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The First World War in Africa [Kindle Edition]

Hew Strachan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

To Arms is Hew Strachan's most complete and definitive study of the opening of the First World War. Now, key sections from this magisterial work are published as individual paperbacks, each complete in itself, and with a new introduction by the author. The First World War was not just fought in the trenches of the western front. It embraced all of Africa. Embracing the perspectives of all the nations who fought there, this is the first ever full account of the Great War in Africa.

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Product Description

About the Author

Hew Strachan is Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2237 KB
  • Print Length: 234 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (16 Dec. 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001P05NAG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #638,407 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read but needs better maps 1 Dec. 2004
The First World War in Africa covers a sideshow to the main European theatre which is neglected by the vast majority of all WWI books.
While some history books serve to entertain, The First World's purpose is to educate and if you are not comfortable reading a text which would find a home in a university class, it is probably not for you.
That said, I'm not a scholar, nor pretend to be, and I still found it a good read. Most interesting of all is the war in eastern Africa which saw a German army take to field in August 1914 and stayed in the savenna/jungle until after the guns fell silent in 1918. While the majority of all of the Allied and German armies - and losses - were made up by porters and black African troops, it is amazing that the European troops took to field for so long knowing there would be no R&R back in London, Paris, or Berlin until the war was over.
However, what the book desperately needs are better, larger and more complete maps. Even to have a map of Africa showing the respected locations such as Togoland would be a great help. In addition, without a troop movement map, it is impossible to follow the events in east Africa. After awhile, you'll find your eyes skipping over the countless north-east-south-west and back again moves of the armies.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WW 1 in Africa 16 Dec. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a Tanzanian my fascination with the involvement of European Colonialists in Africa, and East Africa in particular, first arose whilst playing as a small boy inside mammoth concrete gun bunkers built by the Germans facing the Lake (Victoria) to guard Mwanza (where I was born) against gunship attack from the Ugandan and Kenyan (mostly British) territorial armies. This book is revelatory and fills many important gaps sadly left in my knowledge of history of East Africa. Having been taught History by Indian trained teachers I knew much about the Mogul emperors and British East India Company but nothing of European history, even when it involved my country of birth!.

This book is both erudite and detailed in its narrative and plausibly neutral, thus giving one full confidence that factual content was not compromised by political motives.

All enthusiasts of military history need to read this book, so should anyone with the remotest interest in African historical development.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid 22 Feb. 2007
By Mike S. - Published on
Overall a solid book about WWI's Africa campaigns. Strachan does a good job breaking the campaigns up by region, while still helping to maintain any connections between the separate colonial battles. He also provides a solid background of social factors in the war in Africa. Lastly, he shows no bias towards the Allies or Great Britain, making every effort to depict the conflict as it was seen from both points of view. The only drawback to this book is that it came off a little dry, with few anecdotes or depictions of the battles. His writing focuses on the overall strategies and not the battle stories of individual units. However, if one is looking for an accurate, in-depth, and educational account of this forgotten front, look no further than this book.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A very choppy overview 25 Sept. 2009
By Robert Berkel - Published on
The purported "book" is a bunch of excerpts from Strachan's History of WWI. All of this information was previously published and was formerly integrated into the entirety of the Great War. It does not make for easy reading, and it is in no sense comprehensive. If you know nothing about WWI in Africa, it can be enlightening, if, however, you are conversant on the subject, this book probably will not greatly further your knowledge.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well done but truly Anglo Centric 2 Mar. 2014
By Grey Wolffe - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a portion of Hew Strachan’s larger series on the First World War. This part is strictly dealing with the battles for control of Germany’s African colonies. Togo, Cameroons, South-West Africa and German East Africa (Tanzania) were all conquered by the British and French by the end of the war in Europe.

Though the British fought Togo and Cameroons with mostly African troops, South-West and German East Africa were fought with combinations of South Africans (mostly Boers) and East Indians. It wasn’t until the last two years of the war that the fighting was Africanized using South African Officers.

The greatest story of all these minor wars was the way Paul Lettow-Vorbeck who was in command of the German troops in East Africa, was able to stay on the run for the whole war and only surrendered after the Armistice in November 1918. Though Lettow never fought a truly guerilla war, he did pit his undermanned command of 3,000 whites and 7-10,000 Askaris (African troops) against twenty five thousand South Africans and 30,000 indigenous troops.

As much as Strachan derides Lettow’s accomplishments (he kept an army in the field for over 4 years), Lettow was well respected by his contemporaries. One of the failures of the British was the used of Indian conscripts who never acclimated to Africa and mounted South African troops. During the war the British lost twice as many troops to disease (6K+) as they did to casualties (3K+). The Indians were very susceptible to malaria, and the South African horses to the tsetse flies.

Whereas Lettow used only local bearers and his own soldiers to carry material, the British were dependent on conscripted bearers. In the climate of parts of East Africa, many bearers died from disease and starvation. At one point the British had ‘wastage’ (Strachan’s word for death) of 90% of 20,000 bearers that they were using. Lettow had a large contingent of officers and NCOs whereas the British were using subalterns and other untried officers.
Lettow forced the British to follow him all across East Africa and at the end of war though a large part of Mozambique. This strategy allowed him to live off the land but by the time the British came through he had stripped the area of food. The British were forced to use bearers to carry food, but for long marches, the bearers had to carry their own food too, leaving only 40% of the food for the soldiers.

Strachan has the true British attitude to the non-white troops and bearers. He talks about how the Indians were poorly trained and led and then complains that they were ineffectual. He cavalierly throws out the number of 100K African bearers who died during the war from starvation and disease. This ‘wastage’ was just the ‘cost’ of fighting the war, but may explain why Lettow was well treated by the ‘locals’.

This is a very well documented description of the people and personalities involved (except the Africans) but is very British biased.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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