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The First World War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Kindle Edition]

Michael Howard
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book 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.

Product Description


Review from previous editionReview from previous edition succinct, comprehensive and beautifully written. Indeed reading it is an experience comparable to scanning the clues of a well-composed crossword puzzle. Every allusion is eventually supplied with an answer, and the finished product defies the puzzler's disbelief that the intricacies can be brought to a convincing conclusion. . . . Michael Howard is the master of the short book (TLS)

Howard expertly and succintly summarizes the Great War for the layperson... volume is an excellent way to get a grounding in this momentous subject (Forbes Global 21/03/03)

an enlightened idea to produce a very short account of the great war - a page per month - . . . . But if, in 2014, bright schoolchildren, their brains putified by GCSE, get around to asking what the first world war was about, Howard's book will be very valuable. (The Times, Culture)

Professor Sir Michael Howard, . . ., is our best living military historian, and perhaps also strategic thinker. His new work is a masterly introduction to the Great War, desgined for those with no previous knowldge of the subject. . . . Any new student who reads Michael Howard should go on to address the first volume of Hew Strachan's huge new work on the same theme. There is great wisdom in both books, and wisdom on this subject is in short supply. (Sunday Telegraph)

About the Author

Sir Michael Howard CH is Emeritus Professor of Modern History at both Oxford and Yale Universities. His many books include The Causes of Wars, War in European History, The Lessons of History, The Invention of Peace, The Oxford History of the Twentieth Century (edited with W. R. Louis), War and the Liberal Conscience, The Franco-Prussian War (Duff Cooper Memorial Prize) and Grand Strategy, vol. iv in The UK Official History of the Second World War.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 740 KB
  • Print Length: 134 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 Jan. 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0061ADIES
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #156,942 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise and precise 14 Aug. 2002
By A Customer
It takes someone who really understands their subject to be able to write sparingly and still make the reader think. We all know the essence of this, the most horrid of wars. Gas, shells, machine guns, senseless offensives - we all have a vile image of trenches. Unlike other writers, Howard does not set out to alter this image. This book is an introduction to the military history of the war. The Eastern Front, Gallipoli, the war at sea are all covered and a truly global image emerges of powers pouring their lifeblood into a conflict that showed little sign of abating. This is the essence of the war. Howard shows how German victories on both the Eastern Front at the start of the war, and the Western Front at the end of the war, could not achieve the Clausewitzian victory of the Franco-Prussian war. He shows how dogged Allied tactical problem solving, especially in artillery support, and mobilisation of resources, especially in America, enabled the victors to press on to final victory. This was total war, this was grinding, grueling, starving, industrial war, won by deep pockets and sheer determination. This is the introduction to Strachan's in depth study. This is the book that anyone interested in the Twentieth Century should read. This is distilled historical thought.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, reliable, engaging introduction 11 Oct. 2004
By A Customer
If you know nothing of WW1 then this surely is the place to start. Howard's introduction is masterful. Given the fearful complexity of the origins, course and outcome of the War he manages to make his text remarkably accessible. I chewed over many new components. Given the sparseness of the book (30,000 words), it is also impressive that manages to make it truly moving (sacrifice, misery and disaster all round) while not getting bogged down either in the `war poet vision' or the historiographical controversies.
I strongly recommend it. I wonder if he could do the same with WW2? Or has he?
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jewel of a Book 16 May 2006
This book is mesmerising. Brief, passionate, brilliant. The author describes all the main events, political changes and battles in a simple but effective manner.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise but highly readable and informative 29 Jun. 2008
For a book as compact as this, Howard does quite an enviable task of outlining the 'Great War' (as it was know to it's combatants). In fact, calling it an outline, or indeed 'very short', does it a minor disservice. Howard doesn't leave anything substantial out or waste any pages with discussion of the trivial. The end impression given is of a historian trying to let the grand events speak for themselves.

After reading the book I felt not only that it had given me a better grasp of the chronology and general outline of the war, but also answers to some of the key questions.
Why, despite the fact that only 10 years earlier war with France (again) seemed the likelier, conflict with Germany was eventually unavoidable given the clumsy diplomacy of Bismark's successors.
Why the morale of the German army and of the home front crumbled despite the vast (yet brief) empire in the east gained by the defeat of Russia.
And why, because of French and (suprisingly) American insistance upon a harsh peace, the rise of Hitler was inevitable and the carnage repeated on a still grander scale, ony 20 years later.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Possibly a bit too short 2 Jan. 2012
By James H
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If, like me, you have little understanding of the causes and development of the Great War, this is an excellent primer and an easy read. It assumes minimal knowledge on the part of the reader and by the time you reach the end of the book you will have a good overview of the dreadful events of 1914-1918. This being a short introduction, I was left feeling I needed to know more about certain aspects but that is the point of the book.
My only real criticism is that the book contains a number of photographs which are not particularly interesting or relevant but no maps or plans of the battles, particularly on the Western Front, which I would have found useful in understanding the tactics being employed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific introduction to a complex history.... 9 Jun. 2009
Michael Howard's introduction is so well-paced, well-written, and accessible, that within the first twenty pages, he provides a gripping and balanced description of the factors involved in leading Europe, and then the World, to war. He then elaborates on the conflict itself, touching not just on the politics, but upon the practical issues like troop numbers, available technology, and finance, as well as the cultural and ethnic dimensions of the relationships between the various empires and nations and their changing alliances. This really is an absorbing way to get a background on the subject, thoroughly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for the beginner 27 Jan. 2010
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is by Michael Howard the historian, not the Conservative politician. It is a good, concise, though rather bland, account of events leading up to and during the conflicts that came to be known as the Great War and `the war to end all wars' at the time. Of course it didn't, partly but not wholly, because of the terms of the peace that exacerbated German feelings of beleaguerement at its end.

No country comes out of this account with much credit but Germany emerges as a country whose reactions were distorted by the enormous hubris that permeated its leadership.

This is a good introduction to the subject, but there is much more to the detail of the war not given space here. It gives some good statistics, showing which armies failed and where, and recounts why some battles were won and not others. It does not go into events in much detail, but then it didn't set out to do that. It is, nevertheless, remarkable for the clarity and even-handedness it brings to such a hideously clouded and difficult subject
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I've read a few of these Very Short Introductions now ...
I've read a few of these Very Short Introductions now and have found that while they provide quite a bit of information on what happened they are a bit light on the "why"... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars The First World War: A Very Short Introduction
Part of the Oxford very short introductions series, this topical book is an excellent pocket sized reference book and summary of the war. Read more
Published 3 months ago by SilentSinger
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good introduction
Along with the Osprey series for Kindle, these Very Short Introductions offer an excellent way for the general reader or student to gain an overview of the topic in question -... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Chuck E
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise but still detailed. Readable and explains motives and feeling...
I found this an excellent overview of the First World War. Very readable and well edited, I was impressed with the amount of detail such a slim volume could hold. Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. Clinch
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic introduction to WW1
Fantastic introduction to WW1. I literally knew nothing about it. This book introduces you to the war, what happened, who was involved, and any 'Whys? Read more
Published 4 months ago by SuPeRsOnIc
4.0 out of 5 stars The First World: A Very Short Introduction
This is a short and concise introduction to the First World War, as we have come to expect from these VSI books. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Spider Monkey
5.0 out of 5 stars The place to start in order to understand a complicated and horrible...
The turn of the twentieth century seems to have bben a complicated period with emergent tensions from new sources and increasing tensions between the usual suspects. Read more
Published 4 months ago by gerryg
5.0 out of 5 stars Factual and not too short
If you want a brief breakdown of World War 1, then this is ideal. At just over 120 pages it is certainly not an "executive summary". Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ross Boardman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great collection of books, this one does not disappoint.
Published 5 months ago by Chris
4.0 out of 5 stars Thankfully, Unlike the War Itself
Thankfully, unlike the war itself this guide to the First World War is both short and achieves its aims. Read more
Published 9 months ago by JohnCarr
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