Fighting the Great War

To provide a comprehensive account of the battles and leaders of World War I in a book of fewer than four hundred pages is a major achievement. Michael S. Neiberg has accomplished that feat in a lucid, fast-paced treatment of the conflagration that raged across the entire world from 1914 to 1918 in Fighting the Great War: A Global History. He takes the reader from the outbreak of fighting in August, 1914, through the achievement of the Armistice more than four years later. In so doing, he offers fascinating glimpses into the personalities and issues that shaped the performance of the Allies and the Central Powers. Neiberg shows in convincing fashion that the democratic Allies mastered the requirements of fighting a modern war with greater skill than did the Germans. He also makes clear that Germany had counted on a short conflict and yet had no means of achieving that goal with its military and political resources in 1914. Once the war became protracted, the weaknesses of German society were exposed and in the end led to that nation's defeat.

Neiberg has a good eye for the relevant anecdote and offers fresh judgments about many of the key figures in this great conflict, such as Erich Ludendorff and Douglas Haig. He is also adept at explaining battles and their significance. There are few better introductions to the complex issues and enduring historical problems that grew out of the war than Neiberg's book. Balanced in its judgments, crisp in its prose, and powerful in its evocation of a formative moment in world civilization, Fighting the Great War is a significant scholarly contribution.