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The First World War: An Illustrated History (Penguin Books) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Contrary to what some have said, it is not primarily a diatribe against the generals. Taylor may not especially like them (how many do, aside from the late John Terraine?), but his verdict on Haig, in particular, is fair and even generous, especially for the time of writing
"He was a master of railway timetables, deploying divisions as skilfully as any general of his time. His strategical judgements were sound within the framework of the Western front, though he lacked the technical means for carrying them to success until almost the end of the war. - - - Haig had to do what he did, and, though he did not succeed, no one better was found to take his place."
Not a bad epitaph, especially compared to some others Haig has received.
Taylor is tougher on the politicians, who were, after all, in ultimate charge. He records how Joffre had sensibly decided to evacuate Verdun, only to be overruled by Briand. There are many verbal gems, notably his description of the Zimmermann note as "a bright idea such as only a Foreign Office could conceive".
On some points, his prejudices have been toned down, so that emaciated "victims of Allied intervention in Russia" in the first edition became "Victims of civil war in Russia" in the next and finally just "War and famine in Russia" in the paperback. But some still shine through. In particular, Lloyd George is an exception to his low opinion of the political leadership.Read more ›
Taylor's book has attained quite a scholarly following in history circles. It is well researched, very accurate in detail and well written. His viewpoints are quite thought provoking but they do mirror quite accurately the viewpoints of modern historians. Some may disagree with this comment but after doing a modern history degree three years ago, the subject matter I read for this period did not detract that much from Taylor's viewpoints. I was actually surprised to find this so seeing as the book is around thirty plus years old and if there was a conflict of detail between Taylor's book and my course material then it certainly provoked a stimulating but often inconclusive debate!
I would say that overall Taylor's book is a classic of its time; it's a great read full of interesting detail about all aspects of the First World War I enjoyed it immensely but I would point out that you would be best put to read other history books covering this period for a better comparative understanding of the period.
What nobody seems to have mentioned, though, is that this is not a purpose-written history of WWI; it is made up of excerpts from Taylor's general history of Britain 1914-45, profusely illustrated with photographs of the conflict. It would be foolish, therefore, to expect anything other than a patchy, impressionistic treatment. Nevertheless, this is a perfectly good short introduction to the subject, well-written, with plenty of Taylor's trademark insights. A thousand times better than those cop-out 'histories' so common today, which are no more than bits of primary sources strung together.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If only we'd had books like this for history at school! AJPT writes beautifully. It's crisp, entertaining account that gives a clear outline of the main issues, tactics, alliances... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ignorant Bystander
Very well supplied and a historian short in statement gets to the centre of the issue.Published 16 months ago by alan dennis berridge
A seminal and highly readable account in Taylors' unique style. I used to have the original hardback which was excellent - this reprint is in smaller type, and both that and the... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Julian Oxley
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