Max Egremont

Terror of the Trenches

World War One: A Short History

By

Allen Lane / The Penguin Press 208pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Diary of a Dead Officer: Being the Posthumous Papers of Arthur Graeme West

By

Greenhill Books 176pp £19.99 order from our bookshop

Do we need another history of the First World War? The answer in the case of Norman Stone’s short book is, yes – because of its opinionated freshness and the unusual, sharp facts that fly about like shrapnel. How good to learn, for instance, that the taxi drivers who took French troops to the front in the crisis of September 1914 – the famous taxis of the Marne – kept their meters running and that the German commander Hindenburg, dependent on his staff, thought he had so much time on his hands in August 1918 that he asked his wife to send him various classics of German literature. Such zooming into close-up lets particular incidents illustrate lasting truths, like the self-serving venality of Parisian taxi drivers, a foretaste of Vichy, and the essentially symbolic role of the vain, lazy Field Marshal who, when President of Germany in 1933, allowed himself to be manipulated into appointing Hitler as Chancellor.

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