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The First World War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 25 Jan 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (25 Jan. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199205590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199205592
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.5 x 11.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 36,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Review from previous editionReview from previous edition succinct, comprehensive and beautifully written. Indeed reading it is an experience comparable to scanning the clues of a well-composed crossword puzzle. Every allusion is eventually supplied with an answer, and the finished product defies the puzzler's disbelief that the intricacies can be brought to a convincing conclusion. . . . Michael Howard is the master of the short book (TLS)

Howard expertly and succintly summarizes the Great War for the layperson... volume is an excellent way to get a grounding in this momentous subject (Forbes Global 21/03/03)

an enlightened idea to produce a very short account of the great war - a page per month - . . . . But if, in 2014, bright schoolchildren, their brains putified by GCSE, get around to asking what the first world war was about, Howard's book will be very valuable. (The Times, Culture)

Professor Sir Michael Howard, . . ., is our best living military historian, and perhaps also strategic thinker. His new work is a masterly introduction to the Great War, desgined for those with no previous knowldge of the subject. . . . Any new student who reads Michael Howard should go on to address the first volume of Hew Strachan's huge new work on the same theme. There is great wisdom in both books, and wisdom on this subject is in short supply. (Sunday Telegraph)

About the Author

Sir Michael Howard CH is Emeritus Professor of Modern History at both Oxford and Yale Universities. His many books include The Causes of Wars, War in European History, The Lessons of History, The Invention of Peace, The Oxford History of the Twentieth Century (edited with W. R. Louis), War and the Liberal Conscience, The Franco-Prussian War (Duff Cooper Memorial Prize) and Grand Strategy, vol. iv in The UK Official History of the Second World War.


Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 14 Aug. 2002
Format: Hardcover
It takes someone who really understands their subject to be able to write sparingly and still make the reader think. We all know the essence of this, the most horrid of wars. Gas, shells, machine guns, senseless offensives - we all have a vile image of trenches. Unlike other writers, Howard does not set out to alter this image. This book is an introduction to the military history of the war. The Eastern Front, Gallipoli, the war at sea are all covered and a truly global image emerges of powers pouring their lifeblood into a conflict that showed little sign of abating. This is the essence of the war. Howard shows how German victories on both the Eastern Front at the start of the war, and the Western Front at the end of the war, could not achieve the Clausewitzian victory of the Franco-Prussian war. He shows how dogged Allied tactical problem solving, especially in artillery support, and mobilisation of resources, especially in America, enabled the victors to press on to final victory. This was total war, this was grinding, grueling, starving, industrial war, won by deep pockets and sheer determination. This is the introduction to Strachan's in depth study. This is the book that anyone interested in the Twentieth Century should read. This is distilled historical thought.
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Format: Paperback
If you know nothing of WW1 then this surely is the place to start. Howard's introduction is masterful. Given the fearful complexity of the origins, course and outcome of the War he manages to make his text remarkably accessible. I chewed over many new components. Given the sparseness of the book (30,000 words), it is also impressive that manages to make it truly moving (sacrifice, misery and disaster all round) while not getting bogged down either in the `war poet vision' or the historiographical controversies.
I strongly recommend it. I wonder if he could do the same with WW2? Or has he?
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Format: Paperback
This book is mesmerising. Brief, passionate, brilliant. The author describes all the main events, political changes and battles in a simple but effective manner.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Part of the Oxford very short introductions series, this topical book is an excellent pocket sized reference book and summary of the war. It investigates the causes, general conduct of, and outcomes of the arguably the seminal event in the twentieth century. In a well trodden path, Michael Howard has created a book that looks both at the general scope of the conflict, but also provides detail and, could we say, humour (if not somewhat ironic) about the war. He covers both the eastern and western campaigns (the former normally neglected in many accounts of the war), as well as the side campaigns in the Middle East and Dardenelles, theItalian campaign, the war at sea, and the effect of the war on the civilian fronts, both allied and central powers. The text moves effortlessly and cogently between the different campaigns, and joins them together in a way that is both informative and able to hold your attention. Whilst I would have to say that I learned nothing startingly new from the book itself (although again impressed by the emphasis given on the eastern campaigns), and given that it reiteratates many of the arguments that are now common stock amongst historians of the period, as a précis of the war itself, I think you couldn’t do better than get this book, particularly if you are new to the war or are starting out on your historical studies.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
For a book as compact as this, Howard does quite an enviable task of outlining the 'Great War' (as it was know to it's combatants). In fact, calling it an outline, or indeed 'very short', does it a minor disservice. Howard doesn't leave anything substantial out or waste any pages with discussion of the trivial. The end impression given is of a historian trying to let the grand events speak for themselves.

After reading the book I felt not only that it had given me a better grasp of the chronology and general outline of the war, but also answers to some of the key questions.
Why, despite the fact that only 10 years earlier war with France (again) seemed the likelier, conflict with Germany was eventually unavoidable given the clumsy diplomacy of Bismark's successors.
Why the morale of the German army and of the home front crumbled despite the vast (yet brief) empire in the east gained by the defeat of Russia.
And why, because of French and (suprisingly) American insistance upon a harsh peace, the rise of Hitler was inevitable and the carnage repeated on a still grander scale, ony 20 years later.
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Format: Paperback
Michael Howard's introduction is so well-paced, well-written, and accessible, that within the first twenty pages, he provides a gripping and balanced description of the factors involved in leading Europe, and then the World, to war. He then elaborates on the conflict itself, touching not just on the politics, but upon the practical issues like troop numbers, available technology, and finance, as well as the cultural and ethnic dimensions of the relationships between the various empires and nations and their changing alliances. This really is an absorbing way to get a background on the subject, thoroughly recommended.
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