had been dismounted] that gave personal pleasure to the individual who was doing it"), and by founding ventures to support troops. …

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