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Britain and the Origins of the First World War (The Making of the Twentieth Century) Paperback – 25 Apr 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 2nd edition edition (25 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033373467X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333734674
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 603,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Reviews of the first edition:

'Zara Steiner's book is a sober, sensible account of how this country became impelled into the First World War. She is a very good historian, with exceptionally balanced judgement.' - C. P. Snow, Financial Times

'[Steiner's] brilliant exposition provides many ideas to argue over and some to agree with.' - A. J. P. Taylor, The Observer

'This is a fine study of British politics and attitudes during the momentous decade and a half from the death of Queen Victoria to the outbreak of the Great War.' - J. A. S. Grenville, THES

'With careful scholarship, [Steiner] describes the circumstances and intermittent crises that brought a the moment of truth in 1914.' - John Grigg, The Listener

'Zara Steiner...has now synthesized both the labours of other British scholars and her own to produce this excellent work on Britain's role in the coming of World War I....This is the best analysis so far produced of this highly contentious issue, containing as it does a wealth of interesting material and a thought-provoking sketch of the personality of British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey. I recommend this book with enthusiasm as a major contribution to the continuing debate about the causes of World War I, and one which should appeal to teachers and undergraduates alike.' - M. L. Dockrill, British Book News

'Zara Steiner has the control of sources and the mastery of detail that are taken for granted in Cambridge dons.' - Economist

'Here at last we have that balanced, learned account which will make it easily the best guide to this complicated and important topic. The structure and layout of the book are admirable; the style is clear and flowing; and the erudition and clarity of argument convincing.' - Paul Kennedy, Sunday Times

About the Author

ZARA S. STEINER is Emeritus Fellow of New Hall, University of Cambridge.

KEITH NEILSON is Professor of History at the Royal Military College of Canada.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful By T. MacFarlane on 18 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
The answer to this question is no; BUT Britain could have taken actions which might have put the breaks on.
Foreign policy in the run up to the July crisis was firmly in the hands of Sir Edward Grey who, it seems, could not decide on the key question of whether or not to enter a full military alliance with France.
The deterent effect of such an alliance might - just might - have made Berlin think more carefully before launching the pre-emptive attack on France.
Without doubt this book is of central interest to anyone wishing to understand the outbreak of World War I.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A serious,scholarly,profound and diligent work 22 Oct. 2013
By D.V. KOKKINOS - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are few texts concerning the British position in the origins of theFirst WW as detailed and scholarly as this one which is obviously the product of deep and extensive research and sober judgement.
In their cool careful and methodical approach to the subject the authors present and evaluate step by step the ideas,positions,perceptions and acts that shaped the British position which culminated in Flanders Fields in August 1914.
The authors start the examination in the last year of Queen Victoria's rule and analyse seriously the British and International diplomatic scene after the death of the Queen which was one of the watersheds of British History.
As far as Germany was concerned the authors show in a persuasive way how Britain and Germany slowly drifted apart not only due to German acts but also for the fact that,other than some vague race affinity the two Countries had nothing to bind them together in terms of common interest and when Germany started growing big and pushy both militarily and diplomatically Britain reacted .
The principal issue of contention was of course the building of a German fleet capable of shattering the British control of the High Seas if left unchecked.
The second issue was that if Germany eliminated France it would dominate the Continent,something that Britain could not accept since from the time of the Congress of Vienna ,a Century before,the maintainance of the equilibrium in Europe was a primary requirement for British Security.The authors opinion,adequately argued ,is that commercial competition and interests did not play a big role in the Anglo-German confrontation
The authors describe a Britain that after the Boer war was feeling threatened,shrinking in Power,unsure about its Empire and at the same time unwilling to be commited militarily in the Continent although the Foreign Secretary Gray and the Director of Military Operations were working intensely but discreetly for this purpose,with Gray being hesitant to full commitment hoping that the looming war could be avoided through Diplomacy.It shows that the defenders of the Empire Asquith ,Gray,Churchill,Haldane etc were a minority as far as action in Europe was concerned,themselves not too keen and the rest of the Cabinet and the majority of the Nation did not wish at all for a military involvement in the Continent.
They further show the complex relationship with Russia due to conflict of interests in Asia and the dislike of the Democracy for the Autocracy.The authors show how through France and the softening of the Russian position in Asia the two countries came gradually closer and how the Entente was born and grew,nourished in part from German rough Diplomacy during the Moroccan and Agadir crises and in part through fear of isolation and marginalization of Britain since it was the belief of the F.O.that both France and Russia were needede to counterbalance Germany.
There is no point in describing further the chapters of the book,the authors do that much better than me.
The authors show in a convincing way how by very gradual steps the drift between Britain and Germany widened and Entente relations became closer,showing however the British reluctance for direct military involvement until the invasion of Belgium made it necessary.
In their sober conclusions the authors demonstrate the inevitability of the British commitment to the Entente for a number of factors that are well thought out,well argued and well developed.
The work is important,the facts and the arguments are well presented and developed.The whole book is very clearly laid out in an easy to follow dry prose,it has academic integrity and diligence in the examination and presentation of data that are overall in line with modern scholarship.
To the criticism that the book presents the British point of view the answer is that this is what the title of the book states
Excellent historiography... 23 May 2014
By Affirmative Dialectician - Published on
Format: Paperback

"Anyone can make history. It takes a great person to write it."

Dr. Steiner's excellent little tome is pure historiography gleaned from primary sources, and composed with narratological clarity.

Earnestly endorsed.

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