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World War I

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World War I
By S. L. A. Marshall. (Houghton Mifflin Co; 2001. Pg. 512.) ISBN: 0-6180-5686-6

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - August 21, 2003

The Great War to End all Wars began on July 28, 1914 when Austria-Hungry declared war on Serbia, in part as retaliation for the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife. In short order, countries from around the world were drawn into the growing maelstrom that threaten to destabilize the world. Not only were major powers such as Germany, Russia, the United States, and Britain drawn into the war, but so were smaller players on the international scene such as Brazil, Cuba, Siam, and San Marino.

By the time the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, more than 10 million lives, both civilian and military, had been lost. This figure does not include those that died from the Spanish Influenza epidemic that engulfed the world during this period. After it became obvious that this had not been the war to end all wars, the Great War was renamed, World War I. This War was to have a great impact on the 20th century. It played a causal role in the Russian Revolution. It was also the first war in which submarine and aviation warfare played a major roles, and it was the first war in which chemical weapons were used strategically.

In World War I, former Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall offers a detailed overview of the war and the events that led up to this horrific conflict. While this text looks at the war as a whole, a special emphasis is placed on the role played by the American forces during the war. Marshall's writing is clear, concise, and often blunt. The combination of his military service and scholastic experiences as a military historian make Marshall the ideal author for a study on the military and political aspects of World War I - and the many blunders that occurred both before and after the war commenced. When it's warranted, Marshall is quick to point out that a particular military scheme was a mistake - and why.

Not only does this book offer readers a valuable overview of this momentous period in time, but it is also a riveting book to read. Marshall's writing style is fluid, energetic, and down-to-earth. It is a style of writing more often encountered in works of fiction, rather than historical tomes. This monumental work is one of the best one-volume treatments of the first world war that I've read. It provides a solid overview of not only the war itself, but also its causes, and its conclusion.

I highly recommend Marshall's World War I to anyone looking for a general overview of the history of World War I, America's involvement in the Great War, or World War I military tactics. I'd also recommend that anyone interested in the history of World War II read this book. The events that transpired during the Great War, and more importantly the peace that it engendered, helped to lay some of the groundwork for World War II.

Related Reviews:

Blood in the Argonne - The "Lost Battalion" of World War I, by Alan D. Gaff.
A riveting account of the 'Lost Battalion' that separates fact from fiction, and which paints a realistic picture of what life was like in the American Army in 1918.

All Quiet on the Home Front, by Richard Van Emden and Steve Humphries.
An Oral History of Life in Britain During the First World War

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