Great Britain’s Great War

Written by Jeremy Paxman
Review by Mike Ashworth

With the anniversary of the beginning of the First World War rapidly approaching it is no surprise that further publications are coming forth to swell the already huge library of books available. However, this is not a dusty look at strategy, or a detailed account of battles on the Western Front, ground already well covered by a variety of historians. Rather Paxman vividly portrays day-to-day life in Britain from a wide range of primary sources, from politicians to wives, Generals to privates. Paxman questions the accepted view that the First World War was an exercise in purposelessness, and asks the question – why did people go to war? The author provides an answer through a series of chapters which look at all aspects of the war, both military and civilian. Chapters are short, headed by a photograph, written in a style which is informative and interesting, which, with the author’s pithy comments, paint a vivid picture of courage and confusion, selfless devotion and stupidity. This is a fascinating book which should be widely read – lest we forget. Recommended.