The First World War: A Complete History

Martin Gilbert, Author Henry Holt & Company $35 (615p) ISBN 978-0-8050-1540-9
Gilbert's (The Second World War) majestic opus covers WWI on all major fronts-domestic, diplomatic, military-as well as such bloody preludes as the Armenian massacre of 1915. He describes the introduction of new instruments of war like the submarine, airplane, tank, machine gun and poison gas, explaining how each was employed in great military confrontations such as Verdun and Jutland. He recounts the arrival of the American contingent (British and French brass tended at first to regard them as rabble) and Gen. John J. Pershing's struggle to prevent U.S. troops from being fed piecemeal into the maelstrom of the western front. Gilbert includes a large amount of contemporary war poetry and doggerel, which conveys the tragedy of the 1914-1918 conflict. On the whole, the author presents WWI from the human perspective, with emphasis on the grisliness and sheer waste of it. His account of the post-Armistice efforts of the international War Graves Commission starkly communicates the epic scale of the slaughter. By the distinguished biographer of Winston Churchill, this is a stunning achievement of research and storytelling on the war to end all wars. Illustrations. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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