John Keegan, noted British Military Historian, turns his considerable skills to World War I. Both a political and a military history of the war, a war whose casulaties were later dwarfed by WW2. However that is partly due to the larger scope of the WW2 and to the vastly larger number of civilian deaths in Russia, China, and Europe. ‘Total War’ is indeed an apt description.
World War 1 was took place mainly in continental Europe – with troops using new deadly technology. As Prof Keegan makes clear, the general staff on all sides were painfully ill equipped to handle these new technologies – Machine gun, airplanes, poison gas, mass artillery barrages. With no clear instantenous communications, the war was fought with 19th century tactics and the average solider paid the price with their lives. We re talking about 20,000 British soldiers killed and 40,000 wounded in the Battle of the Somme in the first day. The battle of Yypres in July 1917 had 240,000 casulaties (70K deaths), by the end of the 4 year conflict, Great Britian sufferd 420,000 casualites and the Germans 600,000. No understanding of World War 2 can be fully gleamed without understanding the aftermath of Wolrd War I. While Prof Keegan does a wonderful job decribing the causes and the military conflict itself – the ending of the books is not analyzed to the same degree. Nevertheless, a good one volume history of the war – but as with many military history books – more and better maps, please!