The World War I Reader – Book Review
The World War I ReaderEdited by Michael S. Neiberg. 2007. New York University Press (www.nyupress.org). SC. 375 pages; 5 maps.
At the start of the new year, the number of American World War One veterans now stands at two, after the death of J. Russell Coffey on December 20 of last year. According to Wikipedia, there are three veterans of the Great War still living within the United States – two American and one Canadian – who have reached the ages of 106, 107, and 108. It is a very somber realization to know that by the end of this year, America could very well lose three great men, and with them, the last contact this country has with one of the most important moments in recorded history.
Military historians know just how vital it is to document and publish the facts and stories from World War One, a task made all the more pressing with every passing day. When all those veterans have passed on, all we will have is what has been published in various formats to the public. One of the latest books to be released is The World War One Reader, edited by Michael S. Neiberg, Professor of History and the Co-director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Southern Mississippi. Within The World War I Reader, Neiberg has compiled an array of credible and excellent primary and secondary sources, to create both a very handy piece of reference work, and an interesting and detailed volume of researched material.
The World War I Reader is more than just another World War One history lesson, like something you’d find in a college textbook. It is an actual accounting of the war, filled with words and passages written by those who experienced the early 1900s war in their daily lives. In this respect, Neiberg has accumulated a superb amount of information that goes beyond what he calls "simplistic and familiar themes" and captures how the war was experienced by those who saw it with their own eyes.
Neiberg craftily bundles the primary and secondary sources here into six parts that he felt help show "particularly keen insight into critical facets of the war" – Causes, Soldiers, Armageddon, Home Fronts, The End of the War, and Peace. I found each and every selection throughout these chapters to be great reading, and not only challenged what little I do know about The Great War, but also increased my knowledge of it, and helped me to a much deeper understanding of the people who were actually there. I certainly need more military history books in my personal library like this!