Book Review: World War I: The Global Revolution


by Lawrence Sondhaus

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. xvi, 544. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $33.99 paper. ISBN: 0521736269

An excellent political and strategic overview of World War I. 

Prof. Sondhaus (Indianapolis) has gives us an very broad look at the origins, events, and consequences of the war, setting it more firmly into its global context than has hitherto been the case.  His approach to presenting the story of the war is rather innovative and very valuable.  Sondhaus covers the war more or less chronologically in 15 chapters: the causes; the July Crisis; the European fronts in 1914; Asia, the Pacific, and Africa; Europe, 1915; the Home Fronts, 1914-1916; Europe, 1916; Europe, 1916; the war at sea, 1915-1918;  the US and the war; Home Fronts, 1916-1918; the Middle East and India; Endgame, Europe 1918; the Paris Peace Conference; and Legacy.  This is a more or less traditional approach to history.

But from time to time Sondhaus interrupts this narrative to insert what he calls an “essay chapter,” such as “Daily Life at ANZAC Cove” or “Daily Life Aboard a U-Boat.”  And in addition, Sondhaus inserts numerous side-bars to bring in personal experiences, important developments, or points of contention, such as“The Schlieffen Plan,” “The Reparations Controversy,” “Lions led by Donkeys,” and so on,  These add considerably to the richness of Sondhaus’s account.

Despite this, however, Sondhaus still manages to display the traditional Anglo- and Western Front bias of most accounts in English.  He also fails to take into account the flood of recent work on the war, from the roles of many of the smaller powers (e.g., Italy, Romania, the Ottomans), to the co-evolution of tactics and technologies that caused the horrors at the Front, the “military revolution” in the armies, particularly the British, through 1918, nor the intellectual bankruptcy of the German high command.  Nevertheless, World War I: The Global Revolution is a useful, indeed informative and even entertaining account of the war.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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