Book Review: 1917: Beyond the Western Front


by Ian F.W. Beckett, editor

Leiden: Brill, 2009. Pp. viii, 179. Illus., maps, tables, notes, index. $120.00. ISBN: 9004171398

Only in the last twenty years or so have scholars begun to break through the narrative framework set in the immediate aftermath of the Great War by official historians, memoirists, and theoreticians, all with axes to grind and a heavy focus on the struggle on the Western Front, to develop new approaches to the study of and innovative insights into the war.  1917: Beyond the Western Front, a volume in Brill’s outstanding series "History of Warfare", furthers that effort. 

The introduction by Prof. Beckett (University of Northampton), who has written extensively on the Great War and other conflicts (Ypres: The First Battle 1914,Victoria’s Generals, Modern Insurgencies and Counter-Insurgencies: Guerrillas and their Opponents since 1750, etc.) provides an overview of the events of 1917, while the essays that follow by eight specialists on the war examine developments during 1917 not primarily related to the Western Front.  These include strategic tensions between Germany and Austria-Hungary, with some useful observations on the role of the Dual Monarchy in the war, British concerns about the morale of the Royal Navy, German amphibious operations in the Baltic, the causes of Italy’s disaster at Caporetto, the Palestine Campaign within the context of the Britain’s "Westerners/Easterners” controversy, the evolution of the Indian Army, and even an essay on the impact of the war on the English countryside. 

The essays are by such specialists, such as Kaushik Roy (Indian Army), Matthew Hughes (Palestine), Vanda Wilcox (Caporetto), Eric Grove (the Baltic), and Nick Hewitt (Jutland).

Naturally, much of the war is still in need to more attention -- blockade running, occupation, irregular warfare in the Balkans, and so forth, but this an important book for anyone interested in World War I.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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