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The First World War

A Concise Global History

William Kelleher Storey

A second edition of this book is now available.

In a compact but comprehensive and clear narrative, this book explores the First World War from a genuinely global perspective. Putting a human face on the war, William Kelleher Storey takes into account individual decisions and experiences as well as environmental and technological factors such as food, geography, manpower, and weapons.

He argues that the war profoundly changed the ways in which people imagined the landscape around them and thought about technology and the environment. Before the war, Europe and its colonies generally regarded industrial technology as an instrument of modernity; the landscape existed to be conquered, divided, and ruled. During and after the war, the costs of conquest became much higher, raising significant doubts about the value of progress. Soldiers experienced profound personal degradation, physical injuries, and mental collapse in the midst of nightmarish, technologically induced environmental conditions, which they vividly remembered when they formed new identities in the postwar world. Although people did not abandon thoughts of technological advance, after the war they had a keener sense of modernity's costs. Without neglecting traditional themes, Storey's deft interweaving of the role of environment and technology enriches our understanding of the social, political, and military history of the war, not only in Europe, but throughout the world.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 206Size: 6 x 9 1/4
978-0-7425-4146-7 • Paperback • September 2010 • $29.95 • (£19.95)
William Kelleher Storey is professor of history at Millsaps College. He is 2013 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Mississippi Professor of the Year.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Environment, Technology, and the Origins of War
Chapter 3: Optimism, 1914–1916
Chapter 4: Intensification, 1916–1917
Chapter 5: Conclusions: 1918 and Beyond
The focus of this efficient study is distinct from the usual perspective. Storey looks at the environmental and technological factors that played a globally significant role in the unfolding of World War I. He contends that the war fundamentally changed the ways in which people took in their surroundings and the manner in which we relate to machines. Before the war, technology, from the viewpoint of industry, was part of the modern age—there to be harnessed. But once technology advanced the tools of war, the results of conquest become greater than anyone had experienced or imagined. A good choice for college students.
Library Journal

In addition to providing a clear and insightful retelling of a familiar story, this 'concise global history' emphasizes the role of the environment and of new and old technologies. . . . The most important global dimension of the 1914–1918 war was its consequences. There are sections specifically about the environment and technologies, and Storey weaves references to them throughout his narrative. . . . Recommended.

This narrative history of the Great War will better inform general readers concerning the causes and effects of the conflict, which continues to shape the destinies of millions of people across the world. . . . Storey offers some fresh perspectives that make this survey interesting and useful. . . . This is a well-written, easily digestible examination of a seminal conflict.

Intended to offer the nonspecialist reader an overview of the main events of the First World War, this summary of the conflict is a useful guide for those unfamiliar with the subject—and a valuable initial introductory text for junior undergraduates. A particular strength of Storey’s work is its emphasis upon the war’s global impact; the latest research findings on the war in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are incorporated here, as is the most recent work on colonial laborers and troops employed by the European powers. There is also throughout a thematic emphasis upon the role of environmental and technological factors during the conflict that underpins the general narrative; Storey conveys, with particular insight, the technological changes in weaponry that occurred both before and during the war and how the conflict changed societal views of scientific progress.
Journal of Modern History

The book is particularly valuable for Storey's analysis of the generally overlooked environmental factors that affected operations, his discussion of the role of non-Europeans in the struggle, and his look at long-term global impact of the war, in terms of its social, cultural, and political effects, not only on the belligerents but also on colonial peoples world wide. This is a useful work for anyone interested in the First World War, and a particularly valuable one for those lacking much prior knowledge of the conflict, and as a recommended reading in a modern history course.
The Nymas Review

[A] special strength of this volume—in its attempt to document the global character of the war—is the inclusion of whole sections on the fighting between the Germans and the British in Africa and the German trained Ottoman forces and the Allies in the Middle East. . . . The striving for global coverage and thematic totality, presented in a very readable prose, enables the author to produce a valuable synthesis that could be successfully assigned to introduce WWI to the topic, as well as serve as a compelling reading for a general audience.
World History Connected

Storey is at his best when he is simply laying out the political and military history of the war, which he covers in three chapters. From the European trenches, to the war at sea, to the conflict in Africa, and to events in the Pacific, he does a succinct job of summarizing the highlights of the struggle and explaining how what was happening on one front impacted another.
History Teacher

Storey . . . has done a masterful job of condensing his study into a book of fewer than 200 pages. . . . Storey's discussion of wartime military and naval technology is excellent. . . . This global history of the First World War does offer a nicely condensed study of the most destructive war in history.
Technology and Culture

A useful text for undergraduates studying world history.
Journal of World History

William Storey's The First World War provides a succinct introduction to the history and significance of the Great War. It offers original perspectives on aspects of the war that are passed over too briefly in other books, such as the experiences of common soldiers and of women and the contribution of Africans to the war. It will prove valuable for undergraduate courses in twentieth-century world and European history.
Daniel R. Headrick, Roosevelt University

William Storey's lucid new account of the First World War emphasizes the common struggle of all combatants against the improved sciences of killing on one side and the unyielding demands of geography and environment on the other. Refined aircraft, rain and rats, malnutrition, poignant flickers of imagination in protest: here is the shared war that united allies and foes.
Charles S. Maier, Harvard University

Hurrah for William Storey. Capitalizing on the insights of environmental and technological history, he has retold the story of World War I in a fresh and provocative way. By highlighting the role of nature and machines in that most awful conflict, his story helps us understand wars of today as well as those of the past.
Edmund Russell, University of Virginia

Explores World War I from a truly global perspective

Comprehensive yet compact, the book offers a concise and readable alternative to lengthy histories of the war

Presents a social and a global—as opposed to a purely Eurocentric military and diplomatic—history of the war

Offers an original perspective on several aspects of the war, especially the experiences of soldiers and the role of women