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How Wars Begin Hardcover – Oct 1979


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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Atheneum (Oct. 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689109822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689109829
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 14.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,087,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Principia on 29 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover
How Wars Begin A.J.P Taylor
As a TV presenter, A.J.P Taylor spoke to the camera fluently, without any audio-visual props – and
mesmerised us all. His story-telling, his wit and his clinical analysis brought clarity to some of the
muddiest historical waters. In print, his message is still compelling.
Taylor chooses an interesting selection of conflicts to uncover some general truths about war.
He sees the French revolutionary wars as a great turning point in European conflict, with armies
contesting ideologies for the first time. He then shows how war can take on the guise of grotesque
comedy. The Crimean War grew out of a dispute between Othodox and Catholic key-holders to the Holy
Christian Places in Jerusalem. 'As it was the Turkish government that had to allot the keys, both France
and Russia put pressure on Turkey. France sent a battleship through the straits to Constantinople' ….......
and so to war.
In the chapter on Bismarck's Wars, AJP recounts a charming incident prior to war between Austria and
Prussia when in the middle of 1865, the King of Prussia and his ministers met at Gastein and held a
council of war to decide 'whether they should go to war with Austria the next week'. Gastein was
actually in Austrian territory. 'Fancy going on holiday in your enemy's territory and discussing whether
you should go to war with him.'
Taylor made a fascinating observation about the presence of the Archduke and his wife in Sarajevo in
1914. 'His wife was only a countess so she did not rank as an archduchess but if he went to Sarajevo
which was still under military occupation he could go as Inspector General of the army and she would
rank right at the top. It was to give his wife a treat that he went to Sarajevo.'
These essays are stylish and lucid – a great accompaniment to the literature of international relations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Wheeler on 17 Nov. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
AJP Taylor is a wonderful writer who encouraged generations of people to love history, including me. In his day, he was a highly respected heavyweight academic historian who also won mass appeal in countless newspaper columns and short TV chats. However, time has moved on and I suspect a lot of what he had to say in this book is now dated and could be easily challenged by modern day historians. He is a good story teller. He reminds me a lot of Alastair Cook's 'Letter from America'. In seeking to draw the reader in, he over simplifies to the point where I begin to question whether he is giving a true account of events.

This book is a great read but I'm not sure I'd use it as my main source in a history essay, unless I was perhaps writing about historiography.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
AJP Taylor has done much to raise the popularity of history in decades past in the UK and for that alone he needs to be highly lauded. This book, like several others from his portfolio, is a translation of televised lectures into a book format (albeit quite short as a result). The basic premise is that wars often begin not as a product of purely rational analyses and that often the decisions get made in a haphazard way, that countries often declare wars they have little chance of deciding in their favour.

This is then described over a series of case studies, including the Crimean War, the WW1 etc. They are all packaged in a very readable format and will be great for coctail party soundbites and general trivia. The book lso succeeds in transporting the message that many of these decisions were partially arbitrary or driven by events or structures that almost by definition produced results not favourable to the war declaring party.

Where the book works much less well is for readers with a more serious interest in history. Those will probably find both the soundbite format and the depth of the presented analysis that this means to fall short of desired.

Irrespectively, there is still a large readership that would benefit from reading the book and which will not be deterred from havig a first dip into history by the presentation (which in the more serious historical research can be drier) and thereby I can generally recommend the book. If your interest is piqued, or if you generally want to dig deeper, there is a large body of literature to satisfy your thirst for knowledge afterwards anyway.
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By JLiggs on 11 Dec. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Amongst popular historical circles, Taylor is a household name due to his long standing career and academic rigor. However, this piece of work falls short in terms of academic feats and falls most certainly into the category of 'pop' history.

The book is woefully short, which does not necessarily have to be a bad thing as quality always comes before quantity. Ye considering that Taylor looks to analyse six different conflicts spanning two centuries, the phrase "bit off more than he could chew" springs to mind. There is simply too much crammed into too few pages, resulting in arguments and analysis that come across as rushed and not entirely convincing at times.

Due to the fast paced nature of the book, Taylor fails to delve into any sort of detail with regard to his case studies. As a result, the work comes across as him putting across a bit of a monologue rather than presenting a series of topic for debate. Monologue at times unfortunately turns to diatribe at times.

With regard to the book's presentation, I read the kindle version and it was rife with miss-prints in terms of spelling errors and incorrect dates!! If one does not already have a fair bit of contextual knowledge before approaching this book then be prepared for serious confusion. I am unaware of whether such poor editing is unique to the kindle version but it became extremely frustrating being told that Hitler invaded Russia in 1911 and that Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1915...

Not to say that there aren't many positives in the work. It's short length and broad time span allow it to give a very brief coverage of a large spa of history, allowing the reader to perhaps gauge an interest in a specific area to follow up.
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