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BOOKS ABOUT THE FIRST WORLD WAR available from - in association with


The Great War was the supposed war to end all wars, and the first truly global conflict, with troops from five continents hurled into the maelstrom of early 20th Century Europe.

It would be harder to think, historically, of a bigger waste of young men's lives than the years between 1914-1918. Certainly there was no ideology of withering evil to fight against such as Nazism, but a reckless spiral into war, over one man's assasination - the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand - was to leave millions dead, and areas of France and Belgium reduced to quagmires.

The books below help give a better understanding of why the war happened, and the hellish conditions the normal soldier endured, and also books on the often forgotten aspects of World War One - the early aerial conflicts, and the emergence of battleships in sea warfare.

Balkans Turmoil

That turmoil in the Balkans was the trigger for World War One was unsurprising. In the years leading up to the Great War, neighbors Serbia and Austria-Hungary were continually at loggerheads.

The Influence of Empires

Before World War One, the Balkans had been an area of Eastern Europe that two empires had been trying to influence. Serbia in particular was highly prized by Russia and Austria-Hungary. But it was a third empire, the Ottoman Empire, and several countries opposition to it, that had really created instability in the region. These disagreements led to the First Balkan War of 1912, and in 1913, the Second Balkan War erupted after Bulgaria grew increasingly unhappy with the treaty terms of the first conflict.

One of the key combatants in the Balkan Wars was Serbia. Once part of the Hapsburg Empire, Serbia had broken free from the Austria-Hungary yoke. As friction grew between both, Russia positioned itself to support Serbia, and Germany supported Austria-Hungary. To increase the tension, Serbia had set its sights on claiming Bosnia, which was under Austro-Hungarian rule. When Austria-Hungary Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia were assassinated in June of 1914, Serbia was blamed.

Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand

Because of perceived backing from powerful allies, neither Serbia or Austria-Hungary were in any mood for compromise. It seemed inevitable that war was going to break out between the two sooner rather than later - even before Bosnian student Gavrilo Princip shot dead Archduke Ferdinand and his wife on that history changing day in 1914.

The murders of the Austro-Hungarian monarchs had been carried out by a Bosnian, and in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Radical Bosnians, however, were on the side of Serbia in its dispute with its former, powerful master to the north, and so were able to be influenced by Serbia.

Germany and Russia

Both Germany and Russia were put in awkward positions by their allies. Both realized the power of each other, but they also felt duty bound to help their allies if the situation in the Balkans deteriorated.

If Germany and Russia had known of the consequences of backing their respective allies Serbia and Austria-Hungary, then they surely wouldn't have been so eager to have done so. Germany lost the War, and Russia's elite were overthrown in the 1917 Revolution, and in no small part because of how many Russian soldiers were sacrificed in the Great War.

The Balkans exploded into conflict in the 1990s. With even Bosnian Muslims supporting Serbia in 1914, it was ironic that just over 75 years later, Serbs were persecuting Muslims in Bosnia. Politics in the Balkans has always been hard to unravel, with bloody conflict often the end result.

World War One Alliances

There were two main alliance blocs during World War One, which originally consisted of European countries. By the end of the First World War, countries from five continents were involved.

A War Started by a Teenager

The First World War began in the summer of 1914, after the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia. A young Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, who was only 19 years old, killed both the Archduke and his wife on June 28th, 1914. Tensions were already running high in parts of Eastern Europe even before this incident, as Austria-Hungary had become increasingly annoyed by Serbian and Russian influence in the region. Germany and Russia also seemed keen to lock horns.

The First Truly Global War

Russia was Serbia's ally, and the major ally of Austria-Hungary was Germany, and the former declared war against Serbia on July 28th, 1914. Russia sided with Serbia, and Germany now had its excuse to declare war on Russia. France, remembering the Franco-Prussian War of a few decades earlier, and of the German army entering Paris, declared war on Germany. When the Germans entered Belgium and France, Britain entered the War on August 4th, and brought in Commonwealth countries India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa into the conflict - to give the First World War a global scope.

The France, Russia, and British alliance was called the Allies, or Entente (French for understanding) Powers. Italy joined the Allies in 1915. Japan also entered the War later in 1914, when attacking Germany's colonies in Micronesia. Germany headed the Central Powers of Germany, and this alliance also consisted of Austria-Hungary, and later the Ottoman Empire. Bulgaria became part of this alliance in 1915.

Russia's Revolution, America's Entrance

Russia's contribution to World War One ended after the inner turmoil of revolution in 1917, but Germany's interest in Russia had waned after becoming bogged down in trench warfare on the Western Front in Belgium and France. The Allies became actually stronger in 1917, when the United States entered the War. This proved to be the decisive factor in the Allies winning World War One, though Germany was also threatened by revolution itself, and was looking for a way out of the conflict.

On November 11th, 1918, an armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany in France. Though fighting continued to the East, major conflict in Europe had been brought to an end. Many Germans resented the terms of the armistice, and suffered hardship as a consequence of it. The Nazi Party were later to exploit this, and their lust for power was to lead to the cruelest war in human history in World War Two.

- Paul Rance/

Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front
~Richard Holmes
Hardcover - May 4, 2004
World War One British Poets: Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg and Others (Dover thrift editions)
~Candace Ward (Editor)
Dover Publications
Paperback - April 1, 1997
A Brief History of the Royal Flying Corps in World War One (Brief Histories Series)
~Ralph Barker
Constable and Robinson
Paperback - May 30, 2002
1914-1918: The History of the First World War (Allen Lane History S.)
~David Stevenson
Allen Lane
Hardcover - September 2, 2004
All Quiet on the Western Front
~Erich Maria Remarque, Brian Murdoch (Translator)
Paperback - February 15, 1996
The First Day on the Somme: 1st July, 1916 (Penguin History)
~Martin Middlebrook
Penguin Books Ltd
Paperback - May 28, 1992
The Missing of the Somme
~Geoff Dyer
Weidenfeld & Nicholson history
Paperback - July 19, 2001
~L.A. Carlyon
Paperback - October 1, 2003
The First World War: A New History
~Hew Strachan
Simon & Schuster (Trade Division)
Paperback - October 4, 2004
Forgotten Voices of the Great War: A New History of WWI in the Words of the Men and Women Who Were There
~Max Arthur
Ebury Press
Paperback - October 2, 2003
Under the Devil's Eye: Britain's Forgotten Army at Salonika 1915-1918
~Alan Wakefield, Simon Moody
Sutton Publishing
Hardcover - September 28, 2004
Jutland 1916: The Last Great Clash of Fleets (Osprey Military Campaign S.)
~Charles London, David G. Chandler (Editor)
Paperback - August 15, 2000

BOOKS ABOUT THE FIRST WORLD WAR available from - in association with

Product photo The First World War
Product photo Gallipoli (Perennial Classics)
Alan Moorehead
Product photo Origins of the First World War (2nd Edition)
James Joll
Product photo Cataclysm: The First World War As Political Tragedy
David Stevenson
Product photo Forgotten Voices of the Great War : A History of World War I in the Words of the Men and Women Who Were There
Max Arthur
Product photo Major & Mrs. Holt's Battlefield Guide to the Somme (Battleground Europe)
Toni Holt

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