This is a little history of WWI that I recently got a book fair. It was published by Penguin in the 1960s and is looking back at WWI some fifty years out. It gives up the game a little in the first chapter when it describes the war as basically one battle (the first battle of the Marne) followed by four years of stalemate. Whenever I read about WWI I am completely bereft to explain much of anything that happened, other than a series of new experiences to the world, a shattered and confusing series of events, a number of atrocities and innovations, and the long list of people whose life and career (I am thinking a lot about writers here) were built in reaction to the war. In fact, the war seems so much as a set of events reacted to, rather than things that specifically happened. They did happen, and the horrors that happened amounted to a huge awful toll, but also amounted to nothing. This book struggles to convey anything about the war other than how impossible the war is to convey. Given that the reactions to WWI led almost directly to literary modernism and the post-modernism, which rejects the notion that reality can be adequately represented in art, then this tracks. The illustrated part of this books comes from the extraordinary number of charts, graphs, and especially photographs that accompany the text. But if you were looking for the visuals to aid your reading in any kind of coherent war, I am sorry to say that they don’t. Often they are not even connected to the text at all except broadly, and the effect is further cementing the idea that little narrative can be gleaned by a full accounting of the events.
An Illustrated History of WWI
The First World War: An Illustrated History by AJP Taylor