Mark Holborn and Hilary Roberts, The Great War; A Photographic Narrative (New York: Knopf, 2013), 504pp.
The heft of this massive volume signals its somber content. Holborn and Roberts have collected 380 black and white photographs of World War I from the archives of nearly 500,000 photographs in Britain's Imperial War Museums. The volume commemorates the 100th anniversary of the beginning of "The Great War" with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. By the time of the armistice on November 11, 1918, 70 million soldiers had been mobilized, 45 million were injured, and 9 million died.
The photographs capture the global nature of the war. There are pictures of a Nigerian Regiment in the German colony of Cameroon, Indian and Senegalese soldiers serving with the French Army, and, of course, images of T.E. Lawrence riding camel-back in Arabia. You expect to see the horrific violence and appalling degradation, but it's still shocking. The photographs show the changing technology of war with both old and new instruments of war — tanks, planes, ships, U-boats, canons, poison gas, zeppelins, but also horses mired in mud and the infamous trenches. The pictures are a testament to the changing technology and role of photography in war. They're also a reminder that this was not the war to end all wars.
In a recent review article about books commemorating the war's centennial anniversary, R.J.W. Evans remarks, "but all texts that seek to convey the enormity of those times will need to be supplemented by the visual record, as in the haunting and often deeply revealing pictures in an astonishing new collection (albeit mainly of Western images) from London’s Imperial War Museum." I would also recommend the YouTube video by Johnny Cash called World War I, When the Man Comes Around that's based on texts from the book of Revelation
See R.J.W. Evans, "The Greatest Catastrophe The World Has Seen," NYRB (February 6, 2014).
Johnny Cash, "World War I: When The Man Comes Around."