The Battle of Jutland by John Brooks
Published by Cambridge University Press on May 9, 2016
Genres: History, Europe, Great Britain, General, Military, World War I, Modern, 20th Century
A remarkable work of scholarship; Brooks went back to the original reports submitted by the British commanders—Jellicoe, Beatty, and all their subordinates, as well as communications logs, gunnery logs, and other supplemental materials. The result is a detailed examination of the battle that strips away a hundred years of claims and counter-claims and provides a detailed, minute-by-minute account of the battle. Along the way Brooks offers many fresh insights into the actions of the British naval leadership. One warning: This is not a book for casual reading—to extract its full value the reader must pay close attention!
(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)
Churchill and the Dardanelles by Christopher M. Bell
Published by Oxford University Press on January 12, 2017
Genres: History, Europe, Great Britain, General, Military, Modern, 20th Century, Biography & Autobiography, Historical, World War I, World War II
A reassessment of Churchill’s role in the conception, planning and execution of the Dardanelles fiasco, as well as an examination of the subsequent inquiry and the long-standing controversy over the operation. Bell previously wrote Churchill and Sea Power, and is an expert on the great man’s relationship with the Royal Navy. His account draws on a mass of archival material, and provides a more nuanced view of the people and politics that contributed to the decision-making process.
(Notes by Steve McLaughlin)
The Vanquished by Robert Gerwarth
on November 7, 2017
Genres: History, Europe, General, Military, World War I, Modern, 20th Century, Tomlinson
Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2016
If it is true, as they say, that the victors write the history, then our understanding of World War I and the century that followed is at the very least incomplete. Take, for example, the seemingly basic question of when the war ended. The standard date–November 11, 1918–privileges the experiences of the victors, most notably France, Great Britain and the United States, all of which use it as a time for national holidays based on war memorialization.
At issue is more than simple semantics or the preferences of pedantic historians. … Robert Gerwarth cites German veteran and writer of Storm of Steel Ernst Jünger, who said in 1928, “This war is not the end but the beginning of violence.” Thus, we can understand the “First World War” as not having truly ended until at least 1945 or perhaps even 1991 when the Soviet Union, itself a product of the war, finally collapsed. Even discussing the war in terms of winners and losers misses the point. With the possible exception of the United States and Japan, all states came out of the war far worse off than when they went in—and the people of Europe knew it.
In his epilogue, Gerwarth notes that by the late 1930s only two of the new post-1918 states, Finland and Czechoslovakia, looked anything like the liberal democracies that were once supposed to be the basis of Europe’s future. By 1939 there were, in fact, fewer people living under democracies than had been the case in 1914. Violence and dehumanization (with Jews as a particular target across central and eastern Europe) had become the norm in many of the new regimes. Thus does Gerwarth make clear the need to understand two often forgotten legacies of this period: that the process of ending World War I was just as traumatic as the war itself and that even in total wars, the vanquished still play a critical role.
Abridged from the review by Michael Neiberg published on October 4, 2017 on the Lawfare: National Security and Law website lawfareblog.com
Germany’s Western Front: 1914, Part 1: The Battle of the Frontiers and Pursuit to the Marne, by Mark Osborne HumphriesJohn Maker
Published by Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press on October 31, 2013
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Europe, Germany, Strategy
Germany’s Western Front by Mark Osborne HumphriesJohn Maker
Published by Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press on June 30, 2010
Genres: History, Europe, Germany, Military, World War I, Strategy
This multi-volume series in six (perhaps seven) parts is the first English-language translation of Der Weltkrieg, the German official history of the First World War. It was originally produced between 1925 and 1944 using classified archival records that were destroyed by aerial bombing in April 1945 at the end of the Second World War. This series presents the inside story of Germany’s experience on the Western Front. Hopefully, future volumes will cover other fronts.
This account by official historians is fundamental to the study of the Great War and official memory in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Although some new document sources have been found in former Soviet archives, the original Der Weltkrieg work remains one of the most important resources on Germany in WW1. This translation makes it accessible to English readers.
Confusingly, the 1915 volume was released initially. It has the official explanation of the first use of poison gas against French and Canadian troops at Ypres. It also explains the conflict raging in the German High Command over the political and military direction of the war, setting the stage for Verdun that sealed the fate of the German Supreme Commander, Erich von Falkenhayn.
The 1914 volume is part one of that year, covering the outbreak of war in July–August, the German invasion of Belgium, the Battles of the Frontiers, and the pursuit to the Marne in early September. The first month of war was critical for the German army and, as the official history makes clear, the German war plan was a gamble that seemed to present the only solution to the riddle of the two-front war. But as the Moltke-Schlieffen Plan was gradually jettisoned through a combination of intentional command decisions and confused communications, Germany’s hopes for a quick and victorious campaign evaporated.
The English editors’ extensive footnotes are outstanding and a treasure for researchers. They include explanations of German terminology, other countries’ perspectives on events, as well as current debates and controversies such as the argument by author Terrence Zuber that the Schlieffen Plan was a myth propagated in the 1920s (see WWOI issue #3, page 10).
The second part of 1914 is due next, but sadly no dates for it or future volumes could be obtained from the publisher.
Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI
I Was a Spy! by Marthe McKennaWinston Churchill
Published by Pool of London Press on September 19, 2015
Genres: History, Military, World War I, Europe, Germany, True Crime, Espionage, Political Science, Intelligence & Espionage, Social History
The author and her family were overrun in Belgium at the outbreak of the war. Instead of completing her medical studies to become a physician, Marthe became a nurse in a hospital run by the Germans. She also fed information to the British who had set up an underground network as they retreated. Marthe proved to be intelligent, fast thinking, reliable and cautious.
An excellent nurse, she was honored with others for their efforts by the King of Württemberg. As the war continued the Germans were able to staff and monitor the occupied areas with troops whose job was to suppress resistance and locate spies. When she was finally captured for her participation in sabotage the Germans wanted to shoot her. However, her former supervisors at the hospital vouched for her work and reminded the review board that it would look awfully bad to be killing heroines with German medals. She escaped the firing squad, spending the remainder of the war in prison.
Well-written, the reader comes to appreciate the stress that accumulates back when communications were much slower than today.
Reviewed by Anne Merritt