Book Review: The French Army and the First World War


by Elizabeth Greenhalgh

Cambrige & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xvi, 470. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $29.99 paper. ISBN: 1107605687

The Backbone of the Allied Forces on the Western Front

In this volume of Greenhalgh, who has written extensively on the Great War (Foch in Command, Victory Through Coalition, etc.), takes a deep, revisionist look at the French Army, a surprisingly neglected, almost dismissed, subject in English. 

Greenhagh (University of New South Wales), opens with a look at the overconfident French Army of 1914, and follows its experience and evolution through the terrible trials of the war years to its ultimate triumph in 1918, by which time it had it become a highly sophisticated, modern fighting force.  This is by no means a white wash, as she takes a hard look at the Army’s strengths and weaknesses.  Greenhagh covers questions of tactics and equipment, and also civil-military relations, military policy, and personalities, these often done quite well.  Her treatment is particularly important in reminding us that despite the enormous contributions of the other Allied powers, particularly the British, it was the French Army that carried the ball on the Western Front for the duration, while also supporting operations on other fronts and providing much of the equipment for the Belgians, Serbs, Greeks, Americans, and others. 

A volume in the outstanding Cambridge series “Armies of the Great War,” there’s far too much in this book to summarize here, but let it suffice to say that this is an essential read for anyone interested in the Great War.

Note:   The French Army and the First World War is also available in hardback at $85.00, ISBN 978-1-107-01235-6


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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