Long the province of political scientists probing the origins of catastrophic conflict, the war of 1914-18 has recently attracted historians who can reach a broader audience. John Keegan's short one-volume account, The First World War, is serviceable, but this massive scholarly study will surely stand the test of generations. It supersedes the remarkable history by C.R.M.F. Cruttwell, which held the field for 70 years. Strachan, whose breadth of reading is nothing short of staggering, paints a masterly picture of politics, society, economics, and operations. There are no cranky interpretations, no obsessions with one form of historical narrative to the exclusion of another -- merely solid prose and massive learning. This and its succeeding volumes will provide the foundation for future generations' understanding of the war that inaugurated a dark and bloody century.