The First World War

Front Cover
A. Knopf, 1999 - History - 475 pages
139 Reviews
The First World War created the modern world. A conflict of unprecedented ferocity, it abruptly ended the relative peace and prosperity of the Victorian era, unleashing such demons of the twentieth century as mechanized warfare and mass death. It also helped to usher in the ideas that have shaped our times--modernism in the arts, new approaches to psychology and medicine, radical thoughts about economics and society--and in so doing shattered the faith in rationalism and liberalism that had prevailed in Europe since the Enlightenment. With The First World War, John Keegan, one of our most eminent military historians, fulfills a lifelong ambition to write the definitive account of the Great War for our generation.

Probing the mystery of how a civilization at the height of its achievement could have propelled itself into such a ruinous conflict, Keegan takes us behind the scenes of the negotiations among Europe's crowned heads (all of them related to one another by blood) and ministers, and their doomed efforts to defuse the crisis. He reveals how, by an astonishing failure of diplomacy and communication, a bilateral dispute grew to engulf an entire continent.

But the heart of Keegan's superb narrative is, of course, his analysis of the military conflict. With unequalled authority and insight, he recreates the nightmarish engagements whose names have become legend--Verdun, the Somme and Gallipoli among them--and sheds new light on the strategies and tactics employed, particularly the contributions of geography and technology. No less central to Keegan's account is the human aspect. He acquaints us with the thoughts of the intriguing personalities who oversaw the tragically unnecessary catastrophe--from heads of state like Russia's hapless tsar, Nicholas II, to renowned warmakers such as Haig, Hindenburg and Joffre. But Keegan reserves his most affecting personal sympathy for those whose individual efforts history has not recorded--"the anonymous millions, indistinguishably drab, undifferentially deprived of any scrap of the glories that by tradition made the life of the man-at-arms tolerable."

By the end of the war, three great empires--the Austro-Hungarian, the Russian and the Ottoman--had collapsed. But as Keegan shows, the devastation ex-tended over the entirety of Europe, and still profoundly informs the politics and culture of the continent today. His brilliant, panoramic account of this vast and terrible conflict is destined to take its place among the classics of world history.

With 24 pages of photographs, 2 endpaper maps, and 15 maps in text

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
36
4 stars
57
3 stars
34
2 stars
9
1 star
3

Good overview of the war. - Goodreads
Excellent, clear writing, with a unique turn of phrase. - Goodreads
Well researched and written but poorly edited. - Goodreads
Another insight of WW1 that was worth reading. - Goodreads
A good introduction. - Goodreads
Thought-proviking, educational, and well-written. - Goodreads

Review: The First World War

User Review  - Jonfaith - Goodreads

1) One shouldn't read compact one volume surveys of epic events. It is safe to assume that The First World War meets the criteria of epic event. Any single volume will only distort and compact events ... Read full review

Review: The First World War

User Review  - Alex Teich - Goodreads

About as good as any single volume history of the First World War. Keegan in his traditional fashion attempts to put a human face on war. Keegan completes his task, however Hugh Strachen's books about this subject are far superior. Read full review

Contents

War Plans
24
The Crisis of 1914
48
The Battle of the Frontiers and the Marne
71
Copyright

3 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1999)

John Keegan was for many years senior lecturer in military history at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and has been a fellow at Princeton University and a professor of history at Vassar College. He is the author of thirteen previous books, including the acclaimed The Face of Battle and The Second World War. He lives in Wiltshire, England.

Bibliographic information