I love history, and I love learning about British history in particular. However, I suppose that much is evident given that I am studying for a history degree. A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to review Scott Addington’s World War One: A Layman’s Guide. Scott runs Military Research UK, and specialises in discovering our own family heroes. He is fascinated by individual stories of the whole military history. He has written World War One: A Layman’s Guide for everyone with a general inclination to find out more; describing it as a ‘more like a chat down the pub’. And that it is…
Right from the preface, I was hooked; charmed by Scott’s boy-next-door approach and a writing style that is easily accessible for everyone (except the academics that hold more knowledge than even they know what to do with). I have always wanted to find out more about the First World War because my great-grandfather fought in the Somme during 1916 and was gassed on active duty; and World War One: A Layman’s Guide was the perfect way to start this journey of exploration, and I now have specific aspects I wish to continue to research.
There are 53 short (but not too short), well-written and titled chapters, commencing with the run up to the declaration of war and concluding with the armistice and peace talks. The major battles of the First World War are featured chronologically, with reasonable diversions at relevant places to elaborate on some aspects.
The informality of the book only serves to support Scott’s claim that it is a chat over a pint. It is unashamedly biased from a British point of view, but that is one of its selling points. Historians have a responsibility to be unbiased and sit on the fence; however, parents think their children are the best children EVER… so why should it be any different when talking about the war? (I, for one, am glad the other side didn’t win!)
If you have any interest in World War One, definitely pick it up. I can assure you that you will learn things you didn’t already know, as well as confirming something you already know.
Scott Addington can be found at Military Research UK and Twitter (@military_search)