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4.6 out of 5 stars17
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on 11 June 2000
This book is intended to accompany the television series of the same name and as such is not a "heavyweight" history of the war. It is by necessity brief and concise. However, what it does, it does very well indeed. There are a large number of one volume histories of the war available. These are the books to which most readers looking for an introduction to the Great War will look at first. However, many of these one volume histories, while still relevant as part of the war's historiography, argue views which are heavily influenced by personal politics and are not consistent with much of the excellent research which is being produced today, which is doing something to redress the balance in favour of the much maligned generals. One volume histories which fall into this category include, in my opinion the works of A.J.P. Taylor and B.H. Liddell-Hart, both of which are texts which frequently find their way into the hands of Great War virgins. As someone who falls very much into the camp that would like to look at the war more in terms of military, rather than social, history this book fills the gap in the one volume market nicely. The introduction also provides an excellent section dealing with the historiography of the war, which should be of further use to the novice enthusiast. If you're looking for a one volume history of the war, you could certainly do far worse than to get your sticky little hands on this. If you're looking for a book that deals with the specifics of any particular campaign or aspect of the war, this is not really for you. Also note that it does not deal with fronts other than the Western Front in any detail. Given the title however, I think it can be forgiven this! If you want a one volume introduction to the war which is written in a highly readable, enthusiastic style and which takes into account the latest research, this is the one for you. Try to see the TV series too, if you can. It's top notch. Incidentally, re one of the other reviews, Professor Holmes is now Professor of Security Studies at Cranfield University and is also (he certainly was, I believe he still is) Director, Reserve Forces with the British Army.
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on 9 May 2000
There has been plenty of time since the end of World War 1 for appraisals and only recently have they become more balanced and fair than the ones written before when hate was still in the hearts of many. Holmes book is a brilliant overview of the war written in a manner we have come to expect from this outstanding historian. That it differs so much from the quite trite TV series that it supports, says a lot about the medium.
This is not a detailed description of the war. Rather an overview and a outstandingly fair one. Not only does he carefully discuss the stance taken by many of his colleagues but he also explains things from the German point of view. For many people, World War 1 is some vague happening in the distant past. Few realise that it moulded this century and that we are still experiencing its effects. That interest in the war is increasing is only a good thing and modern fair books like this one are needed now.
As a starting point, one could do no better than Holmes book. My one grizzle is the lack of references.
His chapter on the generals will annoy anyone who still believes the Lions led by donkeys approach, a view thankfully now discredited. It is a fair, accurate and most plausible explanation of the role of the generals that goes a long way to explain why horrors like The Somme were perpetrated.
Frankly I can't wait for him to turn his attention to Gallipoli, that other ignored and vital war zone.
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on 30 April 2014
But then, so are all of Richard Holmes' books. He was a great military historian, who saw service, understood the squaddie, and walked or rode over many military engagements to help him understand the military decisions made in times of conflict.
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on 6 August 2013
A great description, without too much detail. A final chapter about the overall war putting the western front into perspective was very interesting. A sadly missed author.
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on 7 May 2014
If someone should like to read a book about the first world war on the western front you should read this work by Richard Holmes.It is a clear and good understandable work.
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on 6 October 2014
Vey well written and easy to follow.
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on 11 July 2015
A great read with the broad details explained so well as only Richard did. He stands back one pace from the detail (read Peter Barton for this) and paints the broad picture.
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on 5 August 2014
Very good read - worth reading
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on 29 May 2000
Describing Richard Holmes as a 'history buff' is rather like calling David Attenborough a 'plant enthusiast'. Unless I'm very much mistaken, Professor Richard 'history buff' Holmes used to (and still does as far as I know) lecture on military strategy at Sandhurst Military Academy. I think he has a fair of what he's talking about.
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on 9 March 2015
Richard Holmes at this best but it is a huge subject for one book so only an overview.
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