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The First World War

The First World War [Kindle Edition]

John Keegan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Despite the avalanche of books written about the First World War in recent years, there have been comparatively few books that have concentrated on delivering the big picture--a comprehensive account of the war and its campaigns from start to finish--and this book fills the gap superbly. As readers familiar with John Keegan's previous books, such as the The Face Battle, Six Armies in Normandy, and The Second World War, will know, Keegan is a historian of the old school. He has no earth-shattering new theories to challenge the status quo, no first-person accounts to tug on the emotions; what he does have, though, is the gift for talking the lay person through the twists and turns of a complex narrative in a way that is never less than accessible or engaging. Keegan never tries to ram his learning down your throat. Where other authors have struggled to explain how Britain could ever allow itself to be dragged into such a war in 1914, Keegan keeps it practical. The level of communications that we enjoy today just didn't exist then, and so it was much harder to keep track of what was going on. By the time a message had finally reached the person in question, the situation may have changed out of all recognition. Keegan applies this same "cock-up" theory of history to the rest of the war, principally the three great disasters at Gallipoli, the Somme, and Passchendaele. The generals didn't send all those troops to their death deliberately; they did so out of incompetence, ineptitude, and because they had no idea of what was actually going on at the front. Whether deliberate or not, though, the end result was nearly one million dead British and Commonwealth soldiers. The First World War is not afraid to point the finger at those generals who deserve it, but even Keegan has to admit he doesn't have all the answers. If it all seems so obviously futile and such a massive waste of life now, he asks, how could it have seemed worthwhile back then? Why did so many people carry on, knowing they would die? Why indeed. --John Crace


"Magisterial in its scope, beautifully written and literally unputdownable... I cannot recommend Keegan's book too highly." (Julian Critchley Scotsman)

"Nobody describes a battle as Keegan does, vividly relating the unfolding events to the contours of the field of combat... This book is a kind of war memorial. As first-hand memory fades, The First World War honours the dead as only true history can." (Niall Ferguson Sunday Times)

"John Keegan's The First World War can take its place alongside the other defining works he has written... The best and most approachable introduction to the war." (David Horspool Guardian)

"A splendidly readable account of the war on all fronts, from its political and cultural origins to its bloody conclusion... Compelling." (Max Wilkinson Financial Times)

"Excellent... The First World War tells the story with passion, sanity and the military historian's eye for overall strategy." (Andrew Roberts Mail on Sunday)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3235 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (31 Aug 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0055CS3JI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #36,170 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Coming from a generation whose grandparents were involved in the Second and not the First World War, before I read John Keegan's book my only knowledge of the whole affair was limited. Although I had heard of names such as the Somme and Ypres and the great suffering that occurred there, I knew little else. Keegan's book has enabled me to increase my knowledge of this era ten fold.
Though, quite often books on war can be dry, Keegan's style of prose makes the book flow more like a novel, while still maintaining the correct tone for such an horrific passage in History, thus making this an ideal book, for those, who like me want to gain a greater insight into the War. The greatest achievement of the book though, is its objectivity. Keegan avoids, and rightly so, laying the blame with any one nation and instead focus on the war itself.
An excellent book that I would reccommend to anyone.
Andrew Stephenson
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Passionate History And Overview 7 July 2005
By Donald Thompson VINE VOICE
To try to encompass a histiory of the Great War in one volume is a task which is impossible. But Keegan comes close. From the opening lines reminding you of the terrible cost to ordinary people, the fact that more people in his village died in this war than in the second world war. And that this is due to the great loss in the first meaning there are fewer to give their lives in the second is a chilling fact. His study of the causes are straightforward and totally human, we can all understand how it happened, Keegan gives us a why. But to his credit never loses sight that it could and should have been avoided. Once the inevitability of the "Railway Timetable" planning comes into play the result is death and destruction on a never before seen scale. Throughout Keegan, while embracing the Lions Led By Donkeys approach, does try to give a balanced view of the planning and execution of the military aspects of the war. Yet this is far from the whole story. His account of the battle of the Somme shows why it was a slaughter, but also a near won victory. The final chapter alone is stunning in its straightforward recounting of the losses endured by both sides.
This thought provoking history is a complete study of the war and gives you a solid basis to go on and read more if you want. But on its own stands as an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the most influential 4 years of the 20th Century.
If you only ever read one book about this terrible conflict, you can do a lot worse than this excellent study.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Although I have read books on the individual campaigns of the Great War this was the first that I tackled on the whole conflict. It is an excellent starting point for any students of early 20th Century history and the author gives a real feel for the events and consequences. I was moved to tears by his descriptions of the Gallipoli battles and of the War cemeteries dotted around the landscape of Europe. The author doesn't expound theories but sticks to fact and it is that which shows the reader the horror of this war. The only complaints would be the lack of good maps and a bit disappointing in the pictures department.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Overview of WW1 4 Jan 2003
This was the first book I read about WW1, having learned that my great grandfather was killed in France in 1918. I was keen to get an overview of the war and to obtain an insight into not only the events of the war itself, but the context of it's beginnings from a political perspective. The book is brilliantly written and illustrated, with good use of photography and maps, clearly setting out the events as they developed. Given the subject matter, the book is remarkably easy to read and I found it difficult to put down. The mark of this book's impact on me was that it inspired me to read other WW1 books. I would thoroughly recommend it and fully intend to read other books by the same author.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 16 May 2000
By A Customer
The First World War is a period of history now sinking beyond living memory yet the battles fought and the war's outcome continue to shape the Europe of today. If you want to understand why conflicts in the Balkans began, you need look no further than this mighty work. The events of the summer of 1914 were a catalogue of disaster and, to be honest, beyond my comprehension until now. The characters come alive with their hopes and fears and I was caught in the excitement of the movement of the front in 1914 and again in 1918. In between is the mud and inhuman conditions of the Somme and other battles in great detail. The numbers of men lost is beyond imagining. This book is a testament to their courage and sacrifice. And, did you know how close the Germans came to winning? (What would have happened then - no reason for Hitler's rise? ) What to find out? Read this book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An achievement of tremendous stature 30 July 2003
The true facts on the complicated matter the Great War ultimately is and remains, seem doomed to remain shrouded in mists forever.
As one turns the pages of this book with increasing interest, the reader frowns at the stubbornness by which nations and generals keep the wheels of violence in motion. The more so, as it appears how widespread was the apprehension among European heads of state to give in so unavoidably to the battle call in the first place.
A major reflection any reader will make is that perhaps, eventually, generals 'simply' see their own resourcefulness running out, so giving way to separate and half-criminal enterprises of senseless slaughter.
As far as the Balkan history of conflict goes, Keegan succeeds in unravelling the complexity of this long-standing hotbed in the history of modern regional conflict.
Though perhaps the book could have done with a rather more extensive map section, one of its greatest merits is to be found in its objectivity and the subdued tone with which the author builds up his survey.
Qualitatively speaking, it must be about impossible to overrate the value of this book. No reader of this will deny Mr Keegan the reference point value he has so rightly achieved in the field of military history over the years.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Impression of world war I
A hard book to get into at first, up to just under half way
. After that a very enjoyable read. Well worth staying with it.
Published 1 month ago by A. Dixon
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book
Published 1 month ago by Susan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 months ago by raymond murdie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Overall, a great book. Has really helped me with my studies at school and is a great starting book for anyone interested in WWI.
Published 9 months ago by Maria.Khotin
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent History Book
There will be more interest in WW1 now that the anniversary is imminent. This is a story well told and in sufficient detail to inform the reader without being overwhelmed. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Gerald L
4.0 out of 5 stars A Military History - Not General History.
There's no doubt that this is an extremely impressive work. However, it consists almost entirely of highly detailed accounts of the campaigns and battles themselves - and little... Read more
Published 11 months ago by A. Fabrizio
5.0 out of 5 stars Brill
A very comprehensive informative book, any body researching or interested in
the first world war would find this a must.
Published 11 months ago by Honeybun
4.0 out of 5 stars great history
Full of life and a good read whilst being a complete short history of WWI.Essential reading for all those interested in this period
Published 13 months ago by j.l.greenwood
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Lots of illustrations make this book really great to read Well written lots of photos and maps. Would highly recommend
Published 15 months ago by Neil
1.0 out of 5 stars Dry. Where's the story?
The First World War is, like all history, a story of individuals and their actions.

This book abstracts all of that away and substitutes dry, dull, endless passages that... Read more
Published 17 months ago by M. P. Revell
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