Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
on 7 January 2015
Pardon me if I eulogise a bit. I've read a great many history books down the years, and a very large proportion of those are on, or around, the topic of WWI. This is one of the best I have ever read. As you would expect from the IWM, the production quality is impeccable, the writing too is of the highest standard.
There have been "Battlefield" books before. This is unique, in that its core is panoramic photographs, taken by both sides for intelligence & planning purposes, of the battlefields, often from near-front line positions. It also utilises a large number of maps, so that you can easily make sense of what you are looking at & where it was. It does not merely confine itself to that. It is also heavily illustrated with many ordinary photo's, the vast majority of which I have never seen before, I am delighted to say. The ordinary photo's range from the small to full- and double-page spreads and, frankly, this book puts one or two that claim to be "Illustrated" histories to shame!
As for the text, this also has an unusual flavour to it. Before coming to the battlefields themselves, the author takes the trouble to explain the geography of the Western Front, how photography in warfare developed, who was taking the photo's and how. After that, the book works its way, more or less North to South, across the front held by the British, sector by sector; within chapters, feature by feature. Throughout, a good deal of eye-witness testimony is used, much of it from the Royal Engineers (including Tunnelling Companies), who rarely feature in more mainstream histories. Finally, there is the DVD, which includes all of the panoramas referred to in the book. As you might expect, these are arranged by chapter & are fully zoomable.
It really is rather hard to find anything negative to say about this at all, but I'll try... Simple limitations of space means that not all of the panoramas are printed in the book, which is a minor nuisance, as is the fact that detail is inevitably lost, for the same reason. You can read the book not in conjunction with the DVD, but it makes more sense to use both together. It would also have been a nice addition if a zoomable library of all of the ordinary photo's had been included on the DVD. There are more than a few that I would have liked to have been able to look at in greater detail than the book permits.
And that really is as much as I can find to criticise. This book, in my opinion, really is close to being nonpareil - without equal!