It is sometimes difficult to comprehend the scale of the Great War: millions upon millions of men fought and tens of millions died on battle-fronts spanning whole countries, with every major power sharing some of the bloodshed. Marc Ferro's excellent book explores the political causes of the war, the nature of the combat itself, and the effect the war had on the societies that continued to exist (and change) behind the frontline. It is an an academic book, full of detail and sharp analysis, but one that by virtue of its clarity can be fully appreciated by the general reader.
'The Great War' contains both overview and close-focus: big questions (the changing attitudes to merchant shipping and convoys, for example) sit alongside more personal details (there are several accounts of conditions in the trenches that evoke the horror of the time). Ferro does not set out to write a blow-by-blow account of the battles, but rather to re-examine the war from a new perspective, and there is an emphasis (the book was originally published in the '60s) on social and economic history. As you might expect, the book is structured thematically, but much of the information is communicated in concise narratve bursts that explain clearly the key historical sequences.
This is an eye-opening and readable history, perfect for anyone with an interest in fresh analyses of this subject.