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Europe's Last Summer: Why the World Went to War in 1914 [Paperback]

David Fromkin
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Aug 2005

The Great War not only destroyed the lives of over twenty million soldiers and civilians, it also ushered in a century of huge political and social upheaval, led directly to the Second World War and altered for ever the mechanisms of governments. And yet its causes, both long term and immediate, have continued to be shrouded in mystery.

In Europe's Last Summer, David Fromkin reveals a new pattern in the happenings of that fateful July and August, which leads in unexpected directions. Rather than one war, starting with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, he sees two conflicts, related but not inseparably linked, whose management drew Europe and the world into what The Economist described as early as 1914 as 'perhaps the greatest tragedy in human history'.

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Europe's Last Summer: Why the World Went to War in 1914 + The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099430843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099430841
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"He has a gift for seeing the whole world and for packing complicated material into a few boldly stroked sentences" (New York Times)

"Fromkin gives some excellent pen portraits of the principals and uses quotations to deadly effect" (Sunday Times)

"A crisp, lively, day-by-day account of that fateful summer... This book, both decisive and nuanced, is as convincing as it is appalling" (Foreign Affairs)

"An absorbing history of WWI's origins... Superb" (Newsweek)

"An enormously impressive book, a popular history brimming with fresh scholarship" (Weekly Standard)

Book Description

A riveting narrative of a crucial time in twentieth century history.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Paul T Horgan VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was attracted to this book as it is extensively cited in the Wikipedia article on the July Crisis of 1914, which is the subject of the book.

And it is a good read. It comes up with the concept that the origins of the First World War were actually two wars that were intertwined and that the first of these war, the Austro-Serbian conflict was subverted by the Germans for the second, which was the Russo-German fight. If you want a quick read about the preparations for war made by the guilty parties, which are conclusively Austria and Germany, the this is the book for you.

By the book does have one major fault.

As with all books based on factual events or concepts, it relies on the author having to refer to other books on the topic. Thus unless a book is about topics in the author's direct personal experience, the author will inevitable be writing material based on books that he or she has read. It is thus vital that when assertions are made that these are back up by a reference to the source used. Time and time again there is a major revelation in the book about what historical figure knew what when and it would have been so useful to know where the author found this snippet of information. Why? Well in my case it would be because I happen to own a good selection of the works mentioned in the bibliography. Thus for me the delight of being able to locate the very same book that the author used is denied. This also means that my understanding of what the author did with the information is missing. This may be a personal observation related solely to my interest in the topic, but it does demonstrate a wider point. This is that this book in this context appears to be designed for a reader who does not propose to read any other book on the topic and no-one else.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Germany to blame 7 Jun 2006
Most analyses of the origins of the Great War fall into one of two categories. There is the Marxian viewpoint that it was a struggle between Britain and Germany for captive third world markets, and there is the chaos theory type critique which speaks of the power relationship in Europe spiralling out of control after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinaand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo.

David Fromkin refuses to accept either of these lines of argument and instead carefully assembles his evidence before pointing his finger squarely at the German military machine. Germany, according to Fromkin, was terrified at the prospect of being overtaken as Europe's strongest economic and military power by Russia and wanted to launch a preemptive war against its eastern rival before this could happen. But two things had to be in place before such an adventure could be undertaken. Firstly, in order to carry German domestic opinion, Russia had to be seen as the aggressor. Secondly, their unreliable ally, Austria, had to be in the field in order to defend the Eastern front while Germany's armies knocked Russia's ally France out of the war.

The Sarajevo assassinations provided Moltke and the other German war leaders with a perfect opportunity. They tricked Austria into pursuing a war of vengence against Serbia for harbouring the terrorists who had killed the Archduke, promising to do what was necessary to keep Russia from intervening on Serbia's side. Their real agenda was the reverse: to lure Russia into the conflict, and they duly obliged by declaring a general mobilisation, to which Germany responded by declaring war.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magisterial 10 April 2009
Just finished reading this terrific book. I couldn't put it down.

The scene-setting is particularly deft as the story reaches its climax in daily accounts from the Great Power capitals.

The conclusion to the book may upset some who cling to the orthodoxy but it's hard to reach any other after reading this brilliantly researched work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for the serious student of history 3 Dec 2013
"So the British, though they believed themselves to be open-minded, detested the peoples of the next three ranking Great Powers: the French, the Russians and the Germans". Is this supposed to be serious history? It seems to me that he has been reading the popular press of the time to draw his conclusions.
Don't read this if you want a serious account. There are enough other more sensible books out there. Read Sean McMeekin's "July 1914" or for a more in-depth account, Christopher Clark's "The Sleepwalkers".
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5.0 out of 5 stars very readable account 28 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author proposes that the key to understanding what happened is to keep in mind there were to wars in the summer of 1914: the Austrian-Serbian war and the German-Russian war. Von Moltke used the first to get the unreliable Austrian's into the battlefield then switched to his real objective which was a European war.

In the world of 1914 the power to make war was concentrated in view individuals - head's of state, heads of government, minister in charge of foreign policy. The author asks if countries could stumble in to wasteful and pointless wars again. He thought it too early to tell. My view is that we have already seen the Bush's take US and Britain into war in Iraq and Afghanistan. So this excellent account of the origin's of First world war is relevant to the world we live in today. Germany felt threatened by the rising industrial power of Russia. Does the US feel sufficiently threatened by the rise of China to launch a pre-emptive strike somewhere when a window of opportunity arises as it did for von Moltke in July 1914?
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