WORLD WAR ONE by Hew Strachan


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A solid yet concise illustrated history of the Great War by a team of international scholars. Oxford has set the standard in illustrated histories, and this one doesn—t disappoint. Though hardly revisionist, some of the essays do offer fresh insights into the conflict. David Killingray analyzes the war’s impact on Africa, already balkanized by colonization from the great European powers. Though most Africans were spared the horrors of direct participation, African economies were still torn asunder, and hundreds of thousands died from famine. Editor Strachan (Modern History/Univ. of Glasgow, Scotland) argues in a later essay that, unlike other wars, WWI was financed almost entirely through credit, not taxes (this legacy wreaked havoc on postwar Weimar Germany). Another standout piece, by Gail Braybon, posits that historians have overemphasized WWI as the catalyst for moving women into the work force. In Europe, she claims, many of the women who worked during the war had already worked before 1914. What changed was their kind of service: non-farm women who were domestics or childcare workers traded in those low-wage jobs for industrial labor. In the anthology’s final essay, Modris Eksteins provides a poignant (though overly short and superficial) exploration of the Great War and historical memory. What remained for Europe after ten million were dead and twice that number mutilated? Throughout the continent, some postwar artists and writers tried to give voice to the suffering they had seen, while others abided by an unwritten code of silence. In more recent decades, the war has been washed with a kind of romanticism, as hordes of tourists descend on the now-parklike battlefields of the Somme and Verdun. Strachan has chosen wisely, and offers a well-conceived (if brief) introduction. In all, a worthwhile contribution to WWI literature. (16 pages color, 140 b&w illustrations, 7 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-19-820614-3
Page count: 340pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998


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