World War I Introduction
This page provides links to materials that can be used for doing research on World War I, also referred to as the European War, the Great War, and the War to End All Wars. It is not comprehensive, but it contains more than enough information to help most researchers. Much useful material for history is found in books. Additional resources (articles, etc.) are identified in the bibliographies of these books and in indexes and abstracts (print and electronic--a number of these are full text online). Track these resources down for thorough research. See "identifying books" for subject terms used in library catalogs for the history of World War I. That said, there is a growing amount of useful research material, including primary resources, on the Web and through proprietary (a library purchases them) databases; a number of these are linked to here, but accessible to CSU affiliates only (or if one's own library has a subscription; access would be through that library's portal).
Warning: because of the topic (war), there are a number of linked-to sites below that show images (photographs, etc.) of the dead and other potentially disturbing sights. Books and other materials will probably have these as well.
The Beginning . . .
Do a search on Colorado Virtual Library's (CVL) site to find these articles that document how the war was depicted "as it happened" in Colorado newspapers in 1914: War As a Result of the Assassination?; Assassination of Franz Ferdinand and War Declared; Stranded by War; The Ottoman Empire Declares Holy War in November.
Trench Warfare . . . Trench Warfare Begins. September 1914-October 1914
These titles give overviews of World War I:
- Almanac of World War I. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998. D 522.5 .B87 1998 Reference
- The Dictionary of the First World War. New York: St. Martin's, 1995. D 510 .P66 1995 Reference
- The Encyclopedia of World War I: A Political, Social, and Military History. ABC-CLIO, 2005. E-reference for CSU affiliates only.
- The European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1996. D510 .E97 1996 Reference
- The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1995. D510 .U65 1995 Reference
- World War I: Encyclopedia. 5 v. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005. D510 .E53 2005 Reference
- World War I Reference Library. 4 vols. Detroit: U*X*L, 2002. Online via Gale Virtual Reference Library to CSU affiliates.
Bibliographies of primary accounts (print and online; check local catalog for holdings):
- World War I Memories: An Annotated Bibliography of Personal Accounts Published in English Since 1919. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2004. D 640 .A2 L46 2004 Reference
- World War I: Documenting the First Total War of the 20th Century. Yale University Libraries and Collections.
Year by year timeline of events. June 28, 1914-June 28, 1919.
Timeline of World War One. History Learning Site.
June 28, 1914 (assassination of Francis Ferdinand) to June 28, 1919 (Treaty of Versailles).
War Timeline. First World War.com: The War to End All Wars. © Michael Duffy 2000-07.
"Great War" timeline. Search by month and day: June 23, 1914-December 31, 1919. By year gives summary of major events. By day provides "on this day" for Western Front, Eastern Front, Southern Front, Asiatic and Egyptian Theatres, Naval and Overseas Operations, Political, etc. Definitions of "fronts'" ranges provided.
Each year, 1914 to 1918 gets its own detailed page. Divided by months. Selected Battles have a link to additional information.
World War I Battlefield Companion. American Battle Monuments Commission.
Focus on Americans, so begins in 1918. 123 pages. Maps, photographs, insignia, summaries of battles, etc. Intended as a guide to visiting the battlefields. Images of cemeteries and memorials.
Summaries, Artifacts & Documents
Documents of World War I or the Great War (aka European War in contemporary times)
The resources listed in this section link to primarily primary source documents and images (photographs, posters, cartoons, etc.).
AMDOCS: Documents for the Study of American History 1913-. Lynn Nelson, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Kansas. Maintained by George Laughead Jr. Section of the page.
Source documents both for and against the war from an American perspective.
American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election. (Section of American Memory). Library of Congress. Excellent resource for primary research.
Audio of speeches with text provided. Some topics:
American Memory. Library of Congress.
Do a search in all collections for "World War I" to see over 3500 images from the home front (and possibly beyond).
British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries. CSU affiliates only. Primary source materials.
There are 128 entries in this database written by nine different women under browse, historical period, World War I.
War diaries, "we were there," (people who were there) and "did you know that." "This Web site contains contextual information and help for researchers wishing to use the digitized War Diaries of CEF infantry and artillery units, Brigade, Division and Corps commands and support units such as Railway and Forestry troops. The site also includes the War Diaries of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and British units that served under Canadian command. This site does not include documents relating to the Royal Canadian Air Force, or to the Royal Canadian Navy." War diaries are not personal diaries. Summaries and maps. While the diaries themselves are primary sources, the summaries are secondary sources. Search the war diaries database (by unit name, date, or year, and see images of the diaries themselves in some cases.
Congressional Publications. CSU affiliates only.
Deselect the checkboxes that are out of the date range. Search World War I OR WWI and find over 12,000 documents. Narrowing the search to items from Jan. 1, 1914 to December 31, 1920 brings up 4089 items. Items include published and unpublished Hearings, Congressional Record, House and Senate Documents, House and Senate Reports, and more.
Europeana 1914-1918. Co-funded by the European Union.
"Europeana 1914-1918 now brings together resources from three major European projects each dealing with different types of First World War material. That means that national collections from libraries now sit alongside personal stories and treasures as well as important film archives." "[O]ver 400,000 pieces of material from national libraries in eight countries that found themselves on different sides of the historic conflict." The film archives has over 650 hours of film. Browse by types (letters, diaries, photographs, World War I films, official documents, and postcards), subjects (remembrance, propaganda, prisoners of war, trench life, aerial warfare, naval warfare, women), and fronts (Italian , home, Eastern, and Western). See also Europeana Exhibitions: Untold Stories of the First World War: Themes. Extensive.
The start, the extension, Canada joining the war, on the West front, and behind the lines. War in the air, war in the sea, Canadians in other campaigns, after the Armistice, and commemorative monuments for Canadians (in Belgium and France). Map of the Western front.
Foreign Relations of the United States. 1861-1960. 375 volumes. University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.
Official documentary historical record. Original volumes have been scanned page by page. Browse/Scroll down for 1914-1919; multiple volumes cover the Paris Peace Conference and other aspects of the war.
The Gilded Age. Alexander Street Press. Drew VandeCreek (and others). CSU affiliates only.
Primary documents ("songs, letters, photographs, cartoons, government documents, and ephemera") and scholarly commentary. While this time period (1865-1902) is not the era of World War I, the events and philosophical thinking that take place are the precursors to the war. The database covers the following historical themes: Agriculture and rural life; Arts, culture, and leisure; Domestic life and families; Economics, labor, and commerce; Education and intellectual life; Gender, sexuality, and women; Government, law, and politics; Immigration, migration, and expansion; Race and ethnicity; Religion and spirituality; Science, technology, and medicine; Social progress and reform; Urban life; and War and military life. Critical documentary essays contain annotated primary-source documents linked in interpretive essays.
Search "First World War" and get 257,753 results as of October 2016. (A search for World War I finds only 12,725 items.) Filter by category.
Memoirs & Diaries. First World War.com. © Michael Duffy 2000-07.
Diaries and first-hand accounts of events. Scroll down to see links. Checked first hand accounts included photographs (although it is likely that these were added by the site author, not the writers themselves).
Newspaper Pictorials: World War I Rotogravures 1913-1919. Library of Congress.
"The images in this collection track American sentiment about the war in Europe, week by week, before and after the United States became involved. Events of the war are detailed alongside society news and advertisements touting products of the day, creating a pictorial record of both the war effort and life at home. The collection includes an illustrated history of World War I selected from newspaper rotogravure sections that graphically documents the people, places, and events important to the war." Pictures and essays.
North American Women's Letters and Diaries. Alexander Street Press. CSU affiliates only. Primary source materials.
There are 296 documents identified as World War I under "historical events."
Posters: World War I. Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.
Page gives directions for finding the approximately 1,900 posters in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC): Posters: World War I. Many of the records have a digitized image of the poster. (Collection. Browse "subject and format headings" to see broad subjects with links to images.) Select "View all" to see thumbnail sized images.
Primary Documents. First World War.com. © Michael Duffy 2000-07.
Contains "primary documents that document the course of the war via source - often official government - material." Search by year from pre-1914 to post-1919. Documents are described (and sometimes there is an image of the original document). Items checked were all in English, so it is likely that some of these are translated. In some cases, it is noted that the item is a translation, in others no mention is made; it is possible the owner of the site translated the materials (it is highly unlikely that Germans sent messages to one another in English and there are examples of these types of communications--in English). Some items note a book source. Extensive.
Sassoon Journals. Cambridge Digital Library. University of Cambridge.
These are "notebooks kept by the soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) during his service in the British Army in the First World War." "The journals give a fascinating insight into daily life in the trenches."
The Stars and Stripes: The American Soldiers' Newspaper of World War I, 1918-1919. (Section of American Memory). Library of Congress.
"From February 8, 1918, to June 13, 1919, by order of General John J. Pershing, the United States Army published a newspaper for its forces in France, The Stars and Stripes. This online collection, presented by the Serial and Government Publications Division of the Library of Congress, includes the complete seventy-one-week run of the newspaper's World War I edition." Search by keyword or date. Zoom in and out, view by PDF, TIFF, and other formats.
Teaching with Documents: The Zimmerman Telegram. National Archives. United States
"In January of 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause. This message helped draw the United States into the war and thus changed the course of history." See a digitized copy of the coded original telegram, and the decoded message. See also a brief story of Signals Intelligence 1914-2014 (now GCHQ) that links to the Zimmerman telegram lesson (and the Imperial War Museum, listed above).
When, who, what, where, maps. This links to the site map. Exhibits and links to reference materials (for example, number of casualties by country). Extensive. Includes 101+ Indispensable Works on The Great War (contributed by second author, revised 1996; very brief, but descriptive annotations). Some items on the site are contributions; these are so noted.
United States Congressional Serial Set. CSU affiliates only.
Read primary source Congressional documents about the war. Classified as "World War I (1914-1918)" in the database. Between 1914-1920 there were 842 items. A search that does not narrow the year of publication brings up 3238 items.
WWW-VL History. Military: The Great War 1914-1918 . The World Wide Virtual Library. The University of Kansas.
Listing by topic and chronological. Many primary source documents.
World War I. Teacher Oz's Kingdom of History. Tracey Oz.
A number of primary and secondary sources. Primary sources identified.
"This archive of primary documents from World War I has been assembled by volunteers of the World War I Military History List (WWI-L). International in focus, the archive intends to present in one location primary documents concerning the Great War." Arranged by: Conventions and Treaties and Official Papers; Documents by Year; Diaries, Memorials, Personal Reminiscences; Books, Special Topics and Commentaries; and WWI Biographical Dictionary.
World War I Records. Military Records. National Archives & Records Administration.
Includes copies of various primary and secondary sources along with contextual information (some sources found on linked to pages).
World War I Document Archive. Great War Primary Document Archive, Inc., Kansas University, Brigham Young University and Richard Hacken.
Conventions, Treaties, & Official Papers; Documents by Year: Pre-1914 to Post-1918; Diaries, Memorials, Personal Reminiscences; Books, Special Topics and Commentaries; WWI Biographical Dictionary; WWI Image Archive; The Maritime War; the Medical Front; Links to Other WWI Sites. Extensive.
World War I Medal of Honor Recipients. United States Army.
Alphabetical list of recipients with rank, place and date, etc., and citation.
World War One 1914 to 1918. Australian Army. Documents, Imagery, Maps, and Training Materials.
Centenary Materials--United Kingdom
This is "a growing collection of stories that show how WW1 affected the people and places of the UK and Ireland. The BBC has partnered with Imperial War Museums and the Arts and Humanities Research Council." Example topics include WW1 Footage & Video; Sport in Wartime; Working for the War; Women Trailblazers; and Medicine & Nursing. World War One has a different set of relevant material worth exploring with Guides; Picture Galleries, News & Features; and More on World War 1.
Overview & Other
By name, by date & ship/unit (month-by-month).
This link may only work for CSU affiliates and those with access to the journal in Project Muse. Bibliography of articles published in the journal Canadian Historical Review. The articles are available via Open Access.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography: The First World War. © 2003-2014 University of Toronto/Université Laval. Canadian Heritage. Also in French (Dictionnarie biographique du Canada: La Première Guerre mondiale).
Biographies of Canadians who fought and died. Listed by: Death on the Battlefield; War in the Air; Victoria Cross Winners; The Generals; Organizing for War; The Wartime Economy; Recruitment; Conscription Divides Canada; Pacifism; Ethnicity and Race; Civilian Contributions; Writing on War; The War's Impact on Families; Demobilization and the Veterans; Aboriginal Soldiers; Military Medicine; Military Chaplains. Subset of larger biography set.
Royal Navy Log Books of the World War 1 Era - An Old Weather Citizen History Project. Naval History.
By type and class, by fleets, stations, campaigns, etc. (incomplete as of 8/2014).
The United States Marine Corps in the World War. Major Edwin N. McClellan, USMC. First Printed 1920 Facsimile Reprinted 1968. Historical Branch, G-3 Division Headquarters, U. S. Marine Corps.
Text-only version of 1920 history of the war (with foreword written in 1968). Has corrected death statistics in appendix. Includes numbers of men enlisted by states for specific time frames and much more.
World War I (1914-1919). Defining Documents in American History: World War I (1914–1919). ebook; CSU affiliates only.
Documents related to the war. Search full text, abstract, or title. Or scroll the four pages. Not all entries include a primary source. Historical document and overview and analysis of its importance. The Chronological List linked to from the fourth page has a good summary of events--and links to relevant documents. Also available as print book: D619 .W67 2014 Morgan.
Documentaries and Films about the War
CSU affiliates have access to films via streaming video in Kanopy. A search for World War I brings up 3042 results as of August 2017. Many of these are documentaries (although some are fictional movies), which focus on a particular aspect of the war.
CSU Library Archive Items
Posters: World War I and World War II.
World War I Sites in Languages Other Than English (French/German--français/Deutsch)
Identifying Books in the library catalog, on World War I
Do a Subject search for these terms in CSU's library catalog (and Prospector); they will work in any library catalog that uses Library of Congress Subject Headings. Items may be requested from other libraries in Prospector, the Regional Catalog, by Colorado State University affiliates. Subject terms listed in this section have 3 or more entries (these are most likely books) listed in CSU's catalog, but there are additional terms that identify books on World War I that have one or two entries. Also look at related entries. "World War 1914-1918 Sources" identifies primary sources (see also personal accounts of the war for other primary sources, below). When you see subdivisions that end with "sources" they identify primary sources. For example: World War 1914 1918 Causes Sources.
For fastest searching, open another browser window and cut and paste (Ctrl c to copy, then Ctrl v to paste; or top menu: edit copy, edit paste) the terms found here into the subject search box in the library catalog (delete the bullet point or the search will not work):
From the initial library home page select "Advanced Search" (seen under the search box) and then change the radio button to "Books and more" and the Any field drop down to Subject:
Cut and paste from below or type into the box. For example:
Identify contemporary sources by refining your search to year published. Do this on the left-hand side of the page under Date. For example:
(press Refine to narrow to these dates)
There will not always be contemporary materials on topics, but it does not hurt to check!
Because there are so many terms assigned to this vast subject, items have been broken down into categories to make it easier to find relevant headings:
The war, broadly (entries in brackets [ ] are subdivisions that can are added to the main subject heading):
Primary sources about the war can be found directly under: World War 1914 1918 Sources
- British Documents on the Origins of the War, 1898-1914. 9 vols. (10 actual) D 505 .G68 1967 Morgan
- Primary Sources (American War Library, World War I series). D522.7 .P75 2002 Morgan
- Source Records of the Great War: A Comprehensive and Readable Source Record of the World's Great War, Emphasizing the More Important Events, and Presenting These as Complete Narratives in the Actual Words of the Chief Officials and Most Eminent Leaders: Non-partisan, Non-sectional, Non-sectarian: Presenting Documents from Government Archives and Other Authoritative Sources, with Outline Narratives, Indices, Chronologies, and Courses of Reading on Sociological Movements and Individual National Activities. 7 vols. D521 .H6 1923 Morgan
- World War I. D 521 .C4355 2007 Morgan
The war, by countries or regions involved:
Specific kinds of fighting or intrigue during the war:
The war and food, equipment, casualties, and medical care:
Before (and during) the war, chronology, possible causes, attempts at prevention, promotion, and opinions on it:
The war and territories:
Financing the war and various payments in its aftermath:
Prisons of the mind and the body:
Regimental and army histories:
Refugees, relief, work, and life at home:
Women and the war:
The war in the arts (visual, music, etc.) and fiction:
Miscellaneous with three or more entries:
To find items on a specific aspect of World War I, do a All Fields search for World War 1914-1918 and that topic. For example:
- World War 1914-1918 and shell shock
- World War 1914-1918 and treaties
You might also want to search the ACLS Humanities E-Book collection, available to CSU affiliates for books. There are 17 monographs with World War 1914 1918 in the subject. Read titles of interest online.
See also Naval Warfare: An International Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2002. E-reference for CSU affiliates only, which, while it covers numerous wars, includes many entries relating to World War I.
Personal accounts (primary sources) of events can be identified with the subdivision "Personal Narratives." Some of these are diaries, letters (correspondence), or other forms of journals. Some are memoirs. For example (there are two or more books in the library catalog for these subject headings):
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives American
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives Australian
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives Bibliography
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives British
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives Canadian
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives English
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives French
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives German
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives Italian
- World War 1914 1918 Personal Narratives Russian
Indexes & Abstracts
Identify articles by topic in these sources (these indexes are Step 1 of how to find articles). Some indexes have citations only and others have full text materials. Due to the nature of this topic, a number of really good resources (contemporary/primary ones) can only be identified via printed indexes. These valuable resources should not be neglected! Linked to CSU databases may also be found via the "A-Z Databases" page.
America, History & Life. 1954- . 1964- online. Only one CSU user at a time. Printed version Z 1236 .A48 Reference South (1954-1994).
America: History & Life is a useful index for identifying articles and books. Subject term: World War I. Secondary sources. Resource identifies whether primary or secondary sources were used to research the article. Articles may have excerpts from primary sources.
Identifies over 1,200 articles about World War I from History and Political Science journals. Other journal subject areas, such as International Relations, also represented.
Colorado's Historic Newspaper Collection. 1859-1923. Collaborative Digitization Program. Colorado State Library. Colorado Historical Society. Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Searching these full text Colorado newspapers for "European War" brings up more than 400 articles. What newspapers in Colorado had to report about the war while it was going on is worth examining. Not all citizens had access to major newspapers--just their own.
Historical Abstracts. 1954- . Only one CSU user at a time. Printed version D 299 .H5 Reference South (covers history in years 1775-1945). History of Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania after 1500.
Subject term for United States is: USA. Subject term for the war: World War I. Secondary sources. Resource identifies whether primary or secondary sources were used to research the article. Articles may have excerpts from primary sources.
JSTOR. Articles for the most part are at least 3-5 years old. CSU affiliates only.
Full text articles from broad range of subject areas, including history. Scholarly articles. Search for words in title, author, abstract, or full text. You may select area(s) of journals to complete a search. (E.g. History, Political Science.) There are over 13,300 articles from 1910-1920 with "war." Just over 970 of these are in history journals; over 2500 are in law journals; over 2600 are in political science journals; over 300 are in philosophy journals; over 900 are in business journals; and over 400 are in education journals. Thus it can be seen that the war made an impact in many areas of scholarship. These contemporary sources will count as primary materials in most cases, because this is what people were writing before, during, and immediately after the war. There are, of course, thousands of articles about the war published in later years, but these will be secondary sources in most cases. Articles written by participants about their war experiences are primary sources, even if written after the event (although watch out for non-reliable memories and the "rewriting" of history). As a point of interest, there are over 160 articles in history journals between 1910-2000 with "World War I" or "Great War" in their titles; from 2001-2010 there are 118, showing a renewed interest in the topic due to the 100-year anniversary. Remember that contemporary authors in the 1910s through most of the 1930s referred to World War I as the Great War or the War to End All Wars. World War II had not started yet.
New York Times 1851- . CSU affiliates only.
There are over 137,000 articles with "war" between June 29, 1914 and December 31, 1919 in the New York Times newspaper. Not all of them have to do with World War I (more than one war was going on and people go to "war" over issues), so be careful. Within the same dates, a search for "great war" results in 3077 documents and "War in Europe" brings up 10,185. However, it is highly probable that there are many more articles about the great war in the newspaper--it was obvious to most newspaper readers that war in France or Germany was all part of the same overall war, so journalists and headline writers did not need to use the larger names for the war in their articles. If doing research on a particular topic, narrow the search by date and use those terms. For example:
(Serbia or Servia) and war
(airplane or aeroplane or biplane) and war
Contemporary articles about the war will be in the database, but selected items are missing starting 1923- ; missing articles and photographs can be identified in the printed index for the New York Times and seen on the microfilm copy of the newspaper: AN 1 .N4 MICROFILM.
Project MUSE. Various starting dates. CSU affiliates only.
Full text articles from the humanities and social sciences, including over forty history journals. There are over 220 articles that have World War I or World War 1914-1918 as a subject. All of these are recent journal articles, so they are all secondary sources; however, a number of them look as if they might contain excerpts from letters and other primary source materials.
Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. AI 3 .R48 Reference
An excellent resource for contemporary, and therefore primary sources about the war. Look up the abbreviations of the journal names at the front of the printed index before looking in the library catalog for ownership (step 3 how to find articles; then do step 4, determine if the library owns the journal). Many of these resources will be in storage (request directly from the library catalog record), so plan ahead. This resource is a good place to browse for ideas--in addition, you will know there is at least one contemporary article on that particular topic!
Look up "European War 1914- " In Vol. 4, 1915-1918, entries start on page 600.
There is a listing of all the subdivisions on that page as well. Some of the subdivision topics include: aims, campaigns and battles, causes, cost, leaders, medical and sanitary affairs, neutral powers, peace and mediation, personal narratives, press reports and censorship, refugees, submarine operations, women and the war, and then alphabetical by country/region. Also look up "War" and its subdivisions.
Times Digital Archive. 1785- . CSU affiliates only. Also The Times (London). 1788- . AN T5 Microfilm (Basement West). Palmer's Index to the Times Newspaper. A I 21 T51 En route to Storage as of August 2017. London newspaper.
Get a perspective of the war from England. The online database also searches the Sunday Times (London) and 19th Century Newspapers (you might want to deselect the latter). Because there have been numerous conflicts in Europe, researchers will want to limit their search to AFTER 1913 (or other nearby dates such as AFTER 1910 if trying to identify the precursors for it). Full text. Use magnifier to get size of text (which varies by the length and width of the article) comfortable to read. Limit by publication section or article type (other limiters not relevant when searching the Times and Sunday Times only). Contemporary vocabulary will be vital for success.
The printed index (Storage or on its way) is year by year during the war: each year has been divided into four, so look for topics four times in each year: January-March, April-June, July-September, and October-December. Be careful to note which "j" (January, June, or July) in the first three quarters before going to the microfilm. In the first two quarters, "m" could be March or May. In the middle quarters "a" could be April or August. In other words, note which quarter you are in and spell out j, m, and a months--and include the year, because the year is not included as part of individual citations (but is noted in the right-side page headers).
Terms to look for in the Palmer's Index to the Times and in the online database include (some of these are first words only):