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on 9 March 2018
I have a fascination of the First and Second World Wars, especially how the ordinary soldier, sailor and airman coped under such traumatic conditions.
However, this book does not cover this aspect with any detail. What it does cover was the political side, the thoughts and behaviour of the leaders. It was fascinating.
The detail in this book is mind boggling, how the author managed to accumulate so much information is awesome, (sorry to use such a word), yet it kept me fixed to the page, wanting to find out more.
My only criticism is the page layout. On my kindle the whole page would be one paragraph, but as you read it is clear that there should have been a paragraph inserted. Sitting in bed at night, reading, I would decide to read to the end of the next paragraph, but it never came, so a lot of late nights.
Congratulations David Stevenson.
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on 21 March 2016
This book is thick, 601 pages in paperback form (excluding bibliography, footnotes and index) – but the condensation into 601 pages of the First World War, its origins, its aftermath and its consequences right up to the present would appear to require a feat of penmanship bordering on the miraculous. And I mean every aspect of the First World War, not just the operations and manoeuvrings on the battlefields and diplomatic fronts, but also the societal, financial (people tend to forget that wars somehow have to be paid for) and cultural effects, both contemporary and enduring.

Yet Professor Stevenson pulls it off. He shows how events led to it and how it has affected the world. Most of all, he shows that it was a war that, while it didn’t have to be fought, was, because of the growing tensions in Europe, probably inevitable. The various parties didn’t actually want a war, but they were all quite prepared to dance right on the edge of a precipice and to go over, if necessary, blind to the potential consequences of their actions. And while all parties played their part, he is in no doubt that Austria-Hungary and Germany were mainly to blame, one for its absurd insistence on its conditions in the wake of the Sarajevo assassinations, simply because it wanted to provoke a conflict, the other for backing it up.

If the book has one fault, it is that it is occasionally too condensed. Indeed, it occasionally seems rushed and breathless and it hurtles on from one topic to the next. I often found myself longing for just a bit more explanation, a bit more detail on some point or other. But then, this is perhaps something for more specific texts. For a single volume complete overview, I can’t think of anything that betters it.
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on 12 November 2013
David Stevenson's history of the First World War is exhaustive. Every sentence of the 600 densely printed pages is packed with information, often cross referring to other data within the same sentence. As a display of knowledge, and measured by factual coverage, the book is a huge success. Analysis is more sparing. Stevenson tends to drop comment after a comma in a factual statement. His analytic therefore lacks thorough working. For example, he states, in contradiction to Keynes (The Economic Consequences of the Peace), that the strictures of the Versailles treaty were not the cause of the Second World War, but were its necessary precondition. Keynes was actually at Versailles. Stevenson needs to work these kinds of argument much more deeply against their competing alternatives. The same goes for his claim that the start of the First World War was a deliberate decision of aggression by Germany. Philosophically, Stevenson clearly believes in cognitive behavioural decision theory. Very many other academics would put far more weight on causal factors, even though they may not endorse any neo-Marxist `theory of history'.

The book is somewhat exhausting as a result of being exhaustive. You have to persevere. It's as though the trudge of the war itself is reflected in getting through the book. Stevenson may be a great recorder, a chronicler, but not such an effective communicator. We may well eschew the `sound bite', but readers need to be able to digest an author's writing. Stevenson's spaghetti writing style, whilst commendable for its nutrition, does make his book less digestible. He peppers numerical data throughout the text, page 302 being a particularly notable example, whereas a summary data table, and other summary headline or timeline event tables would have eased his text and its digestibility greatly, and have made the book as communicative as it is informative.
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on 19 May 2014
I give this book 5 stars because Stevenson shows why he is one of the top historians of the subject and his crystal clear analysis is evident throughout the book as he covers the war in a series of main themes rather than pure chronology which is done elsewhere by many others.
The effort of research that has gone into this book is staggering and it's put into a context which I don't remember reading before, in spite of having read a vast number of books on the subject. Students of the period should not be without this book and should also pick up a copy of his later effort on the last year of the war. With the centenary of outbreak of the war approaching I hope that those who want to learn about the subject for the first time are able to get a copy of this book and have the discipline to read all the way through it for you will be better off having read it. On that matter you should indeed be aware that this is not a mass audience book, but an higher end academic effort by one of the best in the business today.
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on 8 July 2013
I thought after reading about the Napoleanic wars, the American Civil War The Second World War and the Korean & Vietnam wars I had missed the First World War so went back to rectify that. I chose this book as my starting block and I am so glad I did the detail covering all aspects of the build up, the actual war, year by year, and the fall out following the war was superb. Covering all aspects from polictical to financial, war aims, manufacturing and covering all fronts through Europe into Asia, Africa and the middle East. OIts a bihg book and carries a lot of information I am so glad I started here
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on 24 September 2014
This has to be one of the best books on WW1 that has been written, it deals with the history but concentrates more on the circumastances for the start of the war and Britain entering the war, and the great industrial impact the war had, how people grew rich helping Britain fund the war, and the implications of running a war that bled this country dry both in terms of the financial cost and the enormous human cost in what was in some cases a pointless futile event, explaining the sacrificial battles that were fought just to appease Britains allies, and also at the inept bungling of the men at the top who sat well behind the lines sending men and boys to die in their thousands.
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on 14 July 2014
I have to admit, that having spent along time reading this book (it's not easy going), I was in the end a bit disappointed. Near the end it is revealed that it was previously published under a different title, which included the word "political", and which was more honest. This book focusses very much on the politics of the war - of generals, presidents, prime ministers and so on. It does discuss the battles, but the focus is at the strategic level, not soldiering - major battles like the Somme are covered in a page. Having said that, it is an interesting book, well researched and written, just not quite what I had hoped for.
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on 18 August 2010
If you want the entire history of World War 1 in one book this is it, from the small political events to shot that was heard around the world that eventually ignited the powderkeg of Europe and started the bloodiest and worst led war the world had known. Seems amazing that the end would point the way for Germany to elect Hitler to power to satify their need for justice (Justified need in my view after the unfair Versailles treaty). If your thinking this will be a labarious read think again, it's well put together and flows neatly. Enjoy and afterwards a handy reference to reach for when a question arises. You wont see this book seconhand many places due to that fact alone.
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on 19 July 2016
Overall, a very interesting and in-depth exploration into the events of the First World War. The book takes into account often sidelined aspects of the war, such as commonwealth troop involvement in Turkey, rather than the usual western front focus seen in other books. However, I can only give three stars, if Amazon offered half stars, or quarter stars id give the book 3.75/5 stars, the reason for this is the author's writing style, he often drops names into the book without context, as such it makes the text difficult to follow, and it consumes time having to find out which side they were on. Other instances he refers to individuals simply as they, even though he may be talking about three individuals, it makes following the book rather difficult. Despite this I would thoroughly recommend the book
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on 18 October 2015
A very detailed account of the war and a very long/intense read.
It covers a lot of political aspects of the war on both sides, including public opinion and the economy.

In my opinion it should have more coverage of events on the battlefield, but this does not take away from the knowledge and understanding of the conflict it provides.
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