The strength of this book is that it provides all the background facts that you didn't know you needed to know to get a better understanding of WWI. There is so much to cover in WWI that much of these items that don't directly contribute to the action are left out of other books. It's a great loss because these are the same facts that humanize the people and make some of their decisions understandable.
The book starts out with the trigger event- the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. But it humanizes the Archduke by talking about the class difference between him and his wife-to-be Sophie and how his marriage choice affected his relationship with his uncle Emperor Franz Joseph. It brings up the Archduke's different attitude (compared to the Emperor) on the Serbian people- they ended up killing someone who was more sympathetic to their ideas.
Background details are provided on the history of the Balkan states, the dual nature of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and how it affected decision making, the Serbian government and its involvement (or noninvolvement) in the assassination. It goes into detail on the horrific conditions in trench warfare.
WWI was a tremendous tragedy that seems to have dropped out of the minds of the rest of the world. There are no easy answers about why a regional war turned in to a multiyear ordeal costing lives and causing governments to fall. The book won't give all the answers, but it will provide a better framework about topics that would be unknown to all but the historians.
This history is a necessary corrective to Niall Ferguson's right-wing revisionist tome "The Pity of War." Meyer returns moral clarity to the period, particularly the immediate pre-war period during which the feckless leaders of the Central Powers deliberately pulled the whole of Europe into catastrophe.
"War is the work of the devil." So says one of the generals of WWI, although I couldn't find the quote as I went back and looked for it in this 715 page history, so I can't even report for sure who said it. It doesn't really matter, though, because as I continued to study this book, if I got one thing from it, it would be that war is undoubtedly and indisputably Hell with a capital H. Living all my life hearing about WWI and II, I have never really been able to put the pieces together to make sense of it all. Several months ago I went on a WWII binge, reading and listening to a lot of books on it until I think I finally have at least a working knowledge of what it was all about. It seemed to follow that I then learn about WWI, and so I have been. This book offers a great starting point for the study of that war. I tried studying other books first, but got hopelessly lost. This book, by virtue of the way that is written, made it very accessible to me, and now I can study some of those other books with a degree of knowledge that will help me add to my understanding.
I really like the format of the book, particularly the short intermediary background chapters that shed so much light on the core story of the war. It helped so much with understanding the how and the why of the war, and events that it precipitated.
So in a nutshell, outside of the logistics and battles and armaments and all of that usual and necessary war stuff, here is what I learned. This war was fought for the flimsiest of reasons, if in fact there was a reason at all. Nations can act very much like two-year-old children fighting over an inexpensive toy. Over 9.5 million soldiers lost their lives over these petty squabbles, not to mention many more millions who were moderately to severely wounded, nor the millions of civilians who who were wounded or killed. The Germans were justified in being outraged at the way they were treated in the Treaty of Versailles, particularly by Woodrow Wilson, and we all know where that lead, or at least I hope we do.
I hope many more of us are willing to put forth the effort to learn the truth about war in the hopes of avoiding it in the future. The way things appear to me right now, it seems that we are going down this same path, and that scares me. No wonder Santayana, widely quoted by others, including Winston Churchill, has said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
As I started listening to this book, I felt the need to follow along with the physical book, and so I bought a copy. It was extremely helpful, as the book is full of pictures and maps, and I could see the names of people and places that were hard for me to grasp from just hearing them, names of German, Belgian and French cities, rivers and regions that to us do not sound like we think they should. A good example is the French town of Ypres, pronounced Eep. (One would be disappointed to look for the town of Eep on a map.). The narrator was just right for this book, and had a great command over multiple European accents. This was a great book to both read and listen to. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to know more about the history of WWI and what the ramifications for us have been.
19th Century people fighting a 20th Century war that still resonates in the 21st Century. A telling of the characters involved and their critical decisions in politics and military strategy that lead up to and allowed the carnage of 4 bloody years to go on and on. More than 9 million died needlessly in a conflict that destroyed the European culture and sowed the seeds for WWII told confidently without too much detail of the battles. The background information he provides fleshes out the context with the culture at-large. The progress of the battles focus on key moments of strategy and tactics rather than a blow-by-blow accounting. If you want to understand many of the issues facing today's world, this history will give you something think about, including the liberation of the arabs and creation of the state of Israel, the concentration of imperialistic power into the hands of the Big Three, the beginning of industrial warfare and anonymous killing machines (i.e..Drones), and the ego-driven national insecurity that leads us into conflict again and again and again.
Like most people, I didn't really have a clear idea exactly *why* Europe went to war in August of 1914, and why it took 4 long years to arrive at a peace. I left Meyer's book with a much better understanding of the factors and personalities that led the world into the meat grinder of the Great War.
The book is a bit too detailed in places, in terms of the military history and strategic wartime decision-making, and perhaps a bit light on the effects of war on the non-fighting people in the belligerent countries, but it's a minor quibble, and this is an excellent book.
The reader can be a little dry-sounding and dull, but he generally does well with the material. there's a few obvious audio-patches where the tone of voice changes mid-sentence or mid-para, but nothing too jarring.
Narrator is great. Material is easy to move through.
The writer's ability to capture the major events of the conflict and bring a comprehensive history together in one book.
Great narrator. Great accent!
Excellent coverage of a truly world-wide conflict.
Clarifies the issues that caused the War and caused it to continue for so long.
Description of Gallpoli Campaign.
Very well done history.
If you are a student of WWI you have to get this book. It is a bit long but it is never boring. One thing I really liked is how the author added "Background" chapters throughout the book. I also generally liked the level of detail for the separate battles.
This is one of the best non-fiction books (audio or otherwise) that I've ever read.
Meyer weaves various aspects of the story together by providing background segments that lend a much deeper understanding of the events depicted.
English accents make for great story-telling...don't know why. :)
More of a satisfied feeling that my understanding of the war and it's causes has been greatly increased.
Meyer clearly illustrates missed opportunities and inexplicable decisions that led to the war starting and being prolonged. Fascinating stuff.
This is the finest narrative of the Great War that I have ever read, or in this case listened to.