Fighting the Great War: A Global History / Edition 1

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Despair at Gallipoli. Victory at Vimy Ridge. A European generation lost, an American spirit found. The First World War, the deadly herald of a new era, continues to captivate readers. In this lively book, Michael Neiberg offers a concise history based on the latest research and insights into the soldiers, commanders, battles, and legacies of the Great War.

Tracing the war from Verdun to Salonika to Baghdad to German East Africa, Neiberg illuminates the global nature of the conflict. More than four years of mindless slaughter in the trenches on the western front, World War I was the first fought in three dimensions: in the air, at sea, and through mechanized ground warfare. New weapons systems—tanks, bomber aircraft, and long-range artillery—all shaped the battle environment. Moving beyond the standard portrayal of the war's generals as "butchers and bunglers," Neiberg offers a nuanced discussion of officers constrained by the monumental scale of complex events. Diaries and letters of men serving on the front lines capture the personal stories and brutal conditions—from Alpine snows to Mesopotamian sands—under which these soldiers lived, fought, and died.

Generously illustrated, with many never-before-published photographs, this book is an impressive blend of analysis and narrative. Anyone interested in understanding the twentieth century must begin with its first global conflict, and there is no better place to start than with Fighting the Great War.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In recounting the events of WWI with skill and clarity, Neiberg does not break new ground for serious students of the conflict but achieves a fine balance of narrative and analyses-no easy feat in a one-volume study. And Neiberg also goes considerably further afield than do many one-volume accounts. A larger-than-usual share of responsibility is laid on the Germans, particularly for their diplomacy before the war and in its opening stages. Neiberg's analyses of military incompetence do not bog down (along with the armies) on the Western Front-the Italian campaign is noted, where the Italian army distinguished itself in spite of being nearly extinguished. Even in the battle narratives, one finds choice revelations, such as how the French African troops' khaki uniforms (which were designed for warfare in dusty Africa) helped the French to abandon their conspicuous prewar garb. The illustrations (89 duotones and 10 maps) are particularly well chosen. Compare this book with Hew Strachan's The First World War; it ranks above entries by Martin Gilbert and John Keegan in readability and value for a wider audience. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Neiberg (history, U.S. Air Force Acad.; Warfare and Society in Europe: 1898 to the Present) melds an analysis of the strategic issues facing belligerents during World War I with an understanding of the tactical challenges of conducting war in a modern industrial world. He thus abandons the standard narrative about unfeeling "brass hats," a euphemism for idiotic staff officers, to show the learning curve that officers faced in order to win on the battlefield. While not denying that some officers were inept, Neiberg provides a clear assessment of who was truly incompetent (e.g., Italy's Cardona), who was slow to engage the learning curve (e.g., Britain's Sir Douglas Haig), and who learned how to fight a modern war (e.g., Australia's Gen. John Monash). By including appraisals of the other fronts Neiberg also shows why the western front was the crucible of victory and defeat. Although occasionally repetitive and light on diplomacy and politics, this book reflects the remarkable development of the historiography of World War I that has occurred over the past decade. Recommended for all libraries.-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A searching study of the war to end all wars. World War I was inevitable, given the complex rivalries that existed among England, France, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the other players in the struggle. But, writes Neiberg (History/US Air Force Academy), it was not inevitable just because an unfortunate Austro-Hungarian nobleman was assassinated: "The archduke's political views were unpopular in the Viennese court, and the royals of Europe had often snubbed Franz Ferdinand because he had married a woman of inferior social status." It took months after the assassination for the Allied and Central Powers to decide that the time was right for bloodletting. Many another poor assumption and bad decision followed. The Germans discounted the British army, even though it was probably the best-trained and most effective in Europe at the time; the German army, further, settled on a policy of Schrecklichkeit, or "frightfulness," in Belgium, "a policy that had been approved by leaders of both the army and the government" but that succeeded largely in uniting the Allied citizenry against the savage Hun; the Russians relied on cavalry against machine guns, the French on forts against heavy artillery, the British on incompetent leaders, and so on, all at terrible cost. The rate of butchery was established early on, as Neiberg shows: in the first few weeks of the war, the French army lost 200,000 men and a full tenth of its officer corps "in an attempt to recover Alsace and Lorraine, only to discover that the real threat lay elsewhere." And things were no better on the fringes of the war, in places like Bulgaria and Cameroon, where the fighting looked only a little more modern than the wars ofthe 18th century. Even the peace was confused, with "Bolshevism, authoritarianism, the beginnings of fascism, and fragile democracies" in the place of the old empires and dynasties. A very worthy addition to the historical literature, complementing Hew Strachan's The First World War (2004), Robert Massie's Castles of Steel (2003), and other recent studies of the war.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674016965
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.27 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael S. Neiberg is Professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi and Harold K. Johnson Visiting Professor at the US Army War College from 2010-2012.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : an exchange of telegrams 1
1 A cruel disillusion : the German invasion and the miracle of the Marne 11
2 Loosed like wild beasts : the war in Eastern Europe 38
3 The country of death : stalemate on the Western Front 67
4 Ordered to die : Gallipoli and the Eastern Fronts 95
5 Gordian knots : American neutrality and the wars for empire 123
6 Bleeding France white : the agony of Verdun 150
7 A war against civilization : the Chantilly offensives and the Somme 177
8 Driving out the devil : collapse in the east 203
9 Salvation and sacrifice : American entry, Vimy Ridge, and the Chemin des Dames 229
10 A few miles of liquid mud : the Battle of Passchendaele 254
11 Not war as we knew it : the u-boat menace and war in Africa 280
12 Jerry's turn : the Ludendorff offensives 306
13 One hundred days to victory : Amiens to the Meuse-Argonne 331
Conclusion : an armistice at any price 357
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