Suggested Resources on World War I and the Zimmermann Telegram from the Archivist

by Mary-Jo Kline

Professor Neiberg has written extensively on World War I. Of his many books, Fighting the Great War: A Global History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2006) will be most helpful in teaching the topics discussed in this essay.

Although this book is half a century old, it remains your best source on the Zimmermann telegram. It’s been reprinted several times, so you have a good chance of finding it in your library:

  • Tuchman, Barbara. The Zimmerman Telegram. New York: Macmillan, 1956.

On the Internet, you’ll want to look at these sites for materials on World War I in general and the telegram in particular:

  • The ads on  will drive you crazy, but you can get good basic information on the telegram and the personalities and events mentioned in this essay. I recommend clicking the link to their “Encyclopedia” in the menu on the left-hand side of this page to locate what you want—follow links from there.
  • has fewer ads but I found it over designed. Go to nearly the bottom of the page where “Good Starting Points” and “Other Items of Interest” give you access to materials on this and other websites. Be warned that some of the links are dead and some are incomplete.
  • The Teaching with Documents series at the National Archives has a lesson plan for using the Zimmermann telegram. Resources include documents, standards correlations, teaching activities, and a document analysis worksheet.
  • PBS’s series The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century focused on the fighting of the war. You’ll not find much there on the Zimmermann telegram and the circumstances of US entry into the war. This handy index to the series’ website will show you what’s there.
  • The Long, Long Trail: The British Army in the Great War” focuses on the British army, but it’s so good you shouldn’t miss it.
  • We usually don’t go in for “previews of coming attractions,” but Professor Neiberg brought to our attention a mammoth online project of which he’s an editor: 1914–1918-Online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War. It won’t be fully launched until 2014, but once it’s up and running, this will be your online source of choice. Be sure to make a note of the URL for future reference.

You have a choice of books about the British code breakers who cracked the secrets of the Zimmermann telegram and the American ambassador in London who handled transmission of the information to Washington. I wish the books were more recent:

  • Beesly, Patrick. Room 40: British Naval Intelligence, 1914–18. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982.
  • Cooper, John Milton. Walter Hines Page: The Southerner as American, 1855–1918. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977. Reprinted last year by UNC Press, so there’s a better chance of finding it.
  • Hendrick, Burton Jesse. The Life and Letters of Walter H. Page. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page, 1924. This has passed into public domain, so you may find a reprint.
  • James, W. M. The Code Breakers of Room 40: The Story of Admiral Sir William Hall, Genius of British Counter-Intelligence. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1956.

This author provides firm background on the history of German submarine attacks on US merchant shipping leading to the declaration of war:

  • Carlisle, Rodney P. Sovereignty at Sea: US Merchant Ships and American Entry into World War I. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009.

You have a choice of studies of the Mexican Revolution—there was a flurry of publications just before the event’s centennial:

  • Beezley, William H. Mexicans in Revolution, 1910–1946: An Introduction. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. Focuses on the revolutionaries as a group and the implementation of social and political changes.
  • Gonzales, Michael J. The Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2002.
  • Knight, Alan. The Mexican Revolution. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
  • McLynn, Frank. Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001. Lively narrative.

On the Internet, look at PBS’s “The Storm that Swept Mexico.” Of the educational materials here, the one on revolutionary leaders is the most useful for this essay’s topic. provides a good brief narrative of the revolution, as well as a helpful timeline.

Moving into the narrower topic of US intervention in the revolution and Pershing’s expedition against Pancho Villa, you may want to start with one of these surveys:

  • Eisenhower, John S. D. Intervention: The United States and the Mexican Revolution, 1913–1917. New York: Norton & Company, 1993. Good survey for the general reader.
  • Hall, Linda B. Revolution on the Border: The United States and Mexico, 1910–1920. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988. Effects of the revolution on the borderlands.

Two biographers provide useful studies of Pershing:

  • Smith, Gene. Until the Last Trumpet Sounds: The Life of General of the Armies John J. Pershing. New York: Wiley, 1999.
  • Smythe, Donald. Guerilla Warrior: The Early Life of John J. Pershing. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973. Focuses on Pershing’s early career, including the Mexican expedition.

There’s even a 1,000-page study of Villa himself:

  • Katz, Friedrich. The Life and Times of Pancho Villa. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998. Massive scholarly study.

These books deal with Pershing’s pursuit of Villa:

  • Clendenen, Clarence C. Blood on the Border: The United States Army and the Mexican Irregulars. New York: MacMillan, 1969.
  • Welsome, Eileen. The General and the Jaguar: Pershing’s Hunt for Pancho Villa, a True Story of Revolution and Revenge. New York: Little, Brown, 2006. By a well-known journalist.

Online, be sure to go to the 1997 National Archives Prologue article by Mitchell Yockelson, “The United States Armed Forces and the Mexican Punitive Expedition” (1997). This is only Part 1—don’t forget to hit the link at the end to get to Part 2.

You and your students will like this comprehensive study of the Lusitania disaster and its repercussions:

  • Preston, Diana. Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy. New York: Walker, 2002.

For more material on World War I submarines, take a look at these sites:

  • has extensive material on German subs, with good illustrations. Largely the work of a European crew of U-boat buffs.
  • And is maintained by American Greg Goebel.

I wish I could offer a more up-to-date selection of books on the fascinating story of German Americans in World War I. Until someone writes the book I want to see, take a look at these:

  • Keller, Phyllis. States of Belonging: German-American Intellectuals and the First World War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.
  • Landau, Henry. The Enemy Within: The Inside Story of German Sabotage in America. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1937.
  • Luebke, Frederick C. Bonds of Loyalty: German-Americans and World War I. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1974. This is the book that will probably be most useful to you.

New Jersey City University has mounted a very good page on the Black Tom explosion—includes images of maps, photos, and newspapers.

For further reading (and Internet sources) for Theodore Roosevelt, take at look at my recommendations for “general” resources for our Fall 2008 issue on Roosevelt, as well as the Miller Center’s online piece on Roosevelt.

Try to find a copy of Fear God and Take Your Own Part (New York: George H. Doran Company, 1916), a compilation of Roosevelt’s jingoistic, militaristic writings of the pre-war period. If you can’t find a paper version, just go to the online version provided by

These books introduce you to the “peace progressives” and other isolationists who opposed US entry into the war and the peace treaty that Wilson helped negotiate:

  • Cooper, John Milton. The Vanity of Power: American Isolationism and the First World War, 1914–1917. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1969. By a Wilsonian scholar.
  • Johnson, Robert David. The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Historians still debate the nature and extent of German “atrocities” against civilians in Belgium in World War I. This is your best introduction to the subject:

  • Horne, John N., and Alan Kramer. German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

Back to American politics and the war, beginning with the 1916 campaign:

  • Lovell, S. D. The Presidential Election of 1916. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980.  Not only the first book on this pivotal election but so far, the only one.
  •  provides useful statistics, etc., on the 1916 election.

Add these studies of Wilson’s policies regarding the war:

  • Calhoun, Frederick S. Power and Principle: Armed Intervention in Wilsonian Foreign Policy. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1986.
  • Ferrell, Robert H. Woodrow Wilson and World War I, 1917–1921. New York: Harper & Row, 1985. Part of the New American Nation series.
  • Tucker, Robert W. Woodrow Wilson and the Great War: Reconsidering America’s Neutrality, 1914–1917. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007. Reexamination of Wilson’s own view of “neutrality.”

The University of Virginia’s Miller Center’s new “American President” website provides a good good sketch of Wilson and a brief narrative of his presidential races.

It’s been more than fifty years since we’ve had a good book-length biography of Charles Evans Hughes, Wilson’s opponent in the 1916 race:

  • Perkins, Dexter. Charles Evans Hughes and American Democratic Statesmanship. Boston: Little, Brown, 1956.
  • Pusey, Merlo John. Charles Evans Hughes. New York, Macmillan, 1951.

And Henry Cabot Lodge hasn’t fared much better:

  • Garraty, John A. Henry Cabot Lodge: A Biography. New York, Knopf, 1953.
  • Widenor, William C. Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980. Now part of ACLS Reprint series, so may be more accessible.

This is our only book-length study of Daniels:

  • Morrison, Joseph L. Josephus Daniels: The Small-d Democrat. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1966.

The excellent initiative provides you with Wilson’s message to Congress of April 2, 1917, which led to the declaration of war.

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