To Arms Book CoverThe First World War: To Arms - by Hew Strachan.

Hew Strachan's The First World War Vol I: A Call to Arms counteracts the argument that of the two world wars in the 20th century, it is usually only the second that is thought of as "global"--spanning from the Pacific to Normandy as Hollywood continues to remind us, from the River Plate to Scapa Flow as naval buffs will recall. By contrast the First World War is often assumed to be a European war, literally bogged down in the Somme and the Dardanelles. But as Hew Strachan argues in this magisterial and wide-ranging book we would do better to use the German phrase, "weltkrieg" to describe the conflicts of 1914-18 as well. The Call to Arms is the latest in a long line of Strachan's distinguished and subtle works of military history at its best: his recent The Politics of the British Army is particularly good. A Call to Arms covers the war in every part of the globe--chapters on Turkey, Africa and Japan sit alongside sections devoted to the Western and Eastern fronts. And Strachan shows too that the war was global not just in its geography, but also in its outcome.

The entente powers had better access to international finance than their foes; the war accelerated religious and tribal nationalism in the old colonial empires; industrial mobilisation fuelled the growth of heavy industry in 'undeveloped' parts of the world. This is a big book--1,000 pages plus, and it is only the first of three volumes. It needs time and attentive reading to absorb the range of its scholarship and the originality of its arguments. But anyone wanting to understand how and why the First World War, as one French writer put it in 1914, extended "to the whole universe" must read this book.--Miles Taylor
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