09/04/2014

The First World War (book review)

The First World War
John Keegan
Hutchinson Radius, 1998

As you may know, it's 100 years after the outbreak of World War I. Recently, I posted a book review of 1913. Today, we'll cover The First World War by John Keegan. This British military historian and lecturer, published many books about warfare during the last centuries. 

Sir Keegan starts his narrative months before the outbreak of the war. He describes the military establishment especially those in Prussia and Germany. They planned warfare by time tables. Remember scientific management was popular those days? The well known Von Schlieffen Plan was a result of this doctrine. By gaining a rather quick victory in the West, the war along the eastern front could also be won. 

The author also describes the political climate, alliances and diplomatic efforts being made after the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. A very complex process with a disastrous outcome. 

In the next chapters, the German invasion and march through Belgium and France is sketched including the Belgium defense, French counter offensives and the deployment of the British Expeditionary Force. As we now know, the western front stabilized. Keegan also describes the situation in Central Europe. 

Then he turns sight to the eastern front where the Von Hindenburg - Lindendorff duo combatted. He not only describes the battles itself but also the circumstances the soldiers faced. 

Near the end of the war, the Americans came in. The last chapters tell the story of breaking armies and the defeat of the Germans. 

I like the book (not the war!). Sir Keegan tells the occurences of this terrible war in a clear way. There's a good balance between the overall history and the details. He also sketches backgrounds and relations in this era.

For those interested: I published also a review of The Sleepwalkers.

PS: Next Sunday, the cycling classic Paris - Roubaix will be ridden. A course through Northern France or the former West Front. For those interested: I wrote about this event and it's history, on my cycling blog

Keep on reading!

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