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The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  448 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews

It is one of the essential events of military history, a cataclysmic encounter that prevented a quick German victory in World War I and changed the course of two wars and the world. Now, for the first time in a generation, here is a bold new account of the Battle of the Marne. A landmark work by a distinguished scholar, The Marne, 1914 gives, for the first time, all sides

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Published December 1st 2009 by Random House (first published 2009)
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Matt
Oct 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-i
Round about a year ago, I decided it was time for me to read deeply on World War I. For years, I’d mostly ignored the subject. I was put off by its complex beginning, its complex ending, and the staggering wastefulness of all the years in between. However, seeing as I’m a self-respecting history buff, and since World War I may be the most important event of the 20th century, I dove headlong into the subject.

And yes, I realize I might better have spent this time becoming a better person, doing a
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Dimitri
Arguably the most famous map concerning the First World War is the one showing the initial German offensive, with a set of giant arrow sweeping through Belgium towards Paris. It looks like the Entente armies stopped a broom dead cold on the Marne. Holger Herwig has taken this sterile image and brought it to life with all the colourful élan and pulsating action of a swashbuckler film. This was a war of movement, fought by opponents schooled in the offensive, who continuously sought to thrust at t ...more
Steven Peterson
Dec 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
World War I began with both sides sensing great victory in a short period of time. Germany faced the more delicate strategic situation. Russia was mobilizing to the East and France and Germany to the West; Germany could not divide its forces and hope to triumph along both fronts. Germany made the following calculation: if it used the bulk of its forces against France, using the Schlieffen Plan (invading through Belgium) and achieved a quick victory, it could send spare forces to the East to defe ...more
Ken
This book was a little more technical than I liked. The writing was very dry and unengaged. It would probably have been more interesting if I was more familiar with World War I history, but I found it difficult to follow.
Jerome
Jul 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging and vividly detailed history of the First Battle of the Marne. Herwig does a fine job explaining how the commanders of 1914, like many before them and since, fought a modern war with the inappropriate tactics of a different era. Herwig demonstrates a mastery of all of the little details that bring home the brutality of modern war for the reader. He does a fine job fleshing out the various commanders involved. A central theme of Herwig’s book is how commanders’ determination to win wa ...more
Charles Inglin
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very readable account of the opening moves of World War I. Detailed enough for a historical account, lively enough to keep you turning pages. Particularly interesting to me was the depiction of the personalities, Joffre, von Moltke, Gallieni, von Kluck, Castelnau, von Bulow, and how their strengths and weakness, assumptions, hubris, and sometimes pettiness affected the outcome of the battle. The German side was particularly interesting and surprising, given their reputation for efficiency. Hav ...more
Ben
May 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book got off to a rough start in the early chapters. The author talks a lot about the Schlieffen plan, which is obviously important. He talks about how Schlieffen studied the Carthaginian victory at Cannae but seems to criticize Schlieffen for overlooking the fact that Rome went on to win the war because of naval superiority. This is pointless criticism. If they would've gone through with Schlieffen's plan, they could've won the war within six weeks and Britain's naval superiority would've ...more
Elliott
I debate the stark originality that the back cover led to make of this book when I picked it up. Quite clearly Herwig has read Tuchman's The Guns of August and much of this book's pacing and even anecdotal material seems completely ripped from Tuchman's book. There were numerous times when in the text I realized I had read that before in nearly the same words. I also debate the claimed "reinterpretation" of the Schlieffen Plan. Herwig seems to me to repeat the same interpretation it has always h ...more
Sean McLachlan
I read this book right after reading the author's excellent The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918. That book offered a sweeping history of the war trough the experience of the Central Powers with plenty of interesting anecdotes from common people.

I wish Herwig had written his book on the Battle of the Marne the same way. He goes into excruciating detail about troop movements from the opening moves of the war all the way up to the Germans' fateful decision to withdraw and reg
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Jim Pfluecke
Jun 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite its name, this book is basically an update of the Guns of August, covering the first six weeks of WWI. Herwig threads a narrative history of the events, quotations from participants, and persona's in with commentary on other writers on the subject. For instance, he seeks to provide evidence that there was in fact a Schlieffen/Moltke plan (rebutting Zuker, I believe the authors name is) and hammering on the point that the Germans lost because Moltke refused to lead and his army commanders ...more
Patricrk patrick
Feb 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The German plan was faulty. The German General Staff did not execute the plan well. The French plan was faulty and played into the Germans hands. Neither side was ready for the firepower that the other side was bringing to the battle. It could have gone either way depending on a few key decisions. The capacity of the French soldiers to fight, retreat and fight again amazed the Germans. The French did a much better job of utilizing their railroads to switch troops to where they were needed.
Bob Koelle
Nowhere near as moving or engaging as First Day on the Somme or similar books. This is really a daily, sometimes hourly account of the movements and engagements of all the French and German armies lined up in August and early September 1914. This is told from a German point of view, and the lesson driven home is how battle plans fall apart quickly once the enemy is engaged. If you want to know how each of the numbered armies and corps maneuvered for that month, this book is for you. But everyone ...more
John Mcgee
Heavy going and dry...
Joe
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really think it's 3 1/2 stars. The last two chapters and the epilogue really are great discussions about the actual Battle of the Marne. The story of the enigmatic Lt. Colonel Hentsch is concise and explained well. It is a worthy read for that part alone.
Jean Poulos
The battle of the Marne is regarded as the most decisive land battle since the allies defeated Napoleon at the Waterloo in 1815. The Marne was the opening battle of World War One. Herwig primarily looks at the battle from the German view point. Once the decisions that led to the war have been dealt with Herwig covers the mobilization of both sides, and the respective war plans. He notes, however, that both French and German war plans were not nearly as well developed as earlier scholarship has a ...more
Derek Weese
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that is, ultimately, about the failure of command. Written, mostly though not exclusively, from the perspective of the German General Staff and the field commanders of the Armies involved in the operations, this book details how a superb organization (and make no mistakes about it, the Imperial German Army was a superb army)broke down in the face of an unravelling plan and unexpected enemy counter-moves.
Holger Herwig takes some issue with those who claim that there was no such th
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Elyse
I finished this book with an exhausted sigh of relief. Since I did read it I can't say that it was "unreadable" but it sure was close.

Herwig begins by explaining that the Battle of the Marne really includes the entirety of the war up until the fighting on the Marne began in September 1914. But, when he finally gets to what everyone else in the world calls the Battle of the Marne, he also calls it "the Battle of the Marne." Whatever.

After slogging through the first 200 pages of a badly summariz
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Chris
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: othernonfiction

A history of the opening months of World War I, this time told with much more detail about the German end of things, unlike most histories where the Germans are a faceless horde and the story centers on the French and Joffre's efforts to stop them.

The Germans of the opening months of World War I were anything but; they're still organized feudally, with the armies divided by the troops' kingdom of origin, and often lead by royalty instead of professional soldiers. Moltke is portrayed as the anti
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Jon Sanders
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read a lot of history on the Great War, but have never delved too deep into the first campaigns of the late summer and autumn of 1914. The victors write the history books, and the French lead us to believe that sheer elan and determination won them a tactical victory at the Marne. As students we are regaled with the mythic Paris taxicabs shuttling troops to the front lines in a gallant attempt at saving the city. (In actuality, the effort was kind of inconsequential, but it makes for grea ...more
Sergio Nebot
Excelente libro para descubrir los primeros estadios de la Gran Guerra. Agosto y Septiembre fueron decisivos para el curso de la contienda, como Herwing nos muestra a lo largo del libro, que por otro lado está muy bien documentado. A mi parecer únicamente le falta una mayor profundidad en el análisis del plan Schlieffen-Molke. Las causas del punto muerto, tal vez no se encuentren en decisiones puntuales, sino más bien en el planteamiento mismo de la ofensiva. Demasiadas variables entraban en jue ...more
Wade
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A triumphant romp through the most crucial days of WW1 taking on on the boots of the German armies as it comes to within sight of Paris, and how everything broke down and how France was saved. This is a tremendously interesting story that I've never heard. The book is written well, not amazingly well, but good enough to keep one engaged. The repetition of Army and Corps boggles one's mind and the maps are simply dreadful. A re-release with some GIS imagery would help understand what was going on ...more
Drew
Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Herwig's book is not, strictly speaking, about the Battle of the Marne; it's a narrative of the opening of the war from the Battles of the Frontiers, to Mons, to the Marne, and the subsequent (German) fallback from the Marne. In essence, the first two months of the war.

The author has certainly done his research. Herwig provides a detailed account of the events of August and September, often down to the hour. He tells a tale of dust and heat, roaring guns and nighttime bayonet charges, and the th
...more
Wevans
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi
Interesting view regarding the first month of WWI in the Western Front cumulating with the Battle Of The Marne.
Explains the variuos factors involved regarding decisions to act, preparation of war, the various battle plans involved, the deployment of troops and their readiness.
It is not a hard book to read but it isn't an easy read either; that is, there are lots of references to various divisions which can detract from the easy flow of reading. The maps are included but are too small to actual
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Js Absher
I don't know enough to evaluate the narrative or analysis of Herwig's book.

Just before reading it, I'd skimmed Richard Stark's crime novel, "The Score." In both cases, complex plans go awry. Though the difference in the scale of events and destruction is enormous, some of the problems are similar - unforeseeable contingencies, insufficient communication, differences and conflicts among nominal allies, wishful thinking as the enemy of clear strategy and execution - not a problem for Parker, the
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JR Bricksfield
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-wwi
Herwig makes the argument that the first Battle of the Marne was the most significant battle of the twentieth century, possibly since Waterloo. Germany and France mobilized on extraordinary scales, and the industrial weapons of war allowed for unprecedented levels of killing. Herwig asserts that the conduct and outcome of this battle resulted in four more years of slaughter, and set the conditions for the rise of Hitler, emergence of the Soviet Union, and the possibility of WWII. What is also in ...more
Brendan Hodge
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-great-war
Herwig's book covers not just the Marne itself, but the planning the underlay the German and French actions at the outbreak of war, the mobilization of both sides, and the Battles of the Frontiers which segued into the Battle of the Marne. As such, it is a detailed and readable account of the outbreak of the war through it's first month and a half. It makes extensive use of accounts both from official war diaries and from individual soldier's letters and journals.

I found it very helpful.
Adamonip
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
Herwig's Battle of the Marne is an excellent account of the opening campaign of World War I from the French and German perspectives. The British account is often from a French perspective, France’s Joseph Joffre constantly prodding the BEF leadership. This book is hardcore military history and moves from the operational to the tactical with easy. Not sure it is a whole a new account but a good read.
Richard
An important work to have if this is your area of interest. Unfortunately nothing new here as Herwig's account is basically a boiled down and little revised version of Sewell Tyng's exhaustive studies on the subject. Essentially, in my opinion, Herwig provides the hitherto agreed upon story of the Campaign of the Marne, but this theory is being assaulted ferociously by authors such as Jerry Murland.
Rob Roy
Sep 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 51-world-war-i
The first major battle in the west during the First World War was the Battle of the Marne. This book goes reviews the movements that lead up to the battle, the battle and the aftermath. This is not your classic blow by blow military movement history, but rather deals with the command structures and strategic decision making as they unfolded. The battle itself was inconclusive, but heralded the beginning of trench warfare. An excellent book for those interested in the First World War.
Christopher Szabo
At first I thought the claim that this battle "changed the world" was excessive, but on reading the book, I had to agree, at least in part.

The book was great in giving an insight into the disorganisation of both the Allied and the German armies. It was suprising to read about just how much confusion reigned in the German Army, and which ultimately prevented their capture of Paris in 1914.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in military history.
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Holger Herwig holds a dual position at the University of Calgary as Professor of History and as Canada Research Chair in the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies. He received his BA (1965) from the University of British Columbia and his MA (1967) and Ph.D. (1971) from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Dr. Herwig taught at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1971 ...more
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