The definitive account of the Great War and a national bestseller from eminent military historian John Keegan
2018 marks the centenary of the First World War – the war that created the modern world. It destroyed a century of relative peace and prosperity and saw a continent at the height of its success descend into slaughter. It unleashed both the demons of the twentieth century - political hatred, military destruction and mass death - and the ideas which continue to shape our world today: modernism in the arts, new approaches to psychology and medicine, and radical ideas about economics and society.
By the end of the war, three great empires – the Austro-Hungarian, the Russian and the Ottoman – had collapsed. But as Keegan expertly shows, the devastation extended over the entirety over Europe and still profoundly informs the politics and culture of the continent today. Pertinent, authoritative and gripping, this panoramic account of WW1 is regarded as a world history classic.
‘The best and most approachable introduction to the war’ Guardian
‘Nobody describes a battle as Keegan does, vividly relating the unfolding events to the contours of the field of combat... This book is a kind of war memorial. As first-hand memory fades, The First World War honours the dead as only true history can’ Sunday Times
In a riveting narrative that puts diaries, letters and action reports to good use, British military historian Keegan (The Face of Battle, etc.) delivers a stunningly vivid history of the Great War. He is equally at ease--and equally generous and sympathetic--probing the hearts and minds of lowly soldiers in the trenches or examining the thoughts and motivations of leaders (such as Joffre, Haig and Hindenburg) who directed the maelstrom. In the end, Keegan leaves us with a brilliant, panoramic portrait of an epic struggle that was at once noble and futile, world-shaking and pathetic. The war was unnecessary, Keegan writes, because the train of events that led to it could have been derailed at any time, "had prudence or common goodwill found a voice." And it was tragic, consigning 10 million to their graves, destroying "the benevolent and optimistic culture" of Europe and sowing the seeds of WWII. While Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War (Forecasts, Mar. 8) offers a revisionist, economic interpretation of the causes of WWI, Keegan stands impressively mute before the unanswerable question he poses: "Why did a prosperous continent, at the height of its success as a source and agent of global wealth and power and at one of the peaks of its intellectual and cultural achievement, choose to risk all it had won for itself and all it offered to the world in the lottery of a vicious and local internecine conflict?" Photos not seen by PW. 75,000-copy first printing; simultaneous Random House audio.