World War I: The Western Front, by Nicola Barber
It is intriguing to see just how many relatively basic books exist about World War I. In my experience World War I is not generally well known or well-remembered, and yet I have seen a large number of books that tend to focus on precisely the same elements of World War I history even though there are a lot more aspects of World War I history that are well worth reading about. Yet since this book is at least honest about focusing on the Western Front, it is rather pointless to complain about it. Most books on World War I that one will find available in the English language have a similar focus on the Western front because that is where the most English speaking people fought, and even if the efforts of the Western Allies were not always crowned with glory, the end result was victory (with the help of the Americans, of course), and the front benefited strongly from the attention that was devoted to. And since this book is talking about a front that many people care about more than any other and that involved a lot of troops in a place that got a lot of attention, this book can be said to fulfill a worthwhile purpose.
This book is a relatively short one at about 60 pages or so of material. The book begins with the experience that soldiers had in going to war, whether as volunteers or conscripts, depending on when it happened (1). After that there is a discussion of the scenes of battle, which mostly involved trenches on the Western front given the static fronts that lasted throughout most of the conflict (2). After this there is a discussion on fighting the war, which included a discussion of some of the weapons technologies that were developed in the course of the war, like tanks and poison gas, in the hope of either leading to a high degree of attrition or bringing mobility back to the conflict (3). After this comes a discussion of life on the Western front for both soldiers and civilians who were in the war zone (4). The last chapter of the book then discusses the end of the war when Germany sought to use its temporary advantage thanks to victory on the Eastern front to win in the West before the Americans arrived, which they were unable to do (5). After this the book ends with a timeline, glossary, suggestions for further information, and an index.
Admittedly, this book did not tell me anything I had not read many times before. That said, it is worthwhile to put oneself in the perspective of the ideal reader of this book, someone who is reading about World War I for the first time. And such a person may find this book to be of interest, especially if their focus is on European and not merely American history. The Western front did have some benefits in being static, not least the fact that the same areas get fought over time and time again, with an initial advantage going to the Germans and then the Allies and then the Germans again before the American troop numbers are too much to overcome for the Germans and the war ends with an armistice that gives at least some Germans the feeling that they didn’t really lose the war. This book is pointed in its discussion of such matters, but no more than needs to be the case for the reader to understand the nature of the Allied victory and how much it depended on American troops.