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The First World War Paperback – 10 Oct 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (10 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409102793
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409102793
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 3.8 x 17.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 382,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Written by one of our generation's most respected historians, it charts the Great War from its inception with a rigorous attention to dates, facts and statistics but coloured in with human perspective and poetry (BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH)

Book Description

'One of the first books that anyone should read in beginning to try to understand this war and this century' New York Times Book Review

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Format: Paperback
Many works have been published on WW1. What makes this one different is that all fronts are given detailed treatment, not just the Western front, but also the Eastern, Italian, Palestine, Mesopotanian, Salonica, Gallipoli, East Africa, the naval front, and to a certain extent the air war. The Pacific front is mentioned but not really covered. Gilbert attempts to personalise the war by filling the history with personal anecdotes, and this succeeds to an extent. You will not find a survey of what motivated millions of young men to sign up, but you will find the comments of one or two of them on the subject. The book is written without bias, although most of the material describes the Entente side. The political issues are well analysed, although military issues are barely considered. Breakthroughs just happen, with no further explanation. You will not guess from the book that tanks were present at Paschendaele, or indeed were prone to sinking in the mud. You will never read about German use of tanks, although you will see the statistic that the Germans built a tenth of the tanks that the Entente built. Blame for the war is laid firmly at the door of Austria, although the part played by their Chief of Staff in all this is barely mentioned. In conclusion, a good primer in that it is all-encompassing. Not much here however for the specialist, although uniquely the book shows the war also from the point of view of both European and Palestinian Jewry.
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Format: Paperback
Martin Gilbert impresses me with his knowledge of WWI. He has absolutely written the definitive history of the war from a British viewpoint. This massive book is filled with extracts from British diaries, letters from the British soldiers at the frontline and details about British policymakers. But hardly a word about the thoughts and feelings in the German, Austrian or Russian trenches. A look at Gilbert's source material explains why. They are all in english, not one book in German or Russian. Hardly appropriate for a book who claims to be the definitive history of WW1.
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By John Ferngrove TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
While Martin Gilbert is clearly writing from a position of huge erudition and learning, the structure of the book is such, in my humble opinion, that it is unclear what his exact purpose is. On the one hand he is trying to paint the big picture, detailing all the intricacies of the various fronts of the war, even introducing fronts that I didn't know or had forgotten were there, such as those of Salonica or Libya. On the other hand he is trying to leaven it with the personal experiences of soldiers on the ground. And while we do get some sort of cross section of the experiences of combatants from the various participant nations, by far the largest preponderance of these are of the British experience on the Western Front. One is thus left with the impression that Gilbert was not sure if he was writing a big picture overview of the whole war, as the book's title would suggest, or an account of the Brish experience on the Western front. Thus I can understand why some reviewers feel the account is anglocentrically biased.

Futheremore, the way these aspects are interleaved - big picture narrative interspersed with personal anecdote - is managed in such a way that gives a somewhat fragmentary reading experience. I recently read an account of the WWII pacific war, Rising Sun (Military Classics) by John Toland, who managed to achieve the same goal much more effectively, by telling the big picture story through narrative accounts of individuals from all ranks and backgrounds in the theatre. So, I know that what Gilbert wanted to do can be done. I just don't think he achieves it here.
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By A Customer on 2 April 2006
Format: Paperback
This is certainly one of the finest single-volume histories of the First World War that I have read: concise, clear and comprehensive. I recommend it most highly both for content and readability. It covers land sea and air, the home fronts, all the fighting forces, the high commands, and the fighting men. A paricularly welcome feature of this excellent book are the stories of individuals. It is indeed a true masterpiece of the historian's craft.
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Format: Paperback
This is narrative history at its best. It covers events chronologically, moving from front to front, but without awkward breaks. The coverage is military and political but also the human dimension, with many stories of individual tragedy, horror and heroism. This will stay with me for a long time. The only slight downer is the maps, which are all at the end of the book, unrelated to the narrative and not terribly clear.
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Format: Paperback
The first edition of this book was badly let down by blatant errors such as HMS Hampshire sunk by torpedoes when she actually hit a mine. The book is probably fine for a reader who wants a taste of what happend in those cataclysmic years but the serious student will find it lacking
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Format: Paperback
This is a great history boook, one of the definitive histories of the great war. Very detailed and very accessible.

I msut have read a different book to the some of the critics on here, GIlbert has gone to great lenghths to write about other fronts and areas where the war was fought and what was going on. For example I remember a paragraph about a British Pacific island being visited by a German warship early in the war. The people on the island were so isolated and remote they werent aware of the war and had helped the warship with supplies, unthinkable in our world of instant varied communication. They are loads of stories like this from the Russian Front, the Italinan front, the war in China, Africa, the Pacific, the USA and of course the Western front.

This is great narrative history. I would give it 10 stars.
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