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on 24 September 2014
This has to be one of the best books on WW1 that has been written, it deals with the history but concentrates more on the circumastances for the start of the war and Britain entering the war, and the great industrial impact the war had, how people grew rich helping Britain fund the war, and the implications of running a war that bled this country dry both in terms of the financial cost and the enormous human cost in what was in some cases a pointless futile event, explaining the sacrificial battles that were fought just to appease Britains allies, and also at the inept bungling of the men at the top who sat well behind the lines sending men and boys to die in their thousands.
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on 19 April 2008
This is an excellent read - both in its coverage and the writing itself. It is very readable and also covers aspects of the war that ordinarily are only covered in 'great tomes', such as morale on the battlefields, the press war and the effects on the home fronts.
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on 18 September 2015
This is an excellent political and economic history of WW1 that maintains a disappointing distance from the actual fighting and battles (perhaps much the same as the politicians, diplomats and business leaders of the time). I see from another reviewer that it's original title indicated this, so re-titling the book to appeal to the more general reader is rather dishonest I think.
It is excellent for understanding the strategic imperatives of all belligerent nations as far as good source material exists, which for some countries it doesn't (and I disagree with those reviewers who found it overly Allied biased in it's coverage). However I agree with other reviewers that this is a long and often difficult read, with a great deal of dry and repeated detail of industrial output and diplomatic initiatives (not that these are unimportant, just over emphasised). I also found the writing style confusing at times - better understood if spoken out loud as in a lecture - perhaps this is Stevenson's academic background showing through.
I struggled through this book and although I am now much better informed about the meta-narrative (as one reviewer described it) I do not feel I fully understand the nature of the conflict itself. It is as if I spent the war in cabinet offices and committee meetings and understand little of the military or human aspect, which brings me back to my first sentence.
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on 3 May 2006
Readers should notice that 1914-1918: the History of the First World War (Penguin Press, 2004) is also published by Basic Books (New York) as Cataclysm: the First World War as Political Tragedy.

This book is very good, and gives an analytical and balanced view of the First World War. It must be the best book about the First World War at present. Mr Stevenson has made an interesting divison of the period in his book by focusing on cross-cutting issues in the middle of the war.

It is striking how close Germany was to winning the war if they themselves have not brought the UK and especially the USA in by violating Belgiums territory and with the unrestricted submarine war/Zimmermann telegram respectively. Just when Germany had defeated Russia due to the revolution, she brought the USA into the war. The only which was even more mad was that Hitler repeated the mistake in the Second World War by declaring war on the USA after Pearl Harbor. I think that without the USA in the equation Germany would with all likelihood have prevailed in both world wars.

I can recommend to supplement this reading with Annika Monbauers Helmuth von Moltke and the Origins of the First World War, which shows how the General staff operated in Germany without the same political control as in France for instance, where the chief of the General Staff Joffre had to let go of the idea of a strike through neutral Belgium due to political considerations. I can also very much recommend Nial Fergusons original analysis in The Pity of War, although I do not agree with him that France or Britain would have attacked Belgium without a German attack!
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on 26 May 2014
I have always been a History buff. I thought I knew about this terrible war. I am reading this and seeing a reflection of today. The people who led our nations(ALL). Could have the same names as our MPs. They showed that they didn't respect their own countrymen.The Generals were idiots and our soldiers as usual Brave and undervalued. What a Human waste this was.
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on 24 October 2013
An astonishingly thorough account of WW1 and circumstances before and afterwards.
I am in awe of the authors thoroughness and attention to detail.
I have learned so much from this book which was impossible to put down. How little I knew of this tragic catastrophy.
If you want the most thorough account of this subject then this is the book to read.
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on 3 October 2007
I am an avid reader of military history books. I am afraid I found this book too much like a text book and less like the accessible (but not necessarily dumbed down) history books by the likes of Max Hastings and Antong Beevor. I also didn't like the structure, with chapters analysing different themes, rather than a chronolgical history as the title would suggest. The commentary was in depth and cannot be faulted, I just felt there was too little to make this book accessible to the average reader (as oppossed to a history student), by way of example we have very little in the way of the case studies on individual experiences and specific events which are prevalent in other historical books and I feel help build up a personal understanding of what it was like to be a part of such war.
In summary: not recomended for general consumption or as a history of the war, but a capable and well researched resourse tool for the academic
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on 8 September 2014
Very authoritative and complete, but a *very* hard read. Long complex and convoluted events explained in a long complex and convoluted manner. In the early chapters I had to re-read sentences 5 times. In the end I struggled through and finished it and felt I had definitely learned a lot about WW1 and in that respect give it a 3* rating. I actually found the subject-organised chapters good, to aid analysis of the events (like - how come people [initially] supported the war?). Purely-chronological doesn't always tell you what's behind the events. But given a fresh start, I think I'd try and find a different book
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on 19 July 2016
Overall, a very interesting and in-depth exploration into the events of the First World War. The book takes into account often sidelined aspects of the war, such as commonwealth troop involvement in Turkey, rather than the usual western front focus seen in other books. However, I can only give three stars, if Amazon offered half stars, or quarter stars id give the book 3.75/5 stars, the reason for this is the author's writing style, he often drops names into the book without context, as such it makes the text difficult to follow, and it consumes time having to find out which side they were on. Other instances he refers to individuals simply as they, even though he may be talking about three individuals, it makes following the book rather difficult. Despite this I would thoroughly recommend the book
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on 16 June 2011
When I first bought this book I expected to enjoy reading it:
I prefer to read factual books rather than fiction. I particularly like books about important historical events, and WW1 was certainly an important event.
I dislike modern history writers' preference to concentrate on the personal side of things, or the view of the world event from some ordinary person. And this book thankfully does not have one single reference to any letter from a low ranking soldier to his girl back home, or any reminisces about past times from some now-elderly industrial worker.
Finally I like to read about all the aspects of a war's history; how it began, how it continued, and what was the aftermath. I like to hear the economic, technological, and political aspects, in addition to just the military campaigning. Yet again this book seems to fulfil all these requirements.
So this book should have been perfect for me. But it wasn't.

The book starts very promisingly, with a good chapter on how the war began. But after that it lurches around the timeline in some attempt to discuss various different points under several collective subsections.
Repeated references are made to different battles, treaties, memorandums and character's actions. Sometimes these events have been vaguely referenced earlier in the book, sometimes they will be touched upon later. Or sometimes it is assumed that the reader already knows everything about such 'well known' events as the Balfour Declaration, or the Chantilly agreements, and no further description is necessary?
But unless you want to use the asterisks with chapter references at the bottom of many pages to jump about the chapters almost as much as the author has jumped around WW1, then you will need to have a very good memory.

After struggling through this rambling narrative, and even stooping as low as skipping forward several pages in the middle, I am at last nearing the end of my literary ordeal. Only a couple more chapters...
And I'm starting to realise exactly why this book doesn't impress me: it's that it doesn't actually cover the war! It actually goes too far into the economic and political areas, while seeming to assume that the reader already knows all about the war. But even then it's not much use, as the author also thinks the reader also already knows a good bit about the economic / political aspects too.

So if you are a student of history who maybe wants to particularly specialise in WW1, then this book will be for you.
Alternately, if the last 3 books you read were all on WW1 and you have a fairly complete recall of all 3 books, then you will also find that this book will be a useful augment to your already substantial knowledge of the subject.
But if you just randomly bought the book because it looked like a good way to get a general history of the events surrounding WW1, then you will probably be left unfulfilled, confused, and disappointed like me.
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