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Great Britain's Great War Hardcover – 3 Oct 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 215 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (3 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670919616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670919611
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (215 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 122,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


He writes so well and sympathetically, and chooses his detail so deftly, that if there is one new history of the war that you might actually enjoy from the very large centennial selection this is very likely it (The Times)

A fine introduction to the part Britain played in the first of the worst two wars in history. The writing is lively and the detail often surprising and memorable (Guardian)

Incisive, colourful. Paxman delves into every aspect of British life to capture the mood and morale of the nation - from the corridors of power to the factory shop floor (Daily Express ****)

Clever, laconic and racy. Paxman gets the balance right between political, military, economic and cultural points of view. There is a judicious mix between individual stories and the 'bigger picture' ... a book that engages the minds and emotions (Telegraph)

A procession of fascinating details ... he narrates with brio ... conveys the texture of the times ... write[s] with clarity and sympathy (Spectator)

Paxman is particularly good ... in showing how much a modern perspective distorts our understanding ... summarises well how class barriers were shattered ... refreshingly combative in arguing that the war was not futile (Prospect)

Mixing pragmatism with sardonic observation ... one is left with a better understanding of how the Great Britain that began the war became more like ordinary Britain, shorn of global power and prestige, by its end (Sunday Times)

A beautifully lucid account of the impact of the first World War on the British way of life . . . Blends anecdote with cold fact to create a picture not merely of what happened but also of how it felt to those involved (Irish Times)

About the Author

Jeremy Paxman is a renowned broadcaster, award-winning journalist and the bestselling author of seven works of non-fiction, including The English, The Political Animal and Empire.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Realy enjoyed this book, I have not read many WW1 books, this made me think about how we percieved the war then and now. Very moving as well when thinking about how many lost their lives. This is one of the few books that is able to informatively talk about statistics and facts whilst never loosing the sensitivity of the lives that were lost. Really moving and informative book.
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By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 22 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The year 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW1, or "The Great War", as it was known til another world war came along and gave "The Great War" a different title, this one with a numeral. British writer and newsman, Jeremy Paxman, has written a wonderful book on the British participation in the war. It is only available in the US in its Kindle form at the price of $28.99, which seems excessive to me, so I ordered the real book copy from Amazon/UK for 13BP ($20) plus shipping, which was cheaper than the Kindle copy. But no matter in what form you read it, Jeremy Paxman's book, "Great Britain's Great War" is well worth reading.

As a long-time history buff and voracious reader of history, I've long thought that some of the best history books are those whose authors take a small "bite" off the larger pie and present a slice of history. Now it may mean more reading to learn the whole picture with this approach, but the books that are written this way represent an excellent method of learning history. Jeremy Paxman takes the period of 1914 to 1918 (and a bit later) and examines the war and the effect it had on Britain and the colonies (later the Commonwealth countries). Using the scattered-but-written-as-part-of-a-whole style, he writes about the war in both political and military terms. He highlights both the Battle of the Somme and the Gallipoli campaign as examples of wrong-headed military tactics, compounded by bone-headed political decisions. He is particularly scathing about the usually stupid military commanders, who "lead from the rear" as young men - both officers and enlisted men - are sent into enemy fire as lambs sent to slaughter.

But while concentrating on the political and military aspects of WW1, Paxman doesn't neglect the "Home Front".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having watched the tv series I followed up with the book which I have found very readable, probably because it is both a social and military history rather than just concentrating on the military side. It does bring home how the concept of duty, which was so evident at the time, has long disappeared.
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By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 3 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
As the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War draws near, we will see a flood of books about it, and Jeremy Paxman has got in early with this vivid account, in under 300 pages, of Britain's part in it. In his Introduction he writes that for us the Great War is as far distant from us as the Battle of Waterloo was from the men who joined up in 1914, that as a result many of us make the false assumptions that we understand it, and that we look at it through the eyes of our society rather than through those of that generation. I am not sure that this is entirely true, even of those who, like Paxman, were born five years after the end of the Second World War. I think the UNDERSTANDING of the First World War, and the accounts here of the politics and of the campaigns, would be fairly familiar to anybody who is interested in the history of the time. But Paxman has a point when he shows that the widespread present JUDGMENT that the World War I was a "pointless" waste of lives was not shared by the men who were prepared to sacrifice themselves or by their women folk who saw them going to war.

The considerable value of Paxman's book lies, in my opinion, not so much in seeing that war once more in its original perspective as in his own characteristic mixture of sympathy and sardonic observations, but above all in the many details he has culled from his source material. One early example: "postmen resigned their jobs rather than face the sight of yet another family in tears" as they received the dreaded telegram announcing the death of one of their loved ones.
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Format: Hardcover
Jeremy Paxman isn't well known as a First World War academic. In fact, Jeremy Paxman isn't a First World War academic at all. Nevertheless, he has turned his attention to the First World War, presumably to commemorate (or cash in) on the centenary of the conflict. As you might expect of a book by a journalist (no doubt heavily supported by a researcher), there isn't anything particularly new here. However, it is easy to sniff at a work by a 'celebrity' historian and damn it just because he dared to write it. This is actually a decent account - Paxman has collected many examples of British experiences during the war and synthesised them into a very readable account of the First World War from a British perspective. If you want new research or a bit more detail, go with one of the academic historians. But for a popular social history of the First World War, this is a good choice.
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