Suggested Reading List
The First World War: A New History
Author: Hew Strachan
Description: Hew Strachan is one of the world's foremost experts on the Great War of 1914-18. His ongoing three-volume history of the conflict, the first of which was published in 2001, is likely to become the standard academic reference work: Max Hastings called it 'one of the most impressive books of modern history in a generation', while Richard Holmes hailed it as a 'towering achievement'. Now, Hew Strachan brings his immense knowledge to a one-volume work aimed squarely at the general reader. The inspiration behind the major Channel 4 series of the same name, to which Hew was chief consultant, "The First World War" is a significant addition to the literature on this subject, taking as it does a uniquely global view of what is often misconceived as a prolonged skirmish on the Western Front. Exploring such theatres as the Balkans, Africa and the Ottoman Empire, Strachan assesses Britain's participation in the light of what became a struggle for the defense of liberalism, and show how the war shaped the 'short' twentieth century that followed it. Accessible, compelling and utterly convincing, this is modern history writing at its finest.
The First World War: Vol. 1 To Arms
Author: Hew Strachan
Description: Hew Strachan's The First World War Vol I: A Call to Arms counteracts the argument that of the two world wars in the 20th century, it is usually only the second that is thought of as "global"--spanning from the Pacific to Normandy as Hollywood continues to remind us, from the River Plate to Scapa Flow as naval buffs will recall. By contrast the First World War is often assumed to be a European war, literally bogged down in the Somme and the Dardanelles. But as Hew Strachan argues in this magisterial and wide-ranging book we would do better to use the German phrase, "weltkrieg" to describe the conflicts of 1914-18 as well. The Call to Arms is the latest in a long line of Strachan's distinguished and subtle works of military history at its best: his recent The Politics of the British Army is particularly good. A Call to Arms covers the war in every part of the globe--chapters on Turkey, Africa and Japan sit alongside sections devoted to the Western and Eastern fronts. And Strachan shows too that the war was global not just in its geography, but also in its outcome. The entente powers had better access to international finance than their foes; the war accelerated religious and tribal nationalism in the old colonial empires; industrial mobilisation fuelled the growth of heavy industry in 'undeveloped' parts of the world. This is a big book--1,000 pages plus, and it is only the first of three volumes. It needs time and attentive reading to absorb the range of its scholarship and the originality of its arguments. But anyone wanting to understand how and why the First World War, as one French writer put it in 1914, extended "to the whole universe" must read this book
The First World War: A Very Short Introduction
Author: Michael Howard
Description: By the time the First World War ended in 1918, eight million people had died in what had been perhaps the most apocalyptic episode the world had known. This Very Short Introduction provides a concise and insightful history of the 'Great War', focusing on why it happened, how it was fought, and why it had the consequences it did. It examines the state of Europe in 1914 and the outbreak of war; the onset of attrition and crisis; the role of the US; the collapse of Russia; and the weakening and eventual surrender of the Central Powers. Looking at the historical controversies surrounding the causes and conduct of war, Michael Howard also describes how peace was ultimately made, and the potent legacy of resentment left to Germany. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
The First World War
Author: John Keegan
Description: The First World War created the modern world. A conflict of unparalleled ferocity far beyond its European epicentre, it broke the century of relative peace and prosperity which we associate with the Victorian era. It unleashed both the demons of the twenieth century - pestilence, military destruction and mass death - and the ideas which continue to shape our world today - modernism in the arts, new approaches to psychology and medicine, and radical ideas about economics and society. An event of this scale and complexity needs a great historian to portray it, and in his new book, John Keegan fulfils a life-long ambition to write the definitive book on the war. It was of course foremost a fascinating new interpretations of the military events. But the war also acted as a formidable engine for social change throughout the world, and this too is brilliantly conveyed in Keegan's fascinating and magisterial work.
1914-1918: The History of the Frist Wolrd War
Author: David Stevenson
Description: David Stevenson is the real deal ... His defining characteristic is his outstanding rigour as an historian ... tremendously clever (Niall Ferguson)
It's harder to imagine a better single-volume comprehensive history of the conflict than this superb study (Ian Kershaw)
Perhaps the best comprehensive one-volume history of the war yet written (New Yorker)
This history of the 1914-1918 conflict surpasses all others. It is tough, erudite and comprehensive (Independent)
Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914
Author: Max Hastings
Description: The Amazon History Book of the Year 2013 is a magisterial chronicle of the calamity that befell Europe in 1914 as the continent shifted from the glamour of the Edwardian era to the tragedy of total war.
In 1914, Europe plunged into the 20th century’s first terrible act of self-immolation- what was then called The Great War. On the eve of its centenary, Max Hastings seeks to explain both how the conflict came about and what befell millions of men and women during the first months of strife.
He finds the evidence overwhelming, that Austria and Germany must accept principal blame for the outbreak. While what followed was a vast tragedy, he argues passionately against the ‘poets’ view’, that the war was not worth winning. It was vital to the freedom of Europe, he says, that the Kaiser’s Germany should be defeated.
His narrative of the early battles will astonish those whose images of the war are simply of mud, wire, trenches and steel helmets. Hastings describes how the French Army marched into action amid virgin rural landscapes, in uniforms of red and blue, led by mounted officers, with flags flying and bands playing. The bloodiest day of the entire Western war fell on 22 August 1914, when the French lost 27,000 dead. Four days later, at Le Cateau the British fought an extraordinary action against the oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history. In October, at terrible cost they held the allied line against massive German assaults in the first battle of Ypres.
100 Days to Victory: How the Great War Was Fought and Won
Author: Saul David
Description: 100 Days to Victory adopts a remarkably original approach to telling the story of the First World War in an accessible fashion ... the author is gifted with acute judgement as well as accomplished narrative skills. His book offers a really admirable introduction to the conflict. (Max Hastings The Times)
Original and effective...Professor David exceeds the reader's expectations...one of the best measured accounts. (Times Literary Supplement)
A splendid read... a specialist in 19th century colonial wars and a fine writer, David has intelligently boiled down recent scholarship on the war. (The Observer)
Saul David has come up with an ingenious approach... The charm of this unorthodox technique becomes clear as soon as you open the book... a remarkable book. (Daily Mail)
Splendidly well written - fluent, engaging, well paced and, despite the grim subject matter, often entertaining. (New Statesman)
Fascinating, original...vivid...brilliantly conveys the global scale of the conflict...if you usually find military history rather turgid you must read this. (The Bookseller)
A free-flowing work of great originality and insight (Charles Spencer)
All the really important dates are here, as well as some inspired choices ... If any book will inspire readers to investigate further, this one will. (Mail on Sunday)
David picks out 100 individual days from the war that allow him to paint the entire picture ... as ever, he is at his best when shells are landing and whistles are blowing. (Sunday Times)
Absorbing because of, not despite, the harrowing detail. (The Independent)
Stemming the Tide. Officers and Leadership in the British Expeditionary Force 1914
Author: Spencer Jones ed.
Description: The British Expeditionary Force of 1914 was described by the official historian as "incomparably the best trained, best organised, and best equipped British Army that ever went forth to war." The BEF proved its fighting qualities in the fierce battles of 1914 and its reputation has endured. However, the same cannot be said for many of its commanders, who have frequently been portrayed as old fashioned, incompetent, and out of touch with events on the battlefield. Yet the officers who led the BEF to war were every bit as professional and hard-bitten as the soldiers they commanded. These officers had learned their craft in the unforgiving school of colonial warfare and honed their understanding of conflict in the period of reform that reshaped the army between 1902 and 1914. As this book reveals, when faced with the realities of modern combat, the officers of the BEF were prepared for the challenge. This collection offers a broad picture of command at all levels of the BEF through a series of biographical essays on key officers. Drawing upon much original research, each chapter explores the pre-war background and experience of the officer and assesses his performance in combat in the opening months of the First World War. The book features insightful reappraisals of famous figures including John French and Douglas Haig, fresh studies of staff officers such as William Robertson and Henry Wilson, and a thorough discussion of officers at the sharp end, with chapters covering divisional, brigade, battalion and company commanders. The essays reveal an officer class that, despite certain weaknesses, provided highly effective leadership during the chaotic fighting of August to November 1914. Without their influence it is unlikely that the BEF would have been able to survive the difficulties of the Great Retreat, much less halt the German invasions of France and Belgium.
The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century
Author: David Reynolds
Description: In Britain we have lost touch with the Great War. Our overriding sense now is of a meaningless, futile bloodbath in the mud of Flanders -- of young men whose lives were cut off in their prime for no evident purpose. But by reducing the conflict to personal tragedies, however moving, we have lost the big picture: the history has been distilled into poetry. In The Long Shadow, critically acclaimed author David Reynolds seeks to redress the balance by exploring the true impact of 1914-18 on the 20th century. Some of the Great War's legacies were negative and pernicious but others proved transformative in a positive sense. Exploring big themes such as democracy and empire, nationalism and capitalism and re-examining the differing impacts of the War on Britain, Ireland and the United States, The Long Shadow throws light on the whole of the last century and demonstrates that 1914-18 is a conflict that Britain, more than any other nation, is still struggling to comprehend. Stunningly broad in its historical perspective, The Long Shadow is a magisterial and seismic re-presentation of the Great War.
The War that Ended Peace : How Europe Abanonded Peace For the First World War
Author: Margaret Macmillan
Description: The First World War followed a period of sustained peace in Europe during which people talked with confidence of prosperity, progress and hope. But in 1914, Europe walked into a catastrophic conflict which killed millions of its men, bled its economies dry, shook empires and societies to pieces, and fatally undermined Europe's dominance of the world. It was a war which could have been avoided up to the last moment - so why did it happen?
Beginning in the early nineteenth century, and ending with the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, award-winning historian Margaret MacMillan uncovers the huge political and technological changes, national decisions and - just as important - the small moments of human muddle and weakness that led Europe from peace to disaster. This masterful exploration of how Europe chose its path towards war will change and enrich how we see this defining moment in our history.
Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918
Author: Richard Holmes
Description: Tommy is Richard Holmes's tribute to the ghosts of the millions of ordinary soldiers who fought in the First World War. The book also reflects the dissatisfaction he feels at the way we still remember it. Too often we approach World War I through the literature it inspired. The poems of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and others have their own truths to offer, but Holmes would dispute the assumption that they represent the experiences of the majority of those who endured the trench warfare of the Western Front.
To discover new voices and new perspectives on the war he has trawled through the rich archives of letters, diaries and memoirs that still exist, most of them written while the fighting still continued. From these he has constructed an extraordinarily vivid and moving picture of what it felt like to be one of the millions of men who served in the British army during the four years between August 1914 and the armistice on November 11, 1918. From Private Albert Bullock rejoicing in the discovery of 200 Woodbines in the pack of a fellow soldier who had fled the front line, to Private Eric Hiscock describing the horrors of finding himself entangled in barbed wire. The Tommies, whom Richard Holmes rescues from obscurity, prove powerful witnesses to the diverse realities of the war. Beneath the stereotyped images of the First World War that we all carry in our heads, the real lives of the men who fought it are still there to be discovered and Holmes’s book brings them forcefully to our attention
A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland
Author: Catriona Pennell
Description: In this, the first fully documented study of British and Irish popular reactions to the outbreak of the First World War, Catriona Pennell explores UK public opinion of the time and successfully challenges the myth of British 'war enthusiasm'.
A Kingdom United explores what people felt, and how they acted, in response to an unanticipated and unprecedented crisis. It is a history of both ordinary people and elite figures in extraordinary times. Dr Pennell demonstrates that describing the reactions of over 40 million British and Irish people to the outbreak of war as either enthusiastic in the British case, or disengaged in the Irish, is over-simplified and inadequate. Emotional reactions to the war were ambiguous and complex, and changed over time.
By the end of 1914 the populations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland had largely embraced the war, but the war had also embraced them and showed no signs of relinquishing its grip. The five months from August to December 1914 set the shape of much that was to follow. A Kingdom United describes and explains that twenty-week formative process.
Pennell draws from a vast array of diaries, letters, journals, and newspaper accounts by the very people who experienced the war in its first dramatic five months. She outlines the variety of responses felt amongst both the ordinary people and elite figures from across the country.
MI5 In the Great War
Author: Nigel West
Description: In 1921, MI5 commissioned a comprehensive, top-secret review of the organisation’s operations during the First World War. Never intended for circulation outside of the government, all seven volumes of this fascinating and unique document remained locked away in MI5’s registry … until now.
Recently declassified and published here for the first time, MI5 in the Great War is filled with detailed, and previously undisclosed, accounts centring on the Security Service’s activities during the conflict. The main narrative examines MI5’s various attempts to both manage and detect double agents; the detection and execution of enemy spies; its study of German pre-war espionage; and the Kaiser’s personal network of spies seeking to infiltrate British intelligence.
Coinciding with the centenary of the start of the Great War, this historically significant document has been edited and brought up to date by bestselling writer and historian Nigel West, providing an extraordinary insight into the early years of MI5 and its first counterintelligence operations.