The Military History of the First World War: An Overview and Analysis – Professor David Stevenson


The entire military history in just under an hour, with close examination of the changing tactics and weaponry that made this such an appalling conflict: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/the-military-history-of-the-first-world-war-an-overview-and-analysis

This lecture will analyse the reasons for the failure in 1914-15 of the initial war of movement and the factors underlying the trench stalemate that characterised the middle years of the conflict, before examining the return to more mobile campaigning in 1917-18.

It will include the war at sea as well as the war on land, and refer particularly to technology, tactics and logistics.

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College Website: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/the-military-history-of-the-first-world-war-an-overview-and-analysis

Gresham College has been giving free public lectures since 1597. This tradition continues today with all of our five or so public lectures a week being made available for free download from our website. There are currently over 1,500 lectures free to access or download from the website.
Website: http://www.gresham.ac.uk
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Originally posted 2017-06-22 07:42:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Jinger Jarrett

Jinger Jarrett is a full time freelance writer, author and internet marketer who teaches small businesses how to get started online and then market their businesses for free. She is also a US Army Veteran and seeks to connect with other veterans who are interested in starting a business or are currently business owners and want to connect.

10 thoughts on “The Military History of the First World War: An Overview and Analysis – Professor David Stevenson

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    I found this presentation extremely engaging however the presenter asserted as fact several assumptions. Tactically the Germans consistently on the defensive exercised a technological advantage over the allies. The bulk of their tactical artillery 75 and 105 millimetre guns were howitzers capable of high trajectory recoil less fire ideal for reverse slope fire. This completely marginalised the French 75 or British 13/18 pounder whose angle of fire was 13 degrees or so useless when engaging an enemy on higher ground. The Germans initially had substantially superior quantities of heavy and super heavy modern artillery. The British and French relying on historic stocks of guns lacking and recoil suppression. In all aspects the Germans lead the technological arms and tactical race as witnessed by their development of grenades, gas, storm troopers, minenwerfers these were all German developments subsequently adopted by the allies. The tank failed in its role as a deadlock breaking weapon when one considers Cambrian where they achieved their greatest success and yet 2 weeks later the Germans not only regained their front line trenches but occupied the jumping off position of the British.
    Strategically the presenter in my opinion glosses over 1917 where he emphasises Haig's belief that he could win the war but fails to recognise the massive truism that both Russian and France were out fought and in revolution or Mutiny where the Germans were still full of fight. One must assess their the Germans capacity to maintain the struggle on 2 fronts whilst 'all the time being shackled to a corpse'. I would draw readers attention to John Mozier's book 'Myths of the Great War' an extremely objective and original essay on the struggle and Peter Barton's excellent 3 part BBC documentary on German tactical development on the western front.
    I by no means have the monopoly on being right but am passionate about the period. Thank you for reading my imaginings.

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    It is the Salonica front and the incredible fast-paced movement of the Serbian troops (followed by the French and by the British who disappointingly refused to engage the campaign until 9 days after the Serbian troops had begun the counter-offensive ) that changed the allies luck permanently for the better. For some reason the lecturer downplays it and says that "the Balkans and the Western front…those two situations cracked simultaneously". Incorrect. The success and heroism of the Salonica front was the impetus that allowed for what followed at the Western front…

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    as an American I say God bless Woodrow Wilson for limiting our casualties while maximizing our gains. America avoided paying heavy price. in both wars by the way. i jusy hope our current government remembers what could possibly happen when dealing with current Middle East

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    As someone who grew up in the Netherlands I really enjoy these lectures about the Great War. Because of our neutrality, there is little to no interest in this war in my country, which is a shame, because I find it much more interesting than World War II. The family ties between the King George of England, the Tsar Nicholas of Russia, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and the Queen Marie of Romania for instance… Intriguing politics leading up to the escalation in 1914 are so much more interesting than what happened in the 1930s.

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    Great exposition to the topic, thank you Gresham College and Prof Stevenson. I learned a lot.

    I want to point out, however, that casually claiming that Germany "started the war" as he does, is highly reductive. There is truth to it: certain foreign policy decisions (its naval build up, and escalation of the Agadir crisis, come to mind) did contribute to an increase in international tension.

    However the same can be said for:
    Italy (for attacking Libya unprovoked, which dramatically destabilized the Balkans),
    Serbia (for failing to conduct a serious independent investigation of the June 28th assassination),
    Austria (for presenting Serbia with an ultimatum that, if accepted, would have violated its sovereignty),
    Russia (for defending Serbia unconditionally and being the first country to order a general military mobilization, which ended the possibility of a localized conflict), and
    France (for backing Russia unconditionally, without attempting to resolve the crisis or understand Austria's reasonable need to control terrorism)

    Of course, we could also look outside the national framework for an explanation of the war. The conflict could equally well be explained by these socio-cultural factors:
    The alliance system (which made such escalation natural, and indeed France/Russia had planned on escalating a Balkan war, and so read the events of summer 1914 through that lens)
    The zero-sum nature of imperialism,
    The religious devotion to nationalism (especially Serbian irredentism, which motivated Princip to assassinate the archduke)
    The opacity of foreign policy decision-making (monarchs, foreign ministers, diplomats, and prime ministers all competed for authority and it was difficult for other countries to interpret which source was legitimate), and
    The dominance of men in each country's foreign policy-making machinery, and the predominant conception of masculinity at the time

    Blaming Germany might fill some emotional need (which is understandable, given WWII), but it distracts us from the deeper structural causes of the war. We would do well to reflect on the latter, because none of them has entirely disappeared.

    These ideas mostly came from Sleepwalkers by Christoper Clark, which I highly recommend. Here's a talk he gave about the causes of the war (the book is much better than the talk, tbh):

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    Outstanding lecture brilliantly delivered, pity it's only an hr ..

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    Great exposition. And yew, Germany started the war. And the German atrocities of the First World War were a foretaste of what would happen in the next.

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    No mention of the allied blockade.  Starvation at home was the primary reason for the defeat.  It was kept up after the armistice making acceptance of the treaty of Versailles inevitable.  Not a "stab in the back", but a kick in the stomach.

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    Why — in both wars — was the German Army so great at tactical fighting, but so bad at logistics?  Prussian disdain for stuff seen as clerical work?

  • June 8, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    Germany started the war? It was hardly the sole responsibility of one nation. A series of miscalculations throughout the first decade of the twentieth century led to the war. Germany probably made the biggest mistake with its outdated war plans, but it was not solely responsible. Austria-Hungry could have simply accepted the Serbian response to its ultimatum. Even the Kaiser thought that war had been averted, and possibly German could have helped negotiate the terms.

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