For Anyone Into WWI

As I’m saying goodbye to all my academic paraphernalia post graduation, I wanted to mention one of my favorite books.  The Great War; an Imperial History by John H. Morrow, Jr., is one of the most enjoyable texts I’ve ever read about the First World War.  It’s not exceptionally new as it was published in 2005, but it was such a refreshing text.  It is very easy and enjoyable to read.  It also gives a fairly balanced treatment between more traditional warfront/battle/strategic aspects of the war and softer home front/political/cultural/racial issues associated with the period.  Morrow should be highly commended for marrying the two halves of history almost seamlessly.

Here’s another review of The Great War by Richard Vinen.  I assume he’s British as he teaches in the UK.  Regardless, he at least approaches the text in his review from a European history perspective.  While Vinen makes a valid point that Morrow does get a bit Eurocentric in his examination and does not give the same space to colonial soldiers’ opinions of the war, I want to point out that the title does specify that it is an “imperial history.”  Morrow takes an angle and discusses the war from the perspective of how entire empires rather than individual rulers or armies fought the war, and I believe he does so with little of the racial bias that tainted the period.

Furthermore, I would suggest that from an American view point, The Great War showcases World War I in a way that American students don’t often see.  The United States is included in the history, but it is regulated to its proper place, not yet a global super power and almost awkward in the continental arena because of its isolationist policies pre-war.  This makes the title rather unique among American examinations of the war and an asset to any student wishing to break free from the stereotypical pattern of US driven works.

Also making The Great War a good source for those using it as a jumping off point for further study is the extensive bibliography, complete with annotations.  It is broken down into both subject and continents and counties sections.  The index is comparatively detailed and useful as well.

Morrow’s voice clearly illustrates a tangled web of imperial policies and goals that overlay a bloody and slow world war.  His text should not be overlooked on either side of the Atlantic.  I highly recommend The Great War a thorough starting point for anyone doing research on the First World War or who is interested in a fresh examination of a highly documented conflict.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Wiley
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 09:17:07

    Sounds like a good read. Can you suggest any good (readable) books on the US role in WWII? I obviously got taught about Australia’s role, though most of the focus was probably on Britain. So what I know of the US involvement is about saving our arses in the Pacific after we had some issues with old mate Churchill, but I know little of the US in Europe.

    Of course if I had time to actually read anything that would be cool too.


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