Saturday, 24 May 2014

Book Review: The Marne, 1914, by Holger Herwig

The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the WorldThe Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World by Holger H. Herwig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book right after reading the author's excellent The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918. That book offered a sweeping history of the war trough the experience of the Central Powers with plenty of interesting anecdotes from common people.

I wish Herwig had written his book on the Battle of the Marne the same way. He goes into excruciating detail about troop movements from the opening moves of the war all the way up to the Germans' fateful decision to withdraw and regroup at the Marne in the face of fierce French counterattacks. We're treated to a flurry of facts about what corps marched behind what, who flanked who, all of it quickly becoming confusing thanks in no small part to the insufficient maps.

I'm an avid student of military history, yet I must say this sort of battle study has always bored me. I'm far more interested in the common solder's experience and the sociological and political implications of war than I am in a long list of what units marched where. For people interested in tactical detail, this is one of the best books on the battle, but for those wanting the human side of the war, go elsewhere.

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