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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 March 2012
As a history this book will have some limitations - new research, new views on the leadership of the various campaigns (especially Haig,who has had a bit of a improvement in his ratings of late) and the fact that we are increasingly removed from the concerns,effects and people associated with the first great war,have made Taylor's tome less regarded then it was in past times. For all that the book is an enjoyable introduction to the subject- good humored -a little too cynical in places perhaps,well written- but pacy and rounded out with some very interesting illustrations.

My only gripe with Taylor's view is that it tends to forget that Statesmen and Generals alike operated on very limited information.Also,for all of them,the experience of mass mechanized,fast transit warfare was a completely novel phenomenon. Most European nations had undertaken colonial adventures where their armies pitted themselves against inferior opposition,but the Great War was something different.Taylor is rather critical of the military, but was the alternative to attrition and entrenchment? After all most bright ideas such as the Dardanelles ended in embarrassing failure. I would like to have understood a little more about how Germany became an economic powerhouse , why she wanted her 'place in the sun' and also why it was the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were so weak and unready for war.

Taylor is excellent on issues relating war aims (made up as the combatants went along!),the collapse of the Russian war effort and the negotiated aftermath. It's a broad based history, looking at social,political and economic issues as well as military,so if some of the writers seem a bit sweeping or superficial, perhaps he can be rightly excused. Even so,recommended read.
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on 28 October 2000
AJP Taylor was considered one of the giants of the British historical community. He is the one historian just about every GCSE pupil will have heard of, largely as his works seem to be the most widely quoted in school history text books on the Great War. Which is a shame in a way. Taylor's strength was never in running with the pack. His great strength, a strength that is still present in his works if read today, is that by their controversial nature they stimulated debate. That pretty fairly sums up the appeal of this book. It is a typical product of the 1960s/70s school of Great war historiography. The generals are butchers, the soldiers are dewey eyed, forelock touching innocents sent trotting off to their deaths by unfeeling idiots. The debate has since moved on. Plus, if you are looking for an account of the war in MILITARY terms, this is not the one for you. It's strengths lie in the spheres of social and political history. On the plus side, Taylor's writing style is entertaining and drily witty. The text is enhanced by the addition of a number of photographs scattered throughout the book (many of these include explanatory captions, a further opportunity for Taylor to exercise some rather wry humour. "Lloyd George casts an expert eye over munitions girls"... Well quite.). It is an easy read and very accessible for a Great War novice or younger student. Go into it with your eyes open and take it for what it is - a product of it's times and it's somewhat idiosyncratic author - and there is a lot to be gained from this book. It is an excellent stimulus for debate. Just be sure to read more widely because this gives a very personal and outdated picture. If you only ever read one history of the Great War DON'T make it this one!
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on 12 February 2014
I have been a devotee of The Great War for many years and have read shed-loads about it. From complicated explanations of why it begun through to excessive details about battles on the western front that were fought by heroic men under the direction of stubborn, bordering upon stupid, generals, that cost thousands upon thousand of lives, all of which ended as stalemates. I knew of AJP Taylor’s book but never got around to reading it until now. In my very limited experience, Taylor was one of the finest historians of the 20th century blessed with a unique ability to tell it as it is. This book, written by a man blessed with enormous common sense, is an excellent read. He explains clearly that on the Western Front, once won side made a breach in the defences of the other, the advance could never be maintained because there wasn’t an efficient method for the supply of ammunition and general supplies. Inevitably, an advance would stop and everyone would go back to square 1. Sadly, it took both sides five years to figure this out and to realize that an outright victory would never be achieved on the Western Front. Taylor puts all of this into perspective. He also, rather by accident in my view, gives a unique insight into the Russian revolution and how the whole thing was engineered by just a few people. That Russia withdrew from the war that in turn enabled Luddendorf to transfer yet more divisions to the Western Front, made little impact on the war’s outcome. I daresay that professional historians have, or, will dismiss this book as lacking in detail. However, to me that’s the strength of the book; it is readable! The black and white pictures are superb and include aspects of WWI that I didn’t know about. My view is that the Western front was fought by heroes in pointless armed struggles. Nothing Taylor says dissuades me from this conclusion although the armistice did allow the restoration of the Belgian state (and indirectly, of course many others), which was far from pointless. I could go on, but will do much better by referring you to this book as an absolute requirement if you want to begin to understand that dreadful conflict.
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on 28 May 2016
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 and back-stabbings. I'm not a historian, so I can't judge it's accuracy, but this is exactly what I wanted before a trip to the battlefields of Flanders.
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on 23 February 1999
An excellent, easy to read historical perspective accompanied by many outstanding photographs.
I recommend this book to any reader interested in the genus of the first world war and its history. A useful perspective of the war and how this also set in motion a number of economic, social and political trails that are still with us as we enter the 21st Century.
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on 4 January 2013
A great 20th century historian, Taylor writes for the common man. His work is easy to read and also very informative. Plenty of photos keep the work alive at all times. He writes with the ease of a scholar who knows how to reach the general reader.
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on 2 December 2012
although the subject matter makes for very grim reading it was very thought provoking and really highlighting the futility of war and the inadequacies of the leaders
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on 22 June 2011
The narrative in this book is well written, pacy and enjoyable. It is clear that there is opinion (and some humour) in there but that is what makes it readable.

For the Kindle version the pictures don't really work. The formating is poor and many of the pictures are missing (just their captions are visible). Because of the quality of the photographs the Kindle's screen struggles to give more than an impression of what they look like.

But that doesn't detract from the quality of the text which is worth the money.
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on 19 April 2014
A.J.P.Taylor's account of the First World War is now at odds with trendy revisionist historians some of whom who seem to think that thirty million casualties was a price worth enduring to stem German objectives. In a very concise and well illustrated text, A.J.P describes the almost ludicrous quirks of fate that led to war and its tragic and avoidable consequences. There are many other books on the subject but this still stands out as an excellent introduction for younger readers with a dim view of authority.
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on 14 February 2014
A J P Taylor is a brilliant writer and historian. He could be irritating. Many contemporaries did not like him, probably because he made history popular and made money from it. He was a clever TV performer and has a unique style, direct and precise.

This is probably one of his classic books. It is easy to read, yet explains a complex subject well. In the world of turmoil he returns to the position of the man and woman on the ground and asks what they think.

I highly recommend it.
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