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1914-1918: The History of the First World War (Allen Lane History) Hardcover – 2 Sep 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (2 Sept. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713992085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713992083
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 4.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 404,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


' the most thorough account of the war human hand has yet assembled' -- Sunday Times, September 2004

'Stevenson is as sane and sure a guide as the discriminating reader will find' -- Telegraph, 4th September, 2003

'this history of the 1914-1918 conflict surpasses all others. It is tough, erudit and comprehensive' -- Independent, 3rd September, 2004

About the Author

David Stevenson is Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I thought this a magnificent book. Its 600 pages are written in crystal clear English, covering the political, economic and military aspects of the War. The major campaigns of this global conflict are all well described, as is life on the home fronts of the Allies and the Central Powers. The origins are well described, while the chapters on the aftermath are particularly helpful. I recommend it strongly to those wishing to read a comprehensive history of the conflict for the first time, while those who have read other works on the War will find many new perspectives here. This book is superb value.
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Format: Paperback
If you think that the European powers stumbled into the Great War by accident; that the generals were numbskulls who learned nothing from the slaughter on the Somme or at Verdun; or that the sudden collapse of Germany in 1918 owed little to British and French efforts, then read this book and think again.

This is a superb history of World War One, clearly written and comprehensive in its scope. Stevenson is clear that the origins of the war were not accidental. Politicians on both sides had choices and they chose war or the threat of war as preferable to the alternatives. In particular Austria-Hungary and Germany wanted a war in the Balkans and were willing to risk its escalation into a general European war.

This isn't a purely military history, although there are enough military details to understand why in the central years of the war defence usually prevailed over attack and neither side was able to achieve a decisive breakthrough on the Western Front. Stephenson shows how military tactics evolved on both sides and while the new weapons of tanks, gas and aircraft played a part, the decisive innovations were in the co-ordination of artillery with infantry.

Stevenson shows how the Allies were able to mobilise their greater economic resources and enforce the blockade of Germany and translate these into a military superiority that was able to absorb the Ludendorff offensives in early 1918 and then break the German resistance in Flanders. In this, the repeated willingness of Germany to risk all on further military initiatives brought about its own defeat. The decision to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917 brought the USA into the war. The 1918 offensives broke the German army while ultimately failing to break the Allies.

This is an impressive book that changed my views on the origins and conduct of the war.
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Format: Paperback
This was the first serious book on WWI that I read. It should be made clear, as I think another reviewer bemoans, that this is not a chronological military history, but rather a 'meta'-historical account that examines the war from various perspectives running orthogonal to the timeline. So we come to understand the social, economic, industrial and political dimensions of the war.

I give it five stars because it exploded so many of the pre-conceptions I had held about the war. In the 60s & 70s when I was doing my O-level history at school the wisdom imparted was that WWI was a misery inflicted upon the masses by an uncaring ruling class. I now understand that none of the belligerent populations (with the complex exception of Russia) would have tolerated capitulation by their governments. I learned how Lloyd George as minister of munitions transformed Britain's munitions industry (that was making more duds than effectives) from a haphazard and rather ineffectual club of gentleman industrialists into a unified system of mass production that put Britain back into the fight. We learn about decisive technological and strategic failures and the decisive strategic and technological successes.

One of the most interesting chapters is the final one that deals with the history of Germany's war guilt. Once more the wisdom taught in my schooldays was that Germany was the unequivocal villain in the whole tragedy. But we find in this chapter that there was a long and complex story that lead up to Germany accepting this mantle that was actually encouraged by its more straightforward culpability for WWII. And that the story might yet take another twist as modern Germany starts to examine the origins afresh.
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Format: Paperback
1914-1918: The History of the First World War

I bought this book knowing nothing much about the First World War. I had heard of the Somme, Ypres, Passchendale, but not much else. I knew its beginnings originated with the assassination of the archduke in Serbia, but not how that came to start such a massive conflict or why it lasted so long.

I now feel that I have a much better understanding of these and so many other elements of the war in what is a fantastically detailed and well-researched book. It includes all the stages of the war; from the reasons for the start, major phases in the war when the Central Powers were in the ascendancy, the Russian withdrawal and the involvement of America, through to the after-effects on world politics and economics.

However, for a first read about such a major episode it was too detailed with many facts and figures about the number of shells fired/produced etc. This is not to detract from the book which is excellent, it is just to say that, if, like me, you know very little about the First World War, then perhaps you will find this book a little heavy going and difficult to read.

That said, I will be keeping hold of the book so that I can go over sections of it now I have a better general understanding of the war, its major characters, the politics and battles.
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