Book and Website Recommendations

Book Recommendation:
Laurent Mirouze and Stéphane Dekerle, The French Army in the First World War (Vols. 1 and 2).

The must-have books for collectors of Première Guerre Mondiale Armée de Terre militaria, I would imagine.
Incredibly detailed, profusely illustrated and, so, worth the money for anyone wishing to make connections between #materialculture (‘the stuff of war’) and the experiences of soldiers.

Book Recommendation:
Michael Cox and Graham Watson, Pour la France: A Guide to the Formations and Units of the Land Forces of France, 1914-18

This is one of my current top 5 most useful English-language sources on the French Army in the First World War. Connects units to localities, regiments to divisions, provides short narratives for divisions, lists divisional commanders, etc. Very practical. It’s not perfect (there are occasional slips), but isn’t that all of us …?

Don’t Knock it, Until You’ve Tried it:
Ian Sumner (illustrated by Gerry Embleton), The French Army 1914-18

A cheaper alternative to Mirouze and Dekerle’s mammoth two volume set. Packed with helpful tables and illustrations with several colour plates in the traditional Osprey Men at Arms formula. Useful. And portable.

The Essential

Elizabeth Greenhalgh, The French Army and the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

I can’t emphasise how important this book was for me in reshaping and renewing my interest in the First World War. It opened up a new area of interest, changed my mind about what I thought I knew, showed how little I actually knew, refreshed me when I was exhausted by reading and writing the same narrow and partial things for too long and gave me the reason to ‘take fresh hold and go again’. Even the cover image with a Western Front that runs well beyond the Somme and down to the Swiss Border suggests the monumental scale of possibilities for a historian, reader of history books or battlefield tourist. You have to be open to the argument that Greehalgh presents – that English-language historiography of the First World War all too often underplays the critical importance of the French army to all aspects of the fighting, from the war’s beginning to its very end. In doing so, you open yourself up to a better understanding of where the military operations of the other Allied nations fit in the great scheme of things. By looking beyond the British, Australian, Canadian, American, etc military’s experience of the war, you actually come to a better understanding of that experience.

I have to agree with the reviews that variously describe it as ‘the single best book on its subject for the foreseeable future’, ‘judicious and comprehensive’, and ‘a superb overview of the French army’s performance in the First World War’.