The Making of the First World War


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Ian F. W. Beckett

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An original and spellbinding reinterpretation of the most significant events of the Great War

Nearly a century has passed since the assassination of Austria-Hungary's Archduke Ferdinand, yet the repercussions of the devastating global conflict that followed echo still. In this provocative book, historian Ian Beckett turns the spotlight on twelve particular events of the First World War that continue to shape the world today. Focusing on episodes both well known and scarcely remembered, Beckett tells the story of the Great War from a new perspective, stressing accident as much as strategy, the small as well as the great, the social as well as the military, and the long term as much as the short term.

The Making of the First World War is global in scope. The book travels from the deliberately flooded fields of Belgium to the picture palaces of Britain's cinema, from the idealism of Wilson's Washington to the catastrophic German Lys offensive of 1918. While war is itself an agent of change, Beckett shows, the most significant developments occur not only on the battlefields or in the corridors of power, but also in hearts and minds. Nor may the decisive turning points during years of conflict be those that were thought to be so at the time. With its wide reach and unexpected conclusions, this book revises—and expands—our understanding of the legacy of the First World War.

Ian F. W. Beckett is Visiting Professor of History at the University of Kent.

'Ian Beckett’s brilliant new book describes not how the war itself was "made", but how particular events that occurred during its course were to have a seminal influence on historical developments stretching far into the future. Beckett provides a vivid and comprehensive overview of the conflict; but he also shows how the world in which we live today was shaped during the pivotal years of 1914–18. It is a book about the making, not just of the First World War, but of the entire twentieth century.' - Sir Michael Howard  

"This book offers genuine insight into the wider war, political and diplomatic as well as military. Written by a historian at the height of his powers, this book will get readers to think outside the box, and weigh the relative importance of the various fronts of the land war, the war in the air and war at sea."—Richard Holmes

“A nicely crafted exploration of the broader context of the episode in question…. Becket’s approach raises a host of interesting historical questions, and … will likely provoke the debate that is its goal.”—Roger Chickering, Historian

“Beckett aims to take a fresh approach to interpreting the Great War that emphasizes the impact of important moments without isolating them from the context of the war’s narrative.”—Margaret Sanky, H-Net
ISBN: 9780300206647
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
12 b/w illus.