A World War I–focused history of 1916, when “all the major belligerents…stepped up to regulate domestic manpower and mobilize all sectors of the community behind the war.”
The title is not entirely deceptive because it was a genuinely global war. Jeffery (British History/Queen’s Univ., Belfast; The Secret History of MI6: 1909-1949, 2010) makes this clear in 12 long, unconnected, richly detailed, and always fascinating chapters, each with a geographic focus. Following chronology, each chapter begins with an event from that month—February: Verdun; April: the Irish Easter Rebellion; November: the United States presidential election; December: the murder of Rasputin—but moves quickly to larger, more or less related topics. Thus, June saw the Brusilov Offensive, Russia’s greatest victory but one that produced the usual unwelcome consequences. It persuaded Romania to join the Allies, a coup that turned into disaster as German-led forces quickly overran the country. This action “crucially accelerated the political and social destabilization of both the Russian and Habsburg empires, if not the German empire too.” In August, Rhodesian and Indian troops captured Morogogo, the colonial seat of German East Africa. Although trumpeted as a victory, it accomplished little because German and African forces, under the leadership of the skilled Gen. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, remained intact, continuing to provide troublesome opposition to superior forces until their surrender two weeks after the armistice. Though widely dismissed as a sideshow, World War I transformed Africa. More than 1 million black men served as both soldiers and laborers, and upward of 200,000 died; opposition to recruitment produced several rebellions that were brutally suppressed but marked the beginning of organized opposition to European rule.
A brilliant compendium of everything-you-didn’t-know-about World War I, which, for many readers, will be a great deal.