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The Somme


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About the Author

Robin Prior is professor and head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra. Trevor Wilson is professor emeritus of history at the University of Adelaide. They are the authors of Passchendaele: The Untold Story, also published by Yale University Press.


The Battle of the Somme (1916) epitomizes the immensity of World War I battlefield slaughter. Australian military historians Prior (Sch. of Humanities & Social Sciences, Univ. of New South Wales) and Wilson (history, Sch. of History & Politics, Univ. of Adelaide) provide a day-by-day account of the politics, strategy, and command structure that made this particular debacle possible. They begin by demonstrating the role of civilian leadership in pushing for a great Western offensive, then move on to the planning and operational history of the battle, in the process revealing the fault lines in the British Expeditionary Force's command structure. This book revises the traditional account of British troops being ordered to march shoulder to shoulder to their doom on July 1, replacing it with a picture of poor tactical coherence among the British commanders and faulty battle preparations that left German defenses intact on the day of attack. Fundamentally, the authors posit, the type of offensive tactics the British employed did not really matter; it was the state of enemy defenses that determined the casualties. The failure to destroy German barbed wire, machine gun posts, and artillery concentrations ensured that dozens of army units were decimated prior to reaching the frontlines. Revisionist history at its best; recommended for all libraries.-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"'The strength of Prior and Wilson's book lies in the detailed breakdown at the operational level of command' Times Literary Supplement 'Prior and Wilson persuasively attribute the grisly cost of 1 July not to inadequate infantry training and tactics... but to inadequate artillery support' Spectator 'A magisterial piece of scholarship... It is a model of historical research and should do much to further our understanding of the Great War and how it was fought.' Contemporary Review 'Revisionist history at its best.' Library Journal (starred review) 'A major addition to the literature on the military history of the Great War' Jay Winter 'Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson have put together a painstakingly detailed analysis of one of the great stuff-ups of modern war... Morbidly compelling.' The Age 'With a fine sense of detail and a style that is fresh and accessible, Australian academics Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson have analysed the flawed decision-making leading up to the battle, detailed the day-by-day disasters that occurred during the battle and provided a very clear analysis of the consequences.' Sydney Morning Herald"

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