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The First World War (CASSELL'S HISTORY OF WARFARE) Paperback – 3 Mar 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (3 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030435984X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304359844
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.3 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,298,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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You should never judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a book about the First World War on how it begins. If it starts with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Habsburg throne, by a Bosnian nationalist in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, then you can safely predict that you're in for an undemanding trawl over familiar territory. Trevor Wilson and Robin Prior make no such glib assertions. Instead they offer a variety of historical explanations. They debate the failure of the old diplomacy and the Leninist thesis of the imperatives of advanced capitalism. They even give air time to the vaguely Jungian notion that the war was caused by the mounting alienation and psychological disturbance of the masses consequent upon the vagaries of the trade cycle and the sense of powerlessness engendered by industrialisation. All these theses are of interest, but are ultimately found wanting. Yet the fact that the authors are prepared to entertain them, to indulge them even, makes for a much more interesting and textured read.

Historical cause and effect is seldom linear and seldom obvious. It usually relies on a coming together of a political and public will, with a healthy smattering of coincidence thrown in. The war actually began in August 1914 when Germany invaded Belgium; but if Belgium hadn't fought back, would there have been a war? Prior and Wilson make a good case for suggesting that there would. Whatever else was going on in Europe in the early years of the 20th century, you could not ignore German aggression. Germany kept pushing and pushing its allies until eventually someone was bound to say enough was enough. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was just another lever to ratchet up the political tension. And sure enough the Russians decided that the German-inspired Austro-Hungarian invasion of Serbia was tantamount to a declaration of war on itself. The invasion of Belgium was merely the coup de grace that secured the involvement of Britain and France. The authors are equally good on the main set pieces. Somme, Ypres and Verdun are all given the same level of analysis, and the less celebrated theatres of war--Gallipoli and the Italian campaign--are not ignored either. Given that this book is little more than 200 pages long and lavishly illustrated with detailed maps and hundreds of photographs, this is a considerable achievement. As a short, sharp introduction to the Great War that neither patronises nor complicates, it is hard to beat. --JohnCrace --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The complete history of the First World War written by two leading experts in the field.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MarkK TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
In this book, Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson offer a good, basic overview of the First World War. They summarize the conflict in six easy chapters - one for each year on the fighting in Europe, plus one on the fighting in the 'peripheries' - and they have an introduction and conclusion that covers the origins of the war and its aftermath. Prior and Wilson make no secret of their views on the war; they are unabashed 'Westerners' with a healthy contempt for most of the political and military leadership involved, a judgment that emerges repeatedly when assessing the outcome of battles and the results of strategic decisions.
Despite their approach, the authors do a good job of presenting the war. Well illustrated, the text is accompanied by a number of computer-generated maps of the various fronts and battlefields, and there is a section at the end with brief biographies of the leading military and civilian commanders of the conflict. Readers familiar with the war would do better to consult some of the books listed in the bibliography at the end, but for anyone seeking an introduction to the 'Great War' this is a good book to start with.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have three of the hardback Cassell's History of Warfare series, and they made this an easy choice. The text is excellent, balanced and well argued. However, I do have a problem with the small size of this edition, in particular with the maps. The spine resists all my attempts to open it so that I can look at what is in the joins between the pages (without breaking the binding altogether), and the single page maps are so small that it is difficult to use them properly. A reissue of the hardback would be welcomed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Six easy chapters on World War I 9 Aug. 2005
By MarkK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In their contribution to the "Cassell History of Warfare", Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson offer an introduction to the strategic history of the First World War. They summarize the conflict in six easy chapters - one for each year on the fighting in Europe, plus one on the fighting in the "peripheries" - and they have an introduction and conclusion that covers the origins of the war and its aftermath. Prior and Wilson make no secret of their views on the war; they are unabashed "Westerners" with a healthy contempt for most of the political and military leadership involved, a judgment that emerges repeatedly when assessing the outcome of battles and the results of strategic decisions.

Despite their approach, the authors do a good job of presenting the war. Well illustrated, the text is accompanied by a number of computer-generated maps of the various fronts and battlefields, and there is a section at the end with brief biographies of the leading military and civilian commanders of the conflict. Readers familiar with the war would do better to consult some of the books listed in the bibliography at the end, but for anyone seeking an introduction to the war this is a good book to start with.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A basic introduction to the Great War 20 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is another volume in Cassell's History of Warfare series, which combines a general history of each topic with lots of maps and photos. This addition to the series deals mostly with events on the West Front, although some *brief* coverage is offered for Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Russia, Austria and Italy. In focusing on the West Front, the authors lavish the most attention on British and Commonwealth forces. Do not expect to find much on the naval or air forces involved.
The book begins with a short analysis on the causes of the war. The authors place most of the blame squarely on the Kaiser and Moltke and seem to go out of their way to discount AJP Taylor's thesis that the Great Powers stumbled into war. They are probably correct in their analysis, but I'm not sure such an academic debate belongs in a general history such as this.
The next several chapters deal with the chronological events of the war, year by year, with one chapter reserved for events on the peripherpal theaters.
The book concludes with a decent summary of the Treaty of Versailles and how it led to World War II.
All in all, I'd recommend the book to those looking for a general introduction to the land campaigns of World War I on the Western Front. While the maps are a tad busy, the photographs are well selected to enhance the text.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A very good introduction to World War I 1 Sept. 2005
By Joseph Biskup - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As others noted, this book does not dive into a deep analysis. It also doesn't focus on the individual participants; however, I think it occupied a very nice middle ground. It gives and simple yet slightly nuanced year-by-year account of what happened and who the major players were The authors tie the book together by asking, from the prospective of what was accomplished the previous year, what the strategy should be for the following year. I think it would be best to follow this book up another book that fills in the spots not covered by this book. Of course "All Quiet on the Western Front" would be a good choice; my next book will be "The Pity of War" for more detail.

I thought this book was very well illustrated, though sometimes the illustrations did not fit as well with the text as I would have liked. My main complaint is that none of the maps have a scale and there is no really comprehensive map to refer to. I found myself continually lost trying to figure out how close or far I was from a previously mentioned action. I would suggest reading this book with a good travel map of Europe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The First World War 7 Jun. 2011
By Sam Adams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I read this to supplement my viewing of the 2004 British ten-part documentary The First World War - The Complete Series, which is more about the social and political aspects of the war than a close look at the military engagements. I knew almost nothing about WWI before this. The book begins with a discussion of theories on the cause of the war, but it doesn't lay out the historical background. The first episode of the documentary covers this. I recommend the documentary, and won't say more about it here.

The book has interesting pictures, a six page chronology, thirty biographical summaries, a four page essay on further reading, and twenty-five colored maps which show the major movements in the battles they depict; but the format of the series of which this book is a part (the Cassell History of Warfare, on my copy) doesn't allow space for the kind of narrative detail that's needed for a wide-ranging grasp of the war. Especially in the accounts of 1914 and 1915, there isn't much context for the battles mentioned, and the battles themselves are described with the briefest of detail. The years 1916-18 are given more attention.

Aside from the value of the maps, the chronology, and the short biographies, the book is a condensed overview of the war, which is all that could be expected with the limited space the format of the series allows.

Map List -
1. British, French and German Colonial Empires, 1914
2. The Eastern Front, 1914
3. The Schlieffen Plan, 1914
4. Battle of the Marne, 5-10 September 1914
5. The Eastern Front, 1915
6. Masuria, 7-18 February 1915
7. Gorlice-Tarnow, May-June 1915
8. The Italian Campaign, 1915-18:
_ The Trentino Offensive, May-June 1916;
_ The Isonzo Battles, June 1915 - September 1917;
_ Caporetto, 24 October - 12 November 1917;
_ Vittorio Veneto, 24 October - 3 November 1918
9. The Balkans: I: 1914-18; II: September-November 1918
10. The Western Front, 1915
11. Gallipoli, 1915
12. The Middle East, 1914-18
13. Battle of Verdun, February-June 1916
14. Battle of the Somme, June-November 1916
15. Operation Alberich, 9 February - 18 March 1917
16. The Nivelle Offensive, 16-19 April 1917
17. Passchendaele, July-November 1917;
_ Battle of Messines, June 1917
18. Operation Michael, 21 March - 4 April 1918
19. Operation Georgette, 9-29 April 1918
20. Operation Blücher-Yorck, 27 May -18 July 1918
21. Allied Advance, 8-25 August 1918
22. United States Involvement in the First World War, 1917-18
23. Allied Advance, September-November 1918
24. Advance to Victory, 5 October - 11 November 1918
25. The Peace Settlements in Europe from 1919
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Writers suffering from memory loss 8 Nov. 2012
By Robert K. Andrepont - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I will start off saying I enjoy this series of books and have all of them. Great maps, graphics, and pictures, they are usually consise coverage of the time period or war at hand. However I am suprised that the Smithsonian would give it's imprimatur to a book that pretty much ignores American participation in World War I.

Except for a few mentions in passing, American contribution to the war effort is covered in three pages. Pershing isn't even listed in the mini-biographies in the back of the book.

If you want to read about the War up to the end of 1917 or about the British contribution to the War I would recommend the book. If you are are interested in the American effort, buy another book.
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