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The First World War: A Complete History

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,114 ratings  ·  51 reviews
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1994

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 end officially almost five years later. Unofficially, it has never ended: the horrors we live with today were born in the First Wo
Paperback, 680 pages
Published May 15th 1996 by Holt Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1970)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,433)
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M. D.  Hudson
It’s 543 pages of one damned thing after another. An oddly compelling way to do history: no real attempt to make sense of anything in terms of strategy or economics or politics; just a list of events mostly told via individual recollections. Gilbert troubles to quote a lot of poems throughout the text, mostly English war poets of the time. Most of this verse is quite bad (I’ve always thought), but given the context and the horror, it is oddly moving. Perhaps this is the best way to read this sor ...more
This very long work is essentially a chronology of the war, from the rapid escalation of tension before August 1914 to the problems of armistice in 1918 and how they affected state relations in the 1930s. Gilbert, the official biographer of Churchill, brings home at many points the reality of the 9 million military dead of WWI through use of poems, quotes and letters written home by the men who died, as well as graphic recollections by nurses who served at the front (one image that stays with me ...more
William Cline
No book, even a 600-pager like this one, can cover all of the Great War, so the most important thing to know when deciding to read this one is what it does and doesn’t offer.

Gilbert’s book is mostly a detailed, blow-by-blow account of the Great War as it was fought. There’s a whole lot of what and not a lot of why. One might criticize it for being essentially a list of places and dates, but I found it to be so engagingly written that it was never a chore.

There’s some discussion of new developmen
Brad Merola
I thought this book had little appeal to it. I enjoy history, I like to read about great battles of anytime period, but this book had very little of that. It more focused on the cause of the World War, and why America eventually stepped in. With such action happening at every stage in the world at that time, Gilbert could have done a way better job on portraying certain scenes from history. I do like, however, how in depth he went on the weapons used during the war. He started about how they adv ...more
A good, comprehensive treatment of the war. Gilbert does a good job covering the war’s scope, from the war’s origins to its aftermath.

The narrative isn’t exactly riveting or stirring, but it is endlessly informative. While the coverage of certain battles and campaigns varies throughout the book, Gilbert does a great job bringing it all together in a way that makes sense. Politics,strategy, diplomacy and military actions are all brought together in a clear narrative.

Gilbert is also good at weavin
-Un buen vistazo a la Gran Guerra.-

Género. Historia.

Lo que nos cuenta. Repaso estrictamente cronológico, en ocasiones día a día incluso, de los eventos que crearon el caldo de cultivo general para la Primera Guerra Mundial, las circunstancias que rodearon su estallido, su desarrollo y un pequeño repaso a varias y distintas consecuencias de la misma.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:
John Meffen
Okay. The book covered some parts of the war that I was definitely never told in school.

On the other hand he showed his public schoolboy/oxbridge bent, with his overemphasis on the war poetry that only came out of his social strata in what was ultimately a huge exercise in grinding up young men.

At least he has covered some things from the axis point of view.

But really his love for Churchill and people of his own class shines through, the working class people involved seem to be just numbers for
Nov 28, 2014 Brett rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brett by: Barnes & Noble
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Provides a solid grounding in World War I, especially in the major theaters and political issues, but leaves a few things to be desired. The worst fault is the incredibly heavy British bias - it appears that Gilbert drew the vast majority of the text from his British research, especially the personal accounts. There's an enormous amount of poetry included, all of it from British soldiers, and much of it very bad.
Erik Riker-coleman
Kind of meh. It's actually a pretty solid overview of the war, adhering to a very chronological approach that has the advantage of showing the interrelations between events in different places. It also strives to humanize the pins-moving-on-map account, which is commendable and at times effective. That said, the "humanizing" effort has its limitations. The book has a formula:

At [rotten place somewhere] the [troops, usually Entente troops if we're talking the subject of the sentence] stormed the
K.M. Weiland
Beautiful, heartbreaking progression of the war. Does a marvelous job bringing continuity and a sense of order to a rambling, gargantuan war.
I read this because I knew very little about "the great war," now i have dreams about trenches and zeppelins.
An excellent one volume history of World War I. Gilbert provides a sweep of the war with its numerous fronts and intersperses it with quotes from civilians and military on both sides. Ordinary men, writing back to parents and wives, are quoted, as are men who served and became important in WWII such as Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler. There are quotes from some of the poets of the war, both those who survived and those who didn't. I wish I had read this book before I toured several WWI sites ...more
This book was filled with facts and figures which can get a little dry and boring, however,looking past that and seeing the people involved in the war brought the book to life. What it also brought to life was how unnecessary World War I was. There seemed to be no reason for this war at all other than several European nations wanted to fight to get more territory. It was very disconcerting to read the continual accounts of the thousands of men who died on a daily basis during this war, especiall ...more
Big book of death in the trenches. If people aren't being machine-gunned in No Man's Land, they're being blown into their component pieces by artillery. Gilbert uses a lot of contemporary anecdotes to illustrate the experience of trench warfare. He does an excellent job of describing the war on the main fronts, without stinting too much on the other theaters of conflict.

I have three criticisms: In the choice of accounts used, the book tends to be a bit Anglocentric. Gilbert justifies this by cit
This is a narrative that tells the story of the war as a story--from start to finish, from the pre-war innocence through the decades of monument-laying afterwards; with every month in-between. The focus shifts from the military history of battles (and occasionally the politics behind them) to the soldiers who fought in them, usually within the same paragraph. In this way, the story seems the closest one can get to living as those who lived through it did--a revealing, a day at a time, of the big ...more
A very enlightening book - one wonders why the face of Western Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East looks the way it does - this will explain.

It seems that from this war, old empires fell, modern countries were formed, the glories of conflict was forever erased (gas, trenches, machine guns vs frontal charges on foot), and the seeds of more savage conflicts were sown.

It was startling to read that in so many countries after the first few years of the conflict, the numbers of anti-war protestors
Chris Green
This book is a moderate read. It is a great account of WWI with very detailed history. This book details the whole history of the War, including events leading up to it. This War is always overshadowed by WWII when studying 20th century conflict. The most important factor of this war is that its end, issued in the beginning of WWII and many of the combatants saw this at the time. It also changed the map of Europe drastically. It also informs us greatly on the battles on the eastern front, that a ...more
Dick Edwards
9 million soldiers, sailors, and airmen were killed in WW1, along with about 5 million civilians. Rudyard Kipling’s only son was killed at Ypres. Anthony Eden’s son was killed in WW2, and his brother killed in action in WW1 at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Harold Macmillan was injured in action in 1916. MG says that the blame for the events of 1914 should be placed on Serbia and Russia, and not on Austria. The Red Army fought to push the Poles back into Poland, almost back to Warsaw. The Poles ...more
Mohammad Ajaj
I thought that Mr. Gilbert has done a really good job explaining the war from the point of view of soldiers in the battlefield but he didn't concentrate much on the political aspect of this war. And also I felt that he was a little biased towards the Jews and trying his best to present them in a shiny way in several "in my opinion" unnecessary instances.
It was informative and comprehensive, if not British-centric (which is to be expected since Gilbert is an Englishman). I still can't believe I read the whole thing from cover to cover when I was sixteen though. It alternated between being very compelling and being very dense. I remember my history teacher in 11th grade spending a couple days talking about the war and this got me interested because it seemed so stupid and pointless. Wondering how the hell it started and managed to metastasize so ...more
Miguel Salgado
A tradução tem muitos erros que a revisão (se é que existiu) deixou passar. Embora as narrativas pessoais enriqueçam a dimensão humana, sente-se por vezes a falta de uma visão de conjunto mais estruturada e que faça sentido. A utilização de poemas escritos por soldados é exagerada.
Hanson Rosenquist
Read this in '04. I remember reading it while hiding out in my grandma's house because my parents house was infested with Hobo spiders. So while 20,000 British soldiers died in the opening of the Somme offensive on the pages before my eyes, I was thinking only of giant spiders. It surely brings those men no honor.
The book however was very informative, even if it did have 1 or 2 discrepencies (smugly adjusts nerd glasses.) If you want to read one book about the Great War and not study it for y
David Zachariason
A decent basic intro to WWI. Too much mediocre poetry. Some really silly errors that make me question other statements in the book.
Gilbert does a wonderful job telling the history of the Great War, through letters, poetry and pure fact. It was a thick book, physically and content-wise, but very helpful in understanding the set-up for World War 2. I think World History classes would do well to have students read books like this instead of craming dates and facts from a textbook. Afterall the message of history is to not repeat it and this book makes it very clear why war is so horrible. Unfortunately the men who fought in WW ...more
Steven Williams
It s was a good book. But I don't think it was one of his best. I don't know how he does it, but he produces a smooth narrative out a ramble of information going from one point to another. Come to think of it I don't know most, or sI say all, good writers create a clear and precise narrative.
Chris Wright
Very readable but a strange way to write a history book. Enjoyed the personal touches about individuals and the poetry they wrote.
The best single volume history of WW1 that I have read. Martin Gilbert writes about life during cataclysmic world events not about the cataclysmic events themselves. Often you can forget that you are reading a book about a war at all, more you are reading about the clash of destinies from people all the way up to entire cultures and philosophies. I could go on and on. Reading both this book and his book on ww2 instead of one or the other would definately be the way to go.
Jason Reeser
I have always been drawn to WWII, and have usually ignored WWI. This book changed all that, and while I still gravitate to WWII, The Great War is now something I can understand and get a big picture of thanks to this book. I did come to hate the war, as far as its origins, because there is no driving cause that might even begin to justify so much waste. The carnage is simply disgusting and there are no excuses for this break down in human relations.
Miguel Ángel Moreno
Escribe de forma amena, lo cual es su punto fuerte, pero para mí tiene demasiados puntos débiles: el libro es una especie de diario de combates y se detiene continuamente en hechos individuales (tal poeta murió tal día al defender tal trinchera) y testimonios, no prestando atención apenas a la estrategia, la tecnología o la logística. Ni siquiera mantiene una visión global. Además, se centra excesivamente en la parte británica.
J. Clayton Rogers
Read this many years ago. I trashed Gilbert's biography of Churchill, so I want to make amends with this review. Really, this is one of the best history books I've ever read. Gilbert's timeline style suits the topic perfectly. What is overwhelming in his WWII and 20th Century books (can anyone remember what happened on page 100 by the time you reach page 106?) is rendered with heartbreaking precision in this volume.
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Sir Martin John Gilbert is a British historian and Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford. He is the author of over eighty books, including works on the Holocaust and Jewish history. Gilbert is a leading historian of the modern world, and is known as the official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill.
More about Martin Gilbert...
Churchill: A Life The Holocaust The Second World War: A Complete History The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust Israel: A History

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