The First World War: A Concise Global History (Exploring World History)

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9780742541450: The First World War: A Concise Global History (Exploring World History)

In a compact but comprehensive and clear narrative, this book explores the First World War from a genuinely global perspective. Putting a human face on the war, William Kelleher Storey takes into account individual decisions and experiences as well as environmental and technological factors such as food, geography, manpower, and weapons.

He argues that the war profoundly changed the ways in which people imagined the landscape around them and thought about technology and the environment. Before the war, Europe and its colonies generally regarded industrial technology as an instrument of modernity; the landscape existed to be conquered, divided, and ruled. During and after the war, the costs of conquest became much higher, raising significant doubts about the value of progress. Soldiers experienced profound personal degradation, physical injuries, and mental collapse in the midst of nightmarish, technologically induced environmental conditions, which they vividly remembered when they formed new identities in the postwar world. Although people did not abandon thoughts of technological advance, after the war they had a keener sense of modernity's costs. Without neglecting traditional themes, Storey's deft interweaving of the role of environment and technology enriches our understanding of the social, political, and military history of the war, not only in Europe, but throughout the world.

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About the Author:

William Kelleher Storey is professor of history and director of the Core Curriculum at Millsaps College.

Review:

Hurrah for William Storey. Capitalizing on the insights of environmental and technological history, he has retold the story of World War I in a fresh and provocative way. By highlighting the role of nature and machines in that most awful conflict, his story helps us understand wars of today as well as those of the past. (Edmund Russell)

William Storey's lucid new account of the First World War emphasizes the common struggle of all combatants against the improved sciences of killing on one side and the unyielding demands of geography and environment on the other. Refined aircraft, rain and rats, malnutrition, poignant flickers of imagination in protest: here is the shared war that united allies and foes. (Maier, Charles)

The focus of this efficient study is distinct from the usual perspective. Storey looks at the environmental and technological factors that played a globally significant role in the unfolding of World War I. He contends that the war fundamentally changed the ways in which people took in their surroundings and the manner in which we relate to machines. Before the war, technology, from the viewpoint of industry, was part of the modern age—there to be harnessed. But once technology advanced the tools of war, the results of conquest become greater than anyone had experienced or imagined. A good choice for college students. (Library Journal)

This narrative history of the Great War will better inform general readers concerning the causes and effects of the conflict, which continues to shape the destinies of millions of people across the world. . . . Storey offers some fresh perspectives that make this survey interesting and useful. . . . This is a well-written, easily digestible examination of a seminal conflict. (Booklist)

In addition to providing a clear and insightful retelling of a familiar story, this 'concise global history' emphasizes the role of the environment and of new and old technologies. . . . The most important global dimension of the 1914-1918 war was its consequences. There are sections specifically about the environment and technologies, and Storey weaves references to them throughout his narrative. . . . Recommended. (Choice)

William Storey's The First World War provides a succinct introduction to the history and significance of the Great War. It offers original perspectives on aspects of the war that are passed over too briefly in other books, such as the experiences of common soldiers and of women and the contribution of Africans to the war. It will prove valuable for undergraduate courses in twentieth-century world and European history. (Daniel R. Headrick)

The book is particularly valuable for Storey's analysis of the generally overlooked environmental factors that affected operations, his discussion of the role of non-Europeans in the struggle, and his look at long-term global impact of the war, in terms of its social, cultural, and political effects, not only on the belligerents but also on colonial peoples world wide. This is an useful work for anyone interested in the First World War, and a particularly valuable one for those lacking much prior knowledge of the conflict, and as a recommended reading in a modern history course. (The Nymas Review)

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