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World War One: A Short History

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  313 ratings  ·  58 reviews
The First World War was the overwhelming disaster from which everything else in the twentieth century stemmed. Fourteen million combatants died, a further twenty million were wounded, four empires were destroyed and even the victors' empires were fatally damaged. The sheer complexity and scale of the war have encouraged historians to write books on a similar scale. But now ...more
Paperback, 225 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Penguin Books (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 606)
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This book raises some important questions, i.e., (a) what were they smoking when they published it?, and (2) where can I get some?

Although reading is my favorite activity, the process which leads to publication is a mystery to me. Why did Basic Books publish this book? Who did they think was going to read it? Call me crazy if you want, but I thought that the overwhelming majority of sales might to university undergraduates taking a survey course of twentieth-century history, with a minority of a
Jul 03, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bulgur sniffers
Shelves: european-history

Short and unsatisfying.

I picked this off the library shelf to read in accompaniment with a World War I novel I'm reading as a group read. This book was not on my radar; I don't think I've heard of the author; but the books on WWI that actually are on my to-read list are fairly massive, and I wanted something that I would finish at about the same time as the novel. My knowledge of WWI at this point is pretty much The Guns of August.

Is everyone else excited for the WWI centennial???
World War One : A Short History by Norman Stone was a book I definately would reccomend to someone that wants to learn some backround information on World War I. In this book Norman Stone elaborates and presents the collapses of the four empires: Hapsburg, German,Tsarist, and The Ottoman Empire collapsed. He also challenges the current understandings of treaties that were created after the war by expanding and introducing them as failures. He also introduces the conflicts and European countries ...more
Neale Rigg
Didn't see the ending coming at all LOL
After reading Guns of August, which only covered the first month of the war, I wanted more. I read about this book and thought it would give a good overview of the war, and I liked the year-by-year analysis. However, the author's too-frequent use of parentheticals chopped the story up, and often the little asides did not add much or assumed the reader knew more. Also, his too-frequent use of pronouns made me backtrack through paragraphs to figure out who Stone was talking about. As an example, o ...more
Liam Boyd
Indie Reads II, Assignment 3

I am not a fan of World War One, A Short History, by Norman Stone. My feeling about this book is that it was like reading a dictionary; always correct, but dry fact after dry fact, etcetera! There is not enough personal information about any of the key politicians, generals or soldiers to make them interesting. Kaiser Wilhelm, Churchill and others were very interesting men who have had much written about them, but in this book, they are just names. For exam
Well frankly this book was a waste of time. The author seems so intent on amusing us with his epigrams that the war comes off as a jolly laugh. Also, some of them border on anti-Catholic. This may be the fault of the author's writing. At one point I thought English was his second language but on researching his background, I found out he was born and raised in Scotland. His overuse of the coma is criminal. So is his fondness for parenthesis. Not for the novice. Only someone who is well read in W ...more
Richard Kearney
Norman Stone's "World War One: A Short History" is a well-written narrative focused on the military history of the conflict that decisively and traumatically influenced events around the globe right up to the present day, although it does not neglect the war's political and diplomatic dimensions. Stone, a distinguished historian of the twentieth century who has published extensively on both world wars and Turkish history, offers a fairly comprehensive perspective on the participants and events o ...more
Andrew Fear
I wish I could write like this. Stone manages to extract the key themes of the war without becoming bogged down in a somme of detail. This isn't for tactical military historians, but is full of insights and theories about strategy. Inevitably some bits and pieces aren't there - the East African War for example, but then as side shows they are rightly ignored. Stone adds just enough personalia and dry wit to keep the whole thing entertaining as well as informative and thought-provoking. A grand b ...more
Good but it really is short - less than 200 pages - one substantial chapter per year roughly. It does look at all the fronts too so there is a tremendous amount compressed into this slim volume and if you want anything more than an overview it needs to be followed up with more detailed works - of which there is a good list of recommendations. It is inevitably given its size an opinionated read and leans to the lions led by donkeys cliche of the the great war but it is sprinkled with odd facts to ...more
Mike Knox
Chapter 1 (Outbreak) weaves together the various factors that made Europe a place where war was waiting to happen. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was ‘the inevitable accident’. Years later the murderer said that if he had not done it, “the Germans would have found another excuse” (23). "The generation that emerged into maturity around 1890 has much to answer for…the greatest mistake of the twentieth century was made when Germany built a navy designed to attack [Great Britain:]” (1 ...more
Ryan J
In this book there is a very strong and detailed description of World War 1. The author gives information on specific battles and what is happening in Europe through the years of 1914-1918. The book opens in early 1914 and shows Germany's true intentions of gaining land in Eurpoe, and their plan the take out the Russian Army before the Russians became to powerful. Germany had been waiting for the right moment to declare war on Russia. Then, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian ...more
Jacob O
I think that World War One: A Short History by Norman Stone was an average book. It got the main points across, but I lost interest quickly. The author explains important events of the war in such a way that I had to read pages over and over again until I could understand what he was talking about. Battles are explained poorly as well. No interesting facts or detailed descriptions of the battles are given, just a simple explanation of what the plan was and who won. Also, none of the important pe ...more
A couple of weeks ago whilst watching some programme about the first world war I realised that I don't actually know much about it. So I thought I'd remedy the situation. I will probably read a more in-depth book at some point in the future but I thought it would be useful to read a quick summary first - so I picked up this book at my local library.

Once you've discounted photographs, blank pages, maps, the index etc. the page count is more like 120 pages. So it's called a 'Short History' and th
Jim Coughenour
If you want to get a solid understanding of World War One in an afternoon, this book would be hard to beat. Stone moves expertly across the years and geography of a conflict that still seems impossible to grasp in its stupidity and staggering cost – and not only in terms of lives and fortune: this war more or less accomplished the suicide of European civilization. (For an exalted examination of that idea, see George Steiner's In Bluebeard's Castle.)

Stone is masterful at summing up the current sc
It has been 100 years since this global disaster. Norman Stones' book is a fast moving recap of the event that cost millions of lives and resolved so little. The war to end all wars didn't, only becoming just another step in the technology of killing on a massive scale. A good enough review on the debacle that accomplished next to nothing, and spawned Adolf Hitler.
Boring. A slog. If I wanted a dry recitation of "troops move this way and conquer X, troops move that way and are defeated at Y," I could have just sat down for a game of Risk, and it would have been shorter too. Maybe that's a little harsh. What it comes down to is that I'm just not interested in military actions. I'm usually more interested in the diplomatic and social context that leads to them. And while this book did have some of that, especially in the final couple chapters, it just wasn't ...more
Well, this wasn't the best history book I've ever read, but it was okay. It was like the information you would get about an historical period from a history professor over a beer, mostly off the top of his head. It was a survey, with lots of stuff missing from some chapters (one for each year of the war), and too much detail on troop movements and battles and generals you were supposed to already know (which I didn't). So it was a little frustrating, but also gave me a broader understanding of h ...more
A short, smart introduction to the first world war. It assumes some contextual knowledge that I'm not sure everyone has, but it's very readable. Good maps at the back. I'll be using this with my class in two weeks. Hope it will give them a good overall sense of a remarkably stupid war.
Christopher Litsinger
I read this book after seeing it on a list of "the best books of the last decade that you didn't read" and figuring I didn't know that much about World War One and it was probably time to change that.
The book's greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness- it is, as it says a short history. At 200 pages in print, it read to me at times like lists of places and names that I wasn't so familiar with.
All the same, if you are looking for a quick overview of the war, this is a fine place to start.
I compact history of the Great War, with mostly a tactical focus. A great resource to understand the maneuvering and waging of the major (and not major) battles, which in turn limits the scope of the work. I'd look elsewhere for an analysis of the politics, major figures, repercussions, etc. of the war
Peter Ellwood
Great fun to read: Stone is opinionated and at times brutal, and he sure has opinions on the conduct of war. But it's quite striking how little this admittedly short book actually tells you: for example the gas attacks and the 1915 battle of Ypres - one of the major events of the entire war - is dealt with in a couple of sentences.

I might come back to this book again some day, once I have read a more detailed and conventional account of the war. I imagine the Stone book might well form an inter
Ender Wiggin
I just find it useful for History essays. When I started reading the whole book I was just getting confused with the names, the war events and stuff...
Great book. As the title says, it is a short history of WW1.

It needs more maps, though.
Jun 09, 2008 Alice rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: war
I was disappointed by this whistle-stop tour of the First World War. Although well-written and easy to read, it is opinionated and sarcastic, qualities I don't feel belong in a book which calls itself a 'History'. The Germans come off particularly badly: one is left with the impression that they are a nation of blockheads. The author's statement that towards the end of the war faster monoplanes were replacing the old biplanes struck me as completely wrong - the most successful fighters of 1918 w ...more
Not a bad book. It doesn't sell itself as being big on details and information, like most historical books about wars - but it does deliver on what it calls itself. Namely, "A Short History (of WWI)." It covers a lot of territory very concisely and quite swiftly. Some of the details included are things not found elsewhere, whereas some points are straight facts that can be found in other books. As a supplementary piece, it does the trick. It does inspire one to want to read more on the insanitie ...more
Andrew Patrick
This is an excellent short history. It boils the great events down to the key players and gives a better understanding of the way the war was fought than many longer histories I've read.

"In four years the world went from 1870 to 1940."

If anyone's written a better sentence about this cataclysm, I have yet to read it.
I bought the book in a museum on WW1 in Slovenia, hoping it would help me understand the history of the war.
In fact, the text confused me, I could not remember the names and could not figure out where did the events take place. Of course, I could have taken out the atlas or searched on Internet, but the purpose was to read about history, not to prepare an exam...
I suppose the subject does not interest me sufficiently to sustain my attention.
I finally got bored and dropped it half way through.
Abby Sider
After reading numerous novels set in and around WWI--both classics and otherwise--I realized I somehow never studied it in school (how is that possible? I think I switched my major too many times) and it was high time I learned more about it. I was both fascinated by the explanation of historical context and bored to tears by the descriptions of battles--but I imagine there's no way around them. For a quick (and opinionated) summary of an epic period in history, this book does a fine job.
The book's advertised brevity is both its strength and shortcoming. Stone keeps an unbreakable gaze on the chronological and political events surrounding the war, but the self-imposed limits on his scope mean that no causes, consequences, or connections whatsoever are addressed. One might argue that this was not the purpose of the book, but no alternate reason for writing this book was posited - save brevity. What, ultimately, is the point? This is not the way to write history.
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“On 28 June 1914 the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia, a heartland of the South Slavs. Philosophers refer to ‘the inevitable accident’, and this was a very accidental one. Some young Serb terrorists had planned to murder him as he paid a state visit. They had bungled the job, throwing a bomb that missed, and one of them had repaired to a café in a side street to sort himself out. The Archduke drove to the headquarters of the governor-general, Potiorek (where he was met by little girls performing folklore), and berated him (the two men were old enemies, as the Archduke had prevented the neurasthenic Potiorek from succeeding an elderly admirer as Chief of the General Staff). The Archduke went off in a rage, to visit in hospital an officer wounded by the earlier bomb. His automobile moved off again, a Count Harrach standing on the running board. Its driver turned left after crossing a bridge over Sarajevo’s river. It was the wrong street, and the driver was told to stop and reverse. In reverse gear such automobiles sometimes stalled, and this one did so - Count Harrach on the wrong side, away from the café where one of the assassination team was calming his nerves. Now, slowly, his target drove up and stopped. The murderer, Gavrilo Princip, fired. He was seventeen, a romantic schooled in nationalism and terrorism, and part of a team that stretches from the Russian Nihilists of the middle of the nineteenth century, exemplified especially in Dostoyevsky’s prophetic The Possessed and Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes. Austria did not execute adolescents and Princip was young enough to survive. He was imprisoned and died in April 1918. Before he died, a prison psychiatrist asked him if he had any regrets that his deed had caused a world war and the death of millions. He answered: if I had not done it, the Germans would have found another excuse.” 0 likes
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