Thursday, November 14, 2013

The first book we will be reading is The First World War by Hew Strachen (2005). It is a reasonably brief account of the war (384 pages) by a scholar who will be producing a three-volume magnum opus on the subject.

According to Publishers Weekly, "The war as he sees it was a race among generals on all sides to create new weapons and tactics faster than their opponents, a race that the Triple Entente won. It was also a race among soldiers to fight with these new weapons and tactics instead of raw courage and numbers wherever possible. Yet Russia and the Dual Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were totally unfit for a large modern war (one reason the czar and his empire fell in 1917) and were a source of fatal weakness to Germany's alliance even before Italy changed sides. The political background (including the rising consciousness of colonial nationalities conscripted for the war), social consequences and diplomatic finagling all face an equal amount of revision, leaving the book organized more thematically than chronologically. Readers already familiar with the sequence of events in strict order will benefit most. But all readers will eventually be gripped, and even the most seasoned ones will praise the insights and the original choice of illustrations. This is likely to be the most indispensable one-volume work on the subject since John Keegan's First World War," which we will also be reading.

Next discussion is Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 7:00 PM (new time) to 8:30 PM at the Otto Bruyns Library, 241 W. Mill Road, Northfield.

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