- The Imperial War Museum Book of 1914: The Men Who Went to War, and: The World War I Reader
People who appreciate the importance of World War I and, therefore, always are searching for good books on this vital conflict—be it for personal reading or classroom use—have reason to celebrate the publication of these two books.
Through six general categories — "Causes," "Armageddon," "Soldiers," "Home Front," "The End of the War," and "Peace"—The World War I Reader takes its audience through the war's course. Under each category, there are two or three readings drawn from primary sources, such as contemporary journalism, diplomatic communications, and correspondence between military and political leaders. Michael Neiberg expertly pairs these readings with two or three selections from books and articles by established scholars such as Dennis Showalter, Douglas Porch, and David Fromkin. Readers familiar with the conflict will appreciate the careful selection of the entries, which gives the book an admirable scope, although the author's focus definitely is weighted toward the Western Front. Those readers who teach courses in World War I history, twentieth century European history, and other related topics will find this book a valuable text to introduce students to the broad parameters of World War I. Students whose intellectual appetites are whetted by this collection will appreciate the extensive list of books matched to each category at the end of the book.
The Imperial War Museum Book of 1914: The Men Who Went to War tells the story of the war's first five months from the British perspective. Malcolm Brown, a former documentary producer for BBC Television and the author of four other titles on World War I for the Imperial War Museum, deftly weaves primary source material from the extensive documentary collections of the Imperial War Museum and secondary source material into a gripping narrative. Certainly, the battles in such places as Africa, China, and the Middle East that immediately gave the war its global cast receive their due. However, the author properly focuses on the campaigns conducted on the battlefields of France and Flanders where the belligerents fought their major battles. Within those accounts, Brown chronicles the British Army's initial shock at the conditions of modern warfare, such as the devastating power of modern artillery and the insatiable demand for ammunition and other materiél, but also demonstrates how quickly and courageously its officers and men, including senior officers, accepted and adapted to [End Page 595] them. In the same vein, he also skillfully depicts Britons' realization of the war's grand strategic importance and the sacrifices it would demand.
Readers interested in the advent and initial months of World War I—especially the sometimes desperate battles fought by the British Army, the rapid transformation of British society, and the often haphazard recruitment and training of "Kitchener's Army"—will find The Imperial War Museum Book of 1914 an invaluable addition to their libraries. Those teaching graduate and undergraduate courses on military history, the history of World War I, and British history should add this excellent book to their classes' reading lists.