First Know Your Enemy
Comprehending Imperial German War Aims
& Deciphering the Enigma of Kultur
John A Moses with Peter Overlack
North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing 2019
Hardback 369pp RRP $49.95
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, May 2020
This book explores German culture and German war aims in the Great War. Its author has his post-graduate education in history at German universities. He is deeply interested in approaches to history and to historiography. His style tends towards the polemic and didactic.
Moses approaches his subject by emphasising the importance of understanding an enemy – any enemy. He stresses the need to incorporate culture, politics and history into this knowledge.
This book makes a strong case for German war aims in the Pacific that could be seen as contrary to Australian interests. This is an important topic: Moses takes issue with those who portray Australia’s first World War involvement as purely an interference in an essentially British conflict. Part of his argument rests on the formidable German naval presence in the Pacific in 1914 and the detailed German plans made to interdict Australian and New Zealand shipping trade. There are echoes here of the present importance of security to Australia’s shipping supply lines.
The book is an intense rather than an informative and entertaining volume. It will appeal more to the specialist in this area than to the general reader.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.