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The World's War

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  150 ratings  ·  36 reviews
A unique account of the millions of colonial troops who fought in the First World War, and why they were later air-brushed out of history.

Every major battle fought on the Western Front, from the First Battle of Ypres to the Second Battle of the Marne, was fought by Allied armies that were multi-racial and multi-ethnic. Yet from the moment the guns fell silent the role of n
Hardcover, 424 pages
Published August 1st 2014 by Head of Zeus
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Average rating 4.41  · 
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I found this a wide ranging (but inevitably not wide ranging enough (view spoiler)) but shallow book, an interesting addition to reading, remembering or thinking about the First World War (view spoiler), it accompanied a TV series which I did not see, but since that was only a little series - maybe a couple of hours of documentary, while the book is over 400 pages, I am fairly ...more
K.J. Charles
Aug 13, 2019 added it
Shelves: 1910s, ww1
A brilliant work. Olusoga has disinterred the deliberately erased stories of the literally millions of non-white, non-European troops who fought in WW1 on both sides, and the results are jawdropping. Both in the incredible untold/forgotten stories (the Indian VC winners and the Battle of Henry Johnson are astounding) but more in the incredible racial bigotry at play, as both sides weighed up the need for men with the equally urgent need to keep the myth of racial superiority alive in their empir ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An excellent and very enlightening history of World War 1, showing how a seemingly European conflict drew in people from right across the globe, with their involvement either at the forefront of battle or in a supporting role.

It is very important to keep in mind that the first shots fired in the First World War occurred in Africa and one should also remember that the war was also fought in Asia.

Sadly the role played by many of people from many diverse cultures and countries have been either down
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
I'm really glad that I read this and I learnt a lot. It's super informative and about a really important topic. The writing wasn't all that gripping though and, as Olusoga is covering such a vast topic, at times it became a bit too dense for me. But I am really glad that I've read this and I want to search out the documentary that he presented about this topic. ...more
Peter Dunn
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The very title ‘World War One’ should be enough to remind us that this was a global conflict, and anyone with even the remotest interest in modern history will have retained enough scraps of info from our education and reading to vaguely reinforce that.

However the author historian David Olusoga is right to point out that for the most part our minds are drawn to images, stories, histories and even war poetry, that fills our mind with thoughts of a vast clash between essentially white Eurasian ar
Revanth Ukkalam
The First World War had more firsts than one is typically cognizant of. The White code of combat - that no coloureds would be brought into their battlefield - was superbly broken. Many Chinese - who saw blacks for the first time in their lives had to fight with common cause in say, France against Arabs who too were in the Jihad declared by the Kaiser of Germany (lol?). Class, race, religion, gender - the First World War threw a challenge at all of them. The War to End All Wars transcended the co ...more
Apr 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book covers much of the same ground as Olusoga's excellent documentaries that the BBC first screened in August 2014. Both book and documentaries showcases a largely overlooked aspect of WWI - the contributions of non-Europeans (other than the U.S.) to the war efforts of European countries as soldiers and civilian personnel as well as the effects of the war on the European colonies. Both are aimed as an interested lay public. This is reflected in Olusoga's style of prose that makes for an eas ...more
Oct 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
An extremely interesting book that does an excellent job of drawing attention to a neglected area of history and of calling out the dominant narratives of WWI for their eurocentricism. It is occasionally a little clunky in style, but by and large it is compellingly written, as Olusoga combines stories about individuals and sweeping birds-eye view explanations, interspersed with modern events that reflect back on the war. Would highly recommend.
Roger Woods
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book accompanies David Olusoga's excellent TV documentary concerning the contribution made to the First World War by colonial troops and African Americans. The racism that prevailed after the War was shameful denying many courageous men and women their rightful place in history. This book helps to set the record straight and should be required reading for all those interested in the story of the First World War. ...more
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well written, objective, well researched, balanced book. Really, 4.5 stars. It was a delight to read and I highly enjoyed this volume. One can tell the author was writing a companion piece to a tv series, as many of the chapters and sub chapters begin with vivd, descriptive " word pictures" that serve as introductions to topical places or events . It is in the tradition of the best of BBC scholarship.
Where the book has flaws, I suspect it is only insofar as the author relied too heavily upon r
Willem van den Oever
The First World War is generally regarded as a “white” war. British, French, German and Russian soldiers fighting one another, all stemmed from Caucasian countries in Europe. What is all too often forgotten is the fact that a total number of over four million non-white people had an active role in the struggles of this war. Mostly citizens from the colonies of various European empires, these men of color either volunteered or were (violently) drafted to enter the battlegrounds of Belgium, France ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww1
This is a fantastic book. It's well-written, well-researched and should be essential reading for every school child in Britain.

It's a history of forgetting as much as it is a history of colonialism. It tells the stories of what happened to the colonial troops of Britain and France as well as the African-American soldiers of the United States of America. It talks about the thinking behind their dispatch to the front line and why it was objected to. It tells the stories of their involvement in the
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written and fascinating history of WWI's global dimension. This book brings to life the now sadly forgotten battles in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and the colonial subjects of Britain, France and Germany that participated in the war effort. What I found most interesting and apropos to current events are the cultural and racial bias in these three warring countries with their impact still felt today. For example, both the British and French subscribed to a "martial race theory ...more
Oleksandr Zholud
This book addresses less known part of the World War I – namely participation of on-whites in European fronts. It should be noted that while the majority of deaths/wound of the war were European, there were hundreds thousands of other people across the globe, who took part and paid their part in suffering, which was largely forgotten after the war.
Special highlights are for Indian troops of British, French Tirailleur Sénégalais. Also German African campaign of general Lettow-Vorbeck and his Aska
Ana-Maria Bujor
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best history books I got to read - it educated me in so many ways and made me appreciate how far we've come. I barely knew anything about the non-white people fighting during WW1. One day, when looking for pictures to colorize (which is a hobby of mine), I found one presenting soldiers from Nigeria, Vietnam and Senegal among POWs. It got me curious as I had never heard about their role. Now I know. And it's not a pretty story.
The complexity of the racial theories that governed
Martin Bonfil
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A timely analysis and exposition of the extent, experiences and involvement of non-Europeans in the First World War. Although I have read quite a number books on the conflict, few have acknowledged the extent to which black and asian soldiers and support workers were involved in every aspect of the war. It is an impassioned indictment of the racism of the time, which saw their contribution marginalised and frequently erased from the historical record.

It is particularly good on the role of imper
Nathan Martin
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t often write book reviews, but I had to after finishing reading this. As a history teacher, I like many have always been fascinated by the world wars. I’ve enjoyed studying them as a student and teaching them to students in lessons. But as a history teacher who is black, this book has really resonated with me. David Olusoga has done an amazing job of opening my eyes up to a war that I didn’t even no existed. The extensive detail of the contributions of African, Caribbean, African-American ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
I would like to say l read this book, but l cannot. I am sure the author is knowledgeable about the subject matter and the book is associated with the BBC. This was one of the things that drew me to buy the book in the first place.

However, in starting to read the book, the racism theme was overwhelming. The author beats this drum so incessantly, loudly and frequently, it became a distraction and finally turned me off wanting to beat through the deluge.

I understand and accept the fact this period
Helen Pakpahan
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an important book highlighting the conflicts around the globe which took place in WW1 and the contribution of people of colour to both western front and other locations.
Really fascinating with detailed evidence - although some commentary not referenced (eg british propaganda placed poc in background).

Many criticism is that it doesnt feel like a sole piece if work - some chapters really readable, in others, the language was more stilted... and some chapters repeat details. Perhaps it was
Oct 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important and valuable contribution to the historiography of the First World War. It shines a spotlight on the service and experience of the thousands of non-Europeans who took part in the conflict. It embraces those who served with the Allied and Associated Powers as well as with the Germans. Although the stories told are horrendous (I found the accounts of the Carrier Corps in Africa and the Afro-American troops in the US forces especially harrowing), the book is measured in tone an ...more
Emma Dargue
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
really interesting book about how essentially the non white fighting force such as the native Americans, Chinese labourers answer african nation soldiers such as the morrocans and Senegalese were abused mistrusted and in some cases used as slave labour and then were forgotten about by the white majority and not recognised even in death as being part of the first world war. such an educational book.
Stephen Hubbard
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing and compelling.

This book opened my eyes to the untold story of WW1. My great grandfather died in December 1915 in France. He would have fought alongside Indians on the day he died. I wonder what he thought of those men who had traveled much further than him to die at his side. I will never know but because of this book I know more about the world he lived in and that he died being a part of.
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"To seek to uncover the global nature of the First World War is not to dismiss the fact that the conflict was fought mainly in Europe, and mainly by white Europeans, of whom as many as 16 million died. But, by definition, 'mainly' is not the whole story, and beyond 'mainly' lie the experiences, the sacrifices and the stories of 4 million non-European, non-white peoples, who have remained in the shadows for much too long."

I aim to read every book that Olusoga ever publishes.
Andy Horton
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent piece of history. Looks at soldiers and ancillary personnel of colour in all armies in WWI. I expected social history, but this is also a solid piece of military history. Prticularly telling on the discrepancy between BaME soldiers' role in the war and how they were treated by their governments. ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ranging from the forgotten contributions of the Chinese Labour Corp to the lynching of African-American veterans upon their return to the US, this book is an incredibly intense and necessary read for anyone with the slightest interest in the First World War.
Helen Louise
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book. So brilliantly written. David Olusoga brought WWI a new that should always have been clear to all. Thank you!
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It would be only right if books were written about all the non-whites who participated in both World Wars.
Nick Jones
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a very fine book, and a very necessary one.
Dave Evans
Great and long needed discussion of the role of non-European soldiers in world war one. Compelling narrative dispelling the myth.
Buff Davis
Feb 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Amazing and eye opening, when you take away the prism of 'Empire' and consider the facts, the truth speaks very loudly ...more
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