Fought between 1914 - 1918, World War One
transformed European politics, economy, culture and society. Countries from across the world battled in a conflict now largely remembered for waste and loss of life instead of any real achievement. This list contains the best volumes for the interested reader.
Keegan's book has become a modern day classic, representing by far the most popular view of the Great War: a bloody and futile conflict, fought in chaos, causing the unnecessary death of millions. Three concentrations of black and white photographs and a selection of quality maps accompany a superbly written narrative which expertly guides the reader through a complex period.
Recommended by several University lecturers - and now myself - as the best single volume introduction for students, this is a relatively small, and thus more easily digested, volume which should be easily affordable. A suberb overall account of events, with enough bite to keep Great War experts interested.
Clark has won awards for his work on German history, and here he tackles in great detail the start of the First World War. His volume debates how the war began, and by refusing to simply blame Germany - instead seeking reasons which draw in all of Europe - has been accused of bias. Read for the argument and join the debate, or find this excellent history convincing.
Although not enough for a study in itself, this quality book will accompany any discussion of the First World War, whether you want a few extra figures for an essay, or a ready-reference for your book. Facts, figures, summaries, definitions, timelines, chronologies - there is a wealth of information here.
Stevenson tackles vital elements of the war missing from more military accounts, and if you only read one breakdown of the financial situation affecting Britain and France (and how the US helped before they declared war), make it the relevant chapter here. It's a good addition to Keegan.
John Keegan's view of the Great War has opposition, and Gary Sheffield's splendidly revisionist work offers an entirely different view of the conflict. Sheffield argues that the Great War was entirely necessary in stopping military imperialism, a view that has angered many readers. Read this book and enter a debate!
This is the best English language book on the 'other' side of the war: Germany and Austria-Hungary.
So many English language books focus on the Western Front that it's worth reading a book dedicated to the massive events of the east. Root's is the best, treating the theater with the detail and the balance it needs.
This recent book is a balanced and fair examination of an event often clouded by partisanship, and remembered in the British national consciousness as a massive mistake. Crucially, Carlyon isn't afraid to point out how all nations on the allied sides made mistakes.
This collection of eyewitness accounts, taken from many areas across the Western Front, certainly isn't pleasurable reading, but it will augment your knowledge of the conflict.
Although a truly excellent new examination of events, with many revealing facts and interpretations, the contents of this volume don't progress beyond 1914. By the time Strachan has finished his projected three part work it may be the dominant modern text, but I can't recommend it any higher yet.
The culture which surrounded the World War One was rich and can provide plentiful reading, but its the poetry which has set the tone for decades. This is an excellent compilation of poetry about the war.