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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

A good general book on World War 1 for a beginner


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I have had a long interest in the history of World War 1, but my knowledge is still very shaky.

I recently, I borrowed from my local library the first volume of Cambridge History of World War 1. It seems to me to be a good choice as Cambridge usually publishes highly authoritative accounts. Such was my impression when I read Cambridge History of China.

What do you think of Cambridge series?

And other books that provide a comprehensive overview of the conflict and have in them few critical errors?

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The Cambridge histories are very good but some views in the chapters are contested by other historians. 

For a general histories of the Great War:

C.R.MF. Crutwell A History of the Great War 1914- 1918. Oxford At Carrendon Press 1934. 

Cyril Falls The Great War 1914-1918. Peregree Books 1959. 

John Terraine The Great War 1914-1918. Arrow Books 1967. Good overview of the war.

Correlli Barnet The Great War. Putnam 1980

The above books are old but give a good narrative of the war on all fronts.  Start with one of those and then look at the following for good studies that are not simply military/ naval narratives:

David Stevenson 1914 1918 The History of the Great War. Allen Lane 2004. A good modern study the covers economic, armaments, and social issues as well as military and  naval.

John Terraine White Heat. The New Warfare 1914-1918. Leo Cooper 1992. Not so much a narrative but a good analytical study of the way in which technology changed the conduct of the war. Set within a broad narrative of the war.



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I would also recommend Stevenson, but as an introduction it's a bit intimidating given it's a bit of a doorstop.

John Keegan's 'The First World War' (1998) is of the same generation as cited above but in my opinion a very readable account.

For an introduction to the 'revisionists' I would recommend Gary Sheffield's 'Forgotten Victory' (2001) which recently appeared on his Twitter feed so guessing it's been reprinted recently.  He has also written 'A Short History of the First World War' which given his reputation has received very positive reviews though I've not read it.

The GWF is based in the UK and all listed so far have a tendency to reflect that in spite of the universal nature of their titles.  I know Chris is in Australia but other fronts; the naval and air war in these general histories perhaps do not receive the attention they deserve given their impact on the conflict.


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