One of the leading historians of WWI offers this superior one-volume version of his massive projected three-volume work, the first volume of which, To Arms, clocked in at 1250-plus pages last year. Strachan strenuously avoids the traditional focus on the Western Front (and the British) and the conventional assumptions of generals' stupidity and soldiers' valor. The war as he sees it was a race among generals on all sides to create new weapons and tactics faster than their opponents, a race that the Triple Entente won. It was also a race among soldiers to fight with these new weapons and tactics instead of raw courage and numbers wherever possible. Yet Russia and the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were totally unfit for a large modern war (one reason the czar and his empire fell in 1917) and were a source of fatal weakness to Germany's alliance even before Italy changed sides. The political background (including the rising consciousness of colonial nationalities conscripted for the war), social consequences and diplomatic finagling all face an equal amount of revision, leaving the book organized more thematically than chronologically. Readers already familiar with the sequence of events in strict order will benefit most. But all readers will eventually be gripped, and even the most seasoned ones will praise the insights and the original choice of illustrations. This is likely to be the most indispensable one-volume work on the subject since John Keegan's First World War, and will draw serious readers to the larger work.
DVD 2005-4-21:Hew Strachan
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