Published by ABC-CLIO on October 28, 2014
Full disclosure: This reviewer contributed to ABC-CLIO’s previous The Encyclopedia of World War II (2005) and The Civil War encyclopedia (2013), but did not write for this WW1 series.
A host of knowledgeable experts provided the entries that form the basis of this massive work. Spencer Tucker, the series editor, is an award-winning author or editor of 49 books and encyclopedias. A former U.S. Army captain and intelligence analyst at the Pentagon, he retired from teaching at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.
Each of the first four volumes consists of maps followed by alphabetically-organized entries. The first volume also includes three special essays: The Origins of World War I; The Outbreak of World War I (after June 28, 1914); and World War I Overview.
The fifth volume presents 207 key primary source documents, organized by dates, including pre-war and post-war periods. For example, Document 42 presents the report of German U-9 commander Lieutenant Otto Weddigen, who sank three British cruisers in the first major submarine engagement of the war on 22 September 1914, juxtaposed against the report by Royal Navy Commander Bertram W.L. Nicholson who was on the Cressy, one of the cruisers that was lost.
Other documents include official treaties and communiqués such as President Woodrow Wilson’s correspondence with the German government in 1918, and even famous popular items such as Canadian surgeon John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” published in the British magazine Punch in December 1915.
A few entries have become outdated by recent research and scholarship and the maps are often too general, not even identifying armies let alone subordinate units. Using a modern tank silhouette to indicate Ottoman mobile howitzer battalions on the Gallipoli-Dardanelles map in volume two (page 635) looks very odd as well as anachronistic.
Despite these minor complaints, these volumes sit on a shelf within easy reach of my desk. I refer to them regularly as a starting point and/or fact-checking reference. They are indispensible to my work. Highly recommended for anyone with a serious interest in the study of the First World War.
Reviewed by Dana Lombardy, publisher of WWOI