by Paul Ham
Sydney: Random House Australia / Chicago: International Publishers Group, Trafalgar Square, 2014. Pp. xxii, 720.
Illus., maps, appends., notes, biblio, index. $39.95. ISBN: 1864711426
The Opening Acts of the Great War
Australian journalist and military historian Ham gives us a very readable overview of the outbreak of World War I. His opening summary of war’s deep background through 1900 and then the rising tensions, repetitive crises, evolving alliances, and military planning through the eve of the July Crisis take up rather less than a third of the volume. The events of 1914 are covered in another third, concentrating, naturally, on the period from the Sarajevo event to the British entry into the war, the “Lamps going out”
Ham uses the balance of the book to examine military operations through the end of the year. Although he concentrates on the Western Front, he gives the reader a good overview of the Balkan and Eastern Fronts.
Ham directly addresses many of the myths of the war, including the idea that the everyone just blundered blindly into war to the over-hyped “Christmas truce.” His very readable account cuts comfortably between politicians, diplomats, and generals to ordinary citizens, journalists, or soldiers. Despite its heft, which allows Ham to often go into considerable detail, this work would be a good read for those knowing little about the outbreak of the war who wish to learn more.