An Illustrated History of the First World War


John Keegan's The First World War was everywhere praised, and became the definitive account of the war that created the modern world. The New York Times Book Review acclaimed Keegan as "the best military historian of our day," and the Washington Post called the book "a grand narrative history [and] a pleasure to read."

Now Keegan gives us a lavishly illustrated history of the war, brilliantly interweaving his narrative--some of it derived from...
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John Keegan's The First World War was everywhere praised, and became the definitive account of the war that created the modern world. The New York Times Book Review acclaimed Keegan as "the best military historian of our day," and the Washington Post called the book "a grand narrative history [and] a pleasure to read."

Now Keegan gives us a lavishly illustrated history of the war, brilliantly interweaving his narrative--some of it derived from his classic work and some of it new--with a brilliant selection of photograps, paintings, cartoons and posters drawn from archives across Europe and America, some published here for the first time. These images take us into the heart of battles that have become legend: Ypres, Gallipoli, Verdun, the Somme. They show us the generals' war and the privates' war--young soldiers, away from home for the first time, coming of age under fire.

We see how a civilization at the height of its power and influence crippled itself as the faith in progress, rationalism and liberalism that had prevailed in Europe since the Enlightenment was shattered. We see how four empires--the German, the Russian, the Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman--collapsed, and how the seeds for the Second World War were planted. Keegan tells how ambition, mistrust and failures of diplomacy and communication all played a part in allowing this conflict to set ablaze what was then the world's most prosperous society. And he describes how the effects of this war lasted long after it ended; its ghosts still haunt Europe today.

An Illustrated History of the First World War carries us across the Europe of nearly a century ago, revealing thedevastation, camaraderie, political machinations and battlefield maneuverings that changed the world. It presents the essential cast of that cataclysmic drama, from the decision makers at the top--Haig, Joffre, Hindenberg, Pershing--to the troops in the trenches. Through its unique amalgam of pictorial and narrative brilliance, the book illuminates the war as no other work has done.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Eminent British historian John Keegan uses an imaginative assortment of images -- from photographs and paintings to posters and political cartoons -- to underscore his brilliantly detailed narrative history of World War I.
Los Angeles Times
John Keegan's Illustrated History of The First World War makes imaginative use of paintings and photographs to bring its era to life.
Publishers Weekly
The text of this work is essentially a stripped-down version of Keegan's 2001 The First World War, with the text complemented by superb visuals. Keegan has selected almost 500 photographs, posters, drawings and maps, a cross-section of material produced by all the major combatants and clarified by Keegan's extensive captions. Focusing heavily on the ordinary men and women who bore the main burdens, the illustrations combine to show the conflict's face from the front lines to the home fronts, bringing immediacy to events and experiences increasingly remote. Those who haven't already read the earlier work will also appreciate Keegan's ability to move easily from the infantrymen's trenches to the generals' headquarters and diplomats' chambers. He discusses tactics and technology, politics and diplomacy, with intellectual flair and in prose whose elegance reflects his backgrounds as journalist and scholar. Like an increasing number of historians, Keegan regards the Great War, with its unprecedented levels of slaughter, as the defining event of the 20th century. (He believes WWII, the later, larger conflict, can only be understood in terms of the issues unresolved and created between 1914 and 1918.) That Europe's people and leaders risked everything in a war whose causes in no way justified its costs remains for Keegan easier to describe than to explain. His narrative of the conflict's sorrow and its pity is, however, as good an introduction for general readers as is to be found in print anywhere. And the high-quality illustrations should tempt even owners of the original to add this to their libraries. (Nov.) Forecast: This season "belongs" to World War II remembrances based around PearlHarbor, so this book's release lacks an obvious hook and may be overshadowed. Still, its quality should render it a steady seller off more thoughtful gift tables. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The author of over a dozen books on military history, Keegan (The Face of Battle) is at his best when analyzing the intricacies of war. Although this work is structured more as a narrative of events than of strategy, Keegan provides some interesting assessments of the war's major historical controversies. For example, he argues that the infamous Schliefen plan Germany's plan to attack France by sweeping through Belgium, a neutral power was fundamentally flawed, especially in its expectations of troop movements. Periodically, Keegan provides almost excessive detail on some subjects at the expense of others. An entire chapter covers the opening months of the war, while chapters of the same length cover an entire year and range across the various fronts. Aside from several three-page picture essays, there is little analysis of the role of the home front or the development of new technologies. The book does, however, utilize its 475 illustrations as a dynamic narrative, and Keegan's mining of the available pictures is to be commended. Readers interested in the details of World War I military maneuvers will enjoy this book. Those interested in a more comprehensive analytical survey should consult Hew Strachan's Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War (Oxford Univ., 1998). Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375412592
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 9.41 (w) x 11.05 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Meet the Author

John Keegan was for many years senior lecturer in military history at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and has been a fellow at Princeton University and a professor at Vassar College. He is the author of fourteen previous books, including the acclaimed The Face of Battle, The Second World War, and The First World War. He lives in Wiltshire, England.
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Read an Excerpt



Europe in the summer of 1914 enjoyed a peaceful productivity so dependent on international co-operation that a belief in the impossibility of general war seemed the most conventional of wisdoms. In 1910 an analysis of prevailing economic interdependence, The Great Illusion, had become a best-seller; its author, Norman Angell, had demonstrated that the disruption of international credit inevitably to be caused by war would either deter its outbreak or bring it speedily to an end. It was a message to which the industrial and commercial society of that age was keenly sympathetic. After two decades of depression, industrial output had begun to expand again in the last years of the nineteenth century. New categories of manufactures had appeared to tempt buyers; new sources of cheaply extractable raw materials had been found; so, too, had new deposits of precious metals to fertilise credit; rising population-a 35 per cent increase in Austria-Hungary between 1880 and 1910, 43 per cent in Germany, 26 per cent in Britain, over 50 per cent in Russia-enlarged the size of internal markets; emigration-twenty-six million people left Europe for the Americas and Australasia from 1880 to 1910-increased demand for goods there also, while the enormous expansion of overseas empires drew millions of their inhabitants into the international market, both as suppliers of staples and consumers of finished goods. A revolution in transport greatly accelerated and expanded the movement of commerce overseas, while the extension of the railway network in eastern Europe and in Russia added that enormously rich region to the integrated international economy. It is scarcelysurprising that, by the beginning of the century, bankers had recovered their confidence, gold-based capital was circulating freely and return on overseas investment had come to form a significant element of private and corporate incomes in Britain, France, Germany, Holland and Belgium.

Russian railways, South African gold and diamond mines, Indian textile factories, African and Malayan rubber plantations, South American cattle ranches, Australian sheep stations, Canadian wheat fields and almost every sector of the enormous economy of the United States devoured European capital as fast as it could be lent. The greater proportion passed through the City of London. Its worldwide connections made it the principal medium of buying, selling and borrowing for all advanced countries. Its predominance fed the belief so persuasively advanced by Norman Angell that any interruption of the smooth, daily equalisation of debit and credit it masterminded must destroy the very monetary mechanism by which the world lived. Speaking to the Institute of Bankers in London on January 17, 1912, Angell argued that "commercial interdependence is surely doing a great deal to demonstrate that morality after all is not founded upon self-sacrifice, but upon enlightened self-interest, to create a consciousness which must make for more efficient human co-operation, a better human society." W. R. Lawson, a former editor of the Financial Times, observed at the end of the speech that "it is very evident that Mr. Norman Angell had carried this meeting almost entirely with him."

It was not only bankers who accepted the interdependence of nations as a condition of the world's life in the first years of the twentieth century. The revolution in communications required international co-operation to service the new technologies and bureaucracies of travel and messaging. An International Telegraph Union was established in 1865 and the International Postage Union in 1875. An International Conference for Promoting Technical Uniformity in Railways was set up in 1882. The International Meteorological Organisation appeared in 1873 and the International Radiotelegraph Union, which allotted separate wavelengths for the new invention of wireless, in 1906. All these were governmental organisations. The world of commerce was meanwhile establishing its own international associations: for the Publication of Customs Tariffs in 1890, of Patents and Trademarks in 1883, for Industrial, Literary and Artistic Property in 1895, of Commercial Statistics in 1913; an Institute of Agriculture was established in 1905. Particular industries and professions meanwhile set up their own international bodies: the International Congress of Chambers of Commerce in 1880, the Congress of Actuaries in 1895, the Association of Accountancy in 1911, the International Electrotechnical Commission in 1906, the Committee for the Unification of Maritime Law in 1897. An International Bureau of Weights and Measures had been organised in 1875 and the first International Copyright Conventions were signed in the 1880s.

Internationalism, however, was not merely commercial. It was also intellectual, philanthropic and religious. The only truly transnational religious movement remained the Catholic Church, with bishoprics throughout the world centred on that of Rome. Some denominations nevertheless succeeded in co-operating in the missionary field at least. The China Inland Mission, uniting several Protestant churches, dated from 1865. A World Missionary Conference held at Edinburgh in 1910 broadened that impetus and in 1907 Christians in universities had founded the International Chris-tian Movement at Tokyo. Common Christianity found an easier expression in philanthropy. Opposition to slavery had been an early issue. In 1841 Britain, France, Russia, Austria and Prussia had signed a treaty that made slave-trading an act of piracy, a policy Britain was already energetically enforcing through the anti-slavery patrols of the Royal Navy off West Africa. The traffic in women and children for prostitution, "White Slavery," also stimulated international action and in 1910 a convention, subsequently signed by nine states, decreed the traffic to be a crime punishable by their domestic law wherever committed.

Conditions of labour were also a philanthropic concern. By 1914 many European states had entered into bilateral treaties protecting workers' rights to social insurance and industrial compensation, while restricting female and child labour. They may best be seen as a state response to the activities of the international working man's movements, particularly the First International, founded by Karl Marx in London in 1864, and the Second, in Paris in 1889. It was their preaching of social revolution that had driven governments, particularly Bismarck's in Germany after 1871, to enact labour welfare laws as a measure of self-protection. Other, older measures of self-protection were present in international agreements to check the spread of disease, usually by the quarantining of ships in the distant trade and of immigrants from the Near East, identified as the main source of epidemic outbreaks in Europe. The sale of liquor and drugs was also subject to international control; an Opium Conference between twelve governments met at the Hague in 1912, an undertaking which was evidence of a growing willingness by governments to act collectively. They had done so with success to suppress piracy. Europe could act together when it chose to.

It could, of course, also think and feel together. Europe's educated classes held much of its culture in common, particularly through an appreciation for the art of the Italian and Flemish renaissance, for the music of Mozart and Beethoven, for grand opera, for the architecture of the Middle Ages and the classical revival, and for each other's modern literature. Tolstoy was a European figure; so, too, were other writers of Europe's present or recent past. Victor Hugo, Balzac, Zola, Dickens, Manzoni, Shakespeare, Goethe, Molière and Dante were familiar, at least as names, to every European high school child, and French, German and Italian were commonly taught then in their foreign-language classes. Homer, Thucydides, Caesar and Livy were set-books in all of them and the study of the classics remained universal. Through the teaching of Aristotle and Plato there was a congruence of philosophy. Europe's university graduates shared a corpus of thought and knowledge which preserved something recognisable as a single European culture. It was enjoyed by an ever-increasing number of European cultural tourists. By the beginning of the twentieth century travel had become a middle-class pleasure as well. Karl Baedeker's guides were in 1900 in their thirteenth edition for Rome, their ninth for the Eastern Alps and their seventh for Scandinavia. The most visited locations were Venice and Florence, the Holy City, the castles of the Rhine, and Paris, "City of Light"; but there were also large annual migrations to the spa towns of Central Europe, to the French and Italian rivieras and to the Alps. Some travellers were venturing further afield. Baedeker's guide to Austria included Bosnia, with an entry on Sarajevo: "The numerous minarets and the little houses standing in gardens give the town a very picturesque appearance . . . the so-called Konak is the residence of the Austrian commandant."

The most important visitor to Sarajevo in 1914 would be Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne. He, of course, was travelling within his own territory but the members of the royal houses of Europe were great international travellers and their marriages one of the most important of bonds between states. The offspring of Queen Victoria were married into most of the Protestant royal families of the continent. It was broadly true that all European royalty were cousins; even the Habsburgs of Austria, most imperious of sovereigns, occasionally mingled their blood with outsiders; and since every state in Europe, except France and Switzerland, were monarchies, that made for a very dense network of inter-state connections indeed. Marital relationships were, however, not hard currency in foreign affairs. Nineteenth-century Europe had produced no solid instruments of inter-state co-operation or of diplomatic mediation. The "Concert of Europe" had withered; so, too, had the anti-revolutionary League of the Three Emperors. It is commonplace to say that Europe in 1914 was a continent of naked nationalism: it was true all the same. Some effort had been made to supply the deficiency through the establishment of a code of international law. It remained a weak concept, for its most important principle was that of the sovereignty of states, which left each, in effect, unfettered by anything but judgement of self-interest. The only area over which states had agreed to limit the operation of self-interest lay at sea, which the leading powers had agreed at Paris in 1856 should be one where neutrality was respected. The decision of Tsar Nicholas II in 1899 to convene an international conference dedicated to the limitation of armaments and the founding of an international court for the settlement of disputes was therefore a creative innovation. Historians have perceived in his summons of the powers to the Hague an admission of Russia's military weakness. At the time, people of goodwill thought differently. It was to some degree in deference to that public opinion that the 1899 Hague Conference did consent both to a limitation of armaments and to the creation of the International Court.


The flaw in the provision for an International Court was that its convening was to be voluntary. "The greatest thing," wrote the American delegate, is that it "relieves the dread of a sudden outburst of war at any moment." A German delegate more realistically noted that the court's "voluntary character" deprived it of "the very last trace of any compulsion, moral or otherwise, upon any nation." The truth of Europe's situation at the turn of the century lay rather with the German than the American. There was, admittedly, a fear of war in the abstract. Stronger by far was the fear of failure to face the challenge of war itself. Each state-Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary-felt its position threatened in some way or other. The three great European empires, German, Austrian and Russian, felt threatened by the national dissatisfactions of their minorities. It was the burden of a different sort of empire that weighed upon Britain and France, the administration of vast overseas dominions which were a source of enormous national pride but also a spur to aggressive jealousy among their European neighbours. The British believed that Russia had ambitions on India, which its Central Asian possessions closely abutted. The Germans were ever ready to quarrel with France over the few remaining areas not yet subject to European rule.

In a continent in which a handful of powers exercised control over a large cluster of subordinate peoples, and from which two, Britain and France, ruled much of the rest of the world, it was inevitable that relations between all should be infused by suspicion and rivalry. The worst of the rivalries had been provoked by Germany, through its decision in 1900 to build a fleet capable of engaging the Royal Navy in battle. The British rightly decided to regard the enactment of the Second Naval Law as an unjustified threat to its century-old command of the seas and reacted accordingly; by 1906 the race to outbuild Germany in modern battleships was the most important popular element of British public policy. There was a strong and complementary military rivalry between the continental powers, exemplified at its starkest by the decision of France, a nation of forty million people, to match the strength of Germany, with sixty million, in number of soldiers. There were other rivalries, not least between Britain and France, by 1900 mutual allies in the face of Germany's rising aggressiveness, who nevertheless managed to quarrel over colonial interests in Africa. What uniformly characterised all these disputes was that none were submitted to the process of international arbitration foreshadowed by the discussions at the Hague in 1899. When issues of potential conflict arose, as they did over the first (1905) and second (1911) Moroccan crises in Franco-German relations and over the First (1912) and Second (1913) Balkan Wars, the great powers made no effort to invoke the Hague provisions but settled affairs by international treaty. Peace, temporarily at least, was the outcome; the ideal of supra-national peacemaking, towards which the Hague Conference had pointed the way, was in no case invoked.

European policy was indeed, in the opening years of the twentieth century, guided not by the search for a secure means of averting conflict but by the age-old quest for security in military superiority. That meant, as the Tsar had so eloquently warned at the Hague in 1899, the creation of ever larger armies and navies, the acquisition of more and heavier guns and the building of stronger and wider belts of frontier fortification. Fortification, however, was intellectually out of fashion with Europe's advanced military thinkers. Power had transferred, it was believed, from static defence to the mobile offensive. It was on numbers of infantrymen taught to accept that casualties would be heavy until a decision was gained that the generals counted upon to achieve victory. The significance of entrenchments thrown up at speed had been noted, but discounted. Given enough well-motivated infantry, the European military theorists believed, no line of trenches could be held against them.

Among the other great industrial enterprises of Europe in the first years of the twentieth century, therefore, the industry of creating soldiers counted among the first. Since the triumph of Prussia's army of conscripts over the Austrians in 1866 and the French in 1870, all continental European states had accepted the necessity of submitting their young men to military training. The result of this requirement was to produce enormous armies of serving and reserve soldiers. In the German army, model for all others, a conscript spent the first two years of full adulthood in uniform.
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