The Great War by Peter Hart

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The Great War by Peter Hart

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Category: History
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A thorough account encompassing all aspects of the Great War, discussing how it affected the world scene and the lives of ordinary people.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 608 Date: April 2013
Publisher: Profile Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781846682469

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There are certain aspects of world history that we are duty-bound to teach to each generation. World War I was called 'The Great War' for a reason; it changed the world scene irrevocably and is regarded as the single most important event of the twentieth century. The war introduced dreadful new weapons designed to slaughter as many people as possible with maximum efficiency, resulting in tens of millions of deaths.

The Great War is a remarkable book, thoroughly covering every aspect of the conflict in painstaking detail. It examines the sweeping political disputes that set the world scene leading up to the war and then zooms in to minutiae of life in the trenches by means of eyewitness accounts from both sides of the battlefield.

What sets this book apart from others of its kind is the fact that Hart takes a completely neutral stance and does not write the account from the bias of any particular nation. Lesser-known skirmishes, events at sea and at the Eastern Front are given equal consideration to the famous battles of Mons, Marne and the Somme. This gives a more balanced overview of the war as a whole and it is refreshing to see a new perspective on these historical events.

The eyewitness reports are moving, harrowing and horrific. One particular account; a letter from a soldier to his wife and newborn baby was particularly difficult to read and shows the devastating effect that the war had on ordinary families. The addition of black and white photographs taken on the battlefield add to the sombre mood of the book and help bring the accounts to life. Hart spares no detail in describing the gruesome, grisly injuries inflicted by the new breed of weapons developed in this time period.

Hart has an excellent way of conveying information in layman’s terms without talking down to his audience. His writing style is informative and engaging and easy to understand and the layout easy to follow.

The Great War is not an easy read at 608 pages long, but it is one of those books that perhaps we must read, however difficult. The aftershocks of the conflict still resonate today. The world must never forget the events of 1914-1918, the greatest human tragedy in history. With his thoroughly researched, well-written narrative, Peter Hart has created an appropriate and thought-provoking tribute to those who sacrificed their lives in the Great War.

For more accounts of life in the trenches, try The Reluctant Tommy: An Extraordinary Memoir of the First World War by Ronald Skirth and Duncan Barrett or The Memorial to the Missing of the Somme by Gavin Stamp

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Booklists.jpg The Great War by Peter Hart is in the Top Ten History Books of 2013.


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