World War I: The Eastern Front
- LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0221
- LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2023
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0221
The war on the Eastern Front was every bit as bloody as that on the Western Front. Like the Western Front, there was trench warfare, but there was never a continuous trench line along the entire front. Unlike the Western Front, there were large-scale offensives that covered hundreds of miles, but there were also extended lulls. Though there were few massive dayslong artillery bombardments that killed thousands, warfare in the open field led to enormous numbers of casualties. Civilians suffered far more in the east than in the west. Millions of civilians were caught in the shifting battlefields in the Baltics, Poland, Galicia, and Romania, leading to large numbers of displaced persons, who suffered and died in the course of evacuation. In contrast to Britain and France, the war destabilized the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian governments and social systems. Because of the variety of military and civilian experiences, the academic study of the war in the east goes beyond battles and campaigns to include a wide array of topics regarding war and society. The study of the strictly military aspects constitutes the minority of works on the war in the east, and much of that is by amateur historians; studies of society and the social aspects of the militaries dominate the scholarly literature. The history of the World War I on the Eastern Front is vastly understudied when compared with that of the war on the Western Front. Significant numbers of scholars and independent writers did not turn their attention to the study of the Eastern Front until the collapse of the Soviet Union made access to Russian archives easier. Increased attention was paid to the topic in the 2000s, especially around the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the war. The literature focuses heavily on Russia, much less so on Germany and Austria-Hungary, and even less so on Russia’s ally Romania. Inevitably, because the war contributed to the collapse of the political systems and empires of the three major combatants, the relationship of the war to this phenomenon is included in the study of the war; studies of the Russian Revolution, though it emanated from the war, are not included in this bibliography because it has a historiography all its own.
Books that take a wide view of the war are generally divided between those that focus on high level politics, the ones concerned with mostly military aspects, and those that incorporate social aspects. Churchill 1931 takes a top-down approach, focusing on the high politics. Clark 1999, Halsey 1919, Frothingham 1920, Stone 1975, and Stone 2015 forefront the military aspects but weave in the high politics as appropriate. Gatrell 2005, Herwig 2014, Watson 2014, and Borodziej and Górny 2021 include political, military, economic, and social aspects. Neiberg and Jordan 2008 give a general overview of the military operations.
Borodziej, Vlodzimierz, and Maciej Górny. Forgotten Wars: Central and Eastern Europe, 1912–1916. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2021.
Combines military and social history to examine the origins, outbreak, and early campaigns of the World War I in Central and Eastern Europe.
Churchill, Winston. The Unknown War: The Eastern Front. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931.
A well-written overview that takes liberties with the facts.
Clark, Alan. The Eastern Front, 1914–18: Suicide of the Empires. Moreton-in-Marsh, UK: Windrush Press, 1999.
This short book is written for the general reader and covers only a few of the most notable battles.
Frothingham, Thomas G. A Guide to the Military History of the World War, 1914–1918. Boston: Little, Brown, 1920.
A straightforward chronologically arranged account of the flow of the war through detailed studies of the campaigns and battles. Reprinted 2016.
Gatrell, Peter. Russia’s First World War: A Social and Economic History. Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2005.
Despite the title, the book does include a chapter on military operations and gives a comprehensive overview of the Russian Empire at war into 1918.
Herwig, Holger H. The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914–1918. 2d. ed. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
A thorough overview of the war from the perspectives of Germany and Austria-Hungary using sources from those former empires to include the war fronts and home fronts, diplomacy, and alliance issues. It gives the Eastern Front the due it deserves.
Halsey, Francis Whiting. Literary Digest of the World War. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1919.
Of the ten volumes of this history, only one deals with the Eastern Front. Written by journalists and based largely on journalistic sources, it is one of the earliest attempts at a comprehensive history of the war that reflects the victors’ mood of the day. Richly illustrated with photographs and quite good maps.
Neiberg, Michael S., and David Jordan. The Eastern Front 1914–1920. London: Amber, 2008.
A work for a general audience written by prominent scholars. Lavishly illustrated with photographs.
Stone, Norman. The Eastern Front, 1914–1917. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975.
The first scholarly and at times controversial treatment of Russia at war focusing primarily on the military-political aspects.
Stone, David R. The Russian Army in the Great War: The Eastern Front, 1914–1917. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2015.
A thoroughly researched and comprehensive overview of the conduct of the war, the major campaigns and battles, diplomacy, and pertinent domestic issues.
Watson, Alexander. Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I. New York: Basic Books, 2014.
A wide and deep overview of the war from the perspectives of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Written in the genre of war and society, it intertwines social issues with the broad war experience at the front and the rear. The Eastern Front figures prominently.
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