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All the World at War (Hardback)

People and Places, 1914–1918

Military P&S History > By Century > 20th Century WWI

By James Charles Roy
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 672
ISBN: 9781399060325
Published: 9th October 2023


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While battles and wars and ‘the clash of civilizations’ are as old as time itself, there is little doubt that the conflagration of 1914–1918 was something unique and terrifyingly new. There was not a corner of the globe that did not feel its effects, some more than others, but the scope of its impact on economies, populations, food supplies, the character of governments in general and the day-to-day lives of numberless ordinary people, were such as the world had never experienced, nor expected.

Little did anyone dream that the assassination of relatively minor figures of the Habsburg royal family, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, carried out by an unknown Serbian teenager on the street corner of an obscure town called Sarajevo that few had ever heard of, could possibly provide a spark that would plunge the entire European continent into an industrialized war of catastrophic destruction. But it did: the two shots that youth fired were surely ‘heard around the world’, and several million people would perish or be maimed as a result.

The story of World War I has been told by many different writers, historians and participants in many different ways, especially so before and during the centennial of its events that just concluded. All the World at War stands apart from many of these standard studies. It presents a familiar story from points of view that many readers might find surprising: unexpected details, different perspectives, atypical and generally insightful observations from contemporaries (often obscure to modern readers), who witnessed the events and personalities that pushed the war along from phase to phase. The narrative is chronologically arranged, beautifully written, with something new or intriguing on every page. This is a unique and finely paced account of ‘The War to End all Wars’ that didn’t.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The First World War was exactly that, a War that involved the whole World. This comprehensive account of the historical prelude to that terrible event and the myriad ‘sub plots’ that occurred during it, is essential reading for those who image that WW l was confine to the Western Front in France and Belgium. The War ranged far and wide and involved many countries, some not even connected by warfare on their own soil. The personalities of the leaders of all sides is another fascinating insight into how the battles were fought and certainly in my mind, showed that logic and common sense were left behind by most.
This book is essential reading by anyone who would wish to understand how conflicts can begin, how fruitless they all are and how important it is to learn from history what not to do. This goes for the military as well as their masters, the politicians.

NetGalley, Sandra Miller

All the World at War by James Charles Roy is a thoroughly researched and interesting narrative of World War I. Although it is quite long, it is engaging and kept my interest throughout. I have read many books on the Great War and still learned fresh perspectives from this one. The focus on the big names and personalities was especially interesting - even if the initial presumption is that there is nothing new in this realm to discuss. It helped to give a deeper understanding of the motives (or lack thereof) of many of the key figures responsible for the outbreak and conduct of the war. The book also highlighted the frustration and futility of this war and the utter waste of life. It reminded me of PBS’s 1996 documentary “The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century”, a global perspective with much the same focus on key people’s experiences (and it even used many of the same quotes).

One of the aspects that surprised and delighted me was the many Canadian connections that Roy included throughout. There was decent coverage of General Arthur Currie, Canadian contributions to many key battles, the Halifax explosion, and Robert Borden’s experience at the Paris Peace Conference. Canada is often overlooked by non-Canadian historians, and I may be able to use excerpts from this book in my Canadian history course...

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in learning about World War I in greater depth. It is a well-written and insightful account of one of the most pivotal events in history and highlights both the devastation and the long-lasting impacts.

NetGalley, Laura Greenaway

Article: The world's horrifying enthusiasm for war

Yorkshire Post

Review as featured in

Read the full review here (subscription required): https://www.scotsman.com/arts-and-culture/books/book-review-all-the-world-at-war-by-james-charles-roy-4413125

The Scotsman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This history of World War I reveals unfamiliar details from overlooked contemporaries who witnessed key events. Diverging from many standard accounts, it provides unique insights and atypical perspectives on the major figures and turning points shaping the conflict.

This is a long and thorough examination of the events leading up to the war, as well as its progression. The book is engaging and easy to read, bringing historical figures to life.

NetGalley, Andrea Romance

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As the description tells us this book, "stands apart from many of the standard studies". I own or have read over 200 books on WWI and this stands very near the top.
This is not a book that concentrates on figures, battles, gains and losses etc but of leaders both military and political before, during and after the war and the author does not shy away from speaking about very many of them bluntly but with knowledge and intelligence.
Beautifully written and highly recommended.

NetGalley, Stephen Dale

Our history book club will totally love this. We will definitely be ordering this for my library. Excellent work, very accessible.

NetGalley, Barry McKnight

About James Charles Roy

JAMES CHARLES ROY is an independent scholar with an international reputation as an expert in Irish history. He is a well-known member of the Irish-American academic community, and also a former editorial contributor and American representative of the Journal of the Galway Archaeological & Historical Society, co-founded by Lady Gregory in 1900. A prolific author of books and articles on history and travel, he has been published by leading imprints in the US, Ireland and Germany. Also a gifted photographer, his work has been exhibited at the Boston Public Library, the National Library of Ireland and numerous other venues.

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