The First World War: A Complete History Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
It was to be the war to end all wars, and it began at 11:15 on the morning of June 28, 1914, in an outpost of the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Sarajevo. It would officially end nearly five years later. Unofficially, however, it has never ended: Many of the horrors we live with today are rooted in the First World War.
The Great War left millions of civilians and soldiers maimed or dead. It also saw the creation of new technologies of destruction: tanks, planes, and submarines; machine guns and field artillery; poison gas and chemical warfare. It introduced U-boat packs and strategic bombing, unrestricted war on civilians and mistreatment of prisoners. But the war changed our world in far more fundamental ways than these.
In its wake, empires toppled, monarchies fell, and whole populations lost their national identities. As political systems and geographic boundaries were realigned, the social order shifted seismically. Manners and cultural norms; literature and the arts; education and class distinctions; all underwent a vast sea change.
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|Listening Length||33 hours and 34 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||May 12, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #19,459 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#14 in World War I History (Audible Books & Originals)
#74 in World War I History (Books)
#1,977 in World History (Books)
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One of the best books I’ve read about World War I is "The First World War: The Complete History” by Martin Gilbert. First published in 1994, this book provides a comprehensive look at the Great War from its beginning in 1914 until its end four years later. I think it is a superb work of history.
Martin Gilbert (1936-2015), a British historian and biographer is probably best known for his multi-volume official biography of Sir Winston Churchill. However, he also wrote many other excellent works of history, including “The Holocaust,” “The First World War,” and “The Second World War.” In all his works, Gilbert provides readers with a smooth, easy, and highly readable style.
In “The First World War,” Gilbert provides wide-ranging coverage of nearly every front in this genuinely world-wide war. Most people today associate World War I with mud-caked soldiers bleeding in the trenches of the western front in France; however, there were many other fronts as well. Gilbert takes readers to eastern Europe, along the border between Germany and Russia, where there were scenes of savage combat. In the Balkans, a bitter war raged between Austria, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), and Bulgaria on one side, and Serbia, Italy, Greece, and Britain on the other. At Gallipoli, Gilbert describes Britain’s failed attempt to break the stalemate on the western by attacking the Central Powers in the east. And back on the western front, he takes his readers into a starkly barren, cratered "no-man's land," where poison gas, colossal artillery bombardments, and massed infantry assaults were the order of each day.
In every respect, “The First World War: The Complete History” is an outstanding book that will provide readers with a greater understanding of the causes, effects, and events World War I. Highly recommended.
Among the strengths, I would include the fact that it was reasonably well written, though I did not care for Gilbert's periodic use of the phrase "wreak havoc" throughout the book. This sort of cliché is perhaps C+ quality writing in undergraduate courses, but it has no place in the work of a writer and historian who has been knighted, as has been Gilbert.
One moderate weakness of the book, I feel, involves Gilbert's inadequate devotion to the political machinations determining the course of events during the war. He sufficed in this regard both at the beginning and the end of the book -- that is, in the period directly before and directly after the war -- but failed to do so meaningfully throughout the war itself. He didn't dodge it wholly, but he could have bothered to discuss (for example) the British imperialist and Zionist agitators and lobbyists who hoodwinked Wilson and the Americans into the war. Speaking of Zionism, he barely even hints at the mere occurrence of the Balfour Declaration, and perhaps discusses Lord Balfour himself in a total of five lines throughout the entire book. I consider this a defect, given the pivotal influence of this man and his Declaration on the course of the war. If the book had advertised itself as a *military* history, these political omissions would make more sense, but the subtitle of the book, let us not forget, is _A Complete History_, which one would presuppose to include the political aspects of the war as much as those of the battlefield.
Sir Gilbert could also have more lengthily discussed some of the lesser contributors to the war -- Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czechs, and especially Japan. I understand they were not as important, but they are important enough, in my view, to warrant a bit more attention than Gilbert afforded to them.
Returning to more of the book's strengths, I would note that Sir Gilbert excels at adding a human quality to the war by returning to the experiences specific, individual persons who suffered through it, from more famous individuals such as Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Douglas McCarther, and others, to everyday common soldiers. In this way, he aids himself with the poetry, letters, and other writings of those on the fronts, and all of this does a great deal to illustrate the horrors and inhumanity of the war. I found myself particularly fond of his recurrent reference to the experiences, writing, and so forth, of the English writer Vera Brittain, who lost many loved ones in the war and whose writings in the decades after the war both reflected and contributed to the collective memory and perception of the war.
On the whole, its follies notwithstanding -- and despite the sort of aimless meandering around about nothing in particular in the last chapter -- this book makes me eager to read Gilbert's book on the Second World War. I also assume his atlas book to the Great War makes for a good companion to this one, so I plan to read that one quite soon, as well.
The bulk of the book is devoted to detailed accounts of what must appear to the reader to cover each and every battle in the war. A great deal of coverage is devoted to describing named individuals who had been involved (many of whom had sacrificed their lives), quoting from their poetry, letters and diaries. Included also are a great deal of gory details. The author must be complimented for his meticulous research.
In all, the book is a great tribute to the heroes who had made extreme sacrifices. But for a reader who is interested rather in an overall understanding of the war, I find it a bit too much.
This book is so well researched and edited, the work is superb. The maps are helpful but I find that sometimes I got lost in all the details, maybe because I am new at reading military history. One thing I could not make myself care more about was the poetry, I found myself skipping on it, even when I knew it was there to bring more emotion to all the facts. I am surely reading picking up The Second World War.