National Review "[A] gripping and well-researched new book. In prose of admirable clarity, [McMeekin] relates the enormously complex events of that fateful summer... In his day-by-day and even hour-by-hour account, [McMeekin] brings a sprawling cast of characters to life." Philadelphia Inquirer "[McMeekin is] a young, talented historian... [He] is scrupulously fair and judicious in assigning blame... McMeekin has written a fascinating and original study of the opening stages of World War I, a book that supersedes, in my view, any previous study of that great topic." Harold Evans, New York Times Book Review "The historiography of World War I is immense, more than 25,000 volumes and articles even before next year's centenary. Still, ... Sean McMeekin, in July 1914, [offers a] new perspective... McMeekin has chosen the zoom lens. He opens with a crisp but vivid reconstruction of the double murder in the sunshine of Sarajevo, then concentrates entirely on unraveling the choreography day by day." Sunday Times (London) "[A] work of meticulous scholarship... It is McMeekin's description of the details of life in the European capitals -- comparatively small events which influenced great decisions -- which make July 1914 irresistible... It is that sort of intimacy which makes the story come alive -- as well as confirming the assiduity with which it has been researched." New York Review of Books "Sean McMeekin's chronicle of these weeks in July 1914: Countdown to War is almost impossible to put down... [McMeekin] delivers a punchy and riveting narrative of high politics and diplomacy over the five weeks after Sarajevo, more or less day by day, dwelling on small groups of decision-makers in and between the various capitals, and their interactions, by turns measured, perplexed, cordial, artful, angry, even tearful." Times Higher Education (UK) "In this detailed account of the events and decisions that marked the road to war, Sean McMeekin demonstrates how, during what seemed a peaceful summer month, something that might have ended (at worst) in just another bloody Balkan battle led instead to the outbreak of the greatest conflict since the Napoleonic Wars... [A] startling exercise in revisionism." Washington Times "Masterful." Financial Times "Stimulating and enjoyable... Sean McMeekin's July 1914 is controversial, arguing that Russia and France were more bent than Germany on war in July 1914... [A] well-written book." On Point Radio "McMeekin makes this old story new. His history reads like a novel. Better, it unfolds like a play... McMeekin adds dollops of fresh savory fact on every page. More importantly, he sees the whole crisis unclouded by bias for or against his characters or their countries... July 1914 is superb history and compelling reading." Columbus Dispatch "Blending scholarly research with a breezy and descriptive writing style, McMeekin makes a reader feel like a firsthand witness to the key events of that fateful summer... McMeekin's work is also a primer for today's diplomats on how not to allow a small event to spiral out of control into a major war." The Independent (London) "Lucid, convincing and full of rich detail, the book is a triumph for the narrative method and a vivid demonstration that chronology is the logic of history." Prospect (UK) "McMeekin's account is particularly worth reading for the weight it puts on the French and Russian contribution in taking the continent to war, drawing on his excellent previous book The Russian Origins of the Frist World War... [A] refreshingly original counterpoint to the traditional focus on Germany above all." Sunday Express (London) "Sean McMeekin's splendid July 1914 unravels all the shenanigans, bluffs and bunglings by which Europe's leaders and diplomats turned a minor murder in a Balkans backwater into total war... McMeekin has rendered the complicated events of that fateful month as clearly and vividly as anyone could desire." Choice "[A] fascinating study of Austrian and German ham-handed diplomacy (bordering on cluelessness) combined with Russian and French duplicity, with a dose of British disengagement added for good measure." World War One Historical Association Magazine "[McMeekin's] recounting of the imbroglio of July 1914 reads like a crime novel with personality sketches of the primary actors such as the belligerent Austrian Chief Of Staff von Hotzendoff and the shifty Serbian Premier Nicola Pasic." Journal of Military History "McMeekin convincingly challenges, as others are now doing, the more usual view of Germany as the driving force behind the war... [His] explication of the successive diplomatic steps to war makes it easy for any reader to see the missed chances for possible negotiation or a slowing of the momentum to war." San Antonio Express-News "In an intimate narrative, McMeekin...delves into the five weeks between the assassination and Britain's declaration of war, shedding new light on the conflict... From a failed assassination attempt to a world war, McMeekin skillfully dissects the catastrophic events of July 1914... July 1914 is an eye-opening elucidation on the beginning days of a war that was to end all wars." Daily News "July 1914 is a carefully-researched diplomatic history of the month leading up to World War I. Well-written, it reconstructs the tensions and turmoil as well as the confusion and blundering of the diplomats who guided Europe into its most destructive war. It concludes with an excellent analysis of the responsibilities and failures of the major figures." Dallas Morning News "The conventional wisdom of the last 100 years holds that Germany's desire for empire and cultural hegemony turned Princip's deed into an excuse for war. Barbara Tuchman's famed history, The Guns of August, makes the most of this case. Sean McMeekin...argues that ambitions in Russia and France were at least as responsible and traces the foibles of Europe's major powers in a month that launched a disaster for them all... McMeekin praises Tuchman's 1962 epic for inspiring him to write July 1914. What he's delivered is a strong challenge to The Guns of August." MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History "McMeekin is a wonderful storyteller, with a keen eye for the descriptive act, person, or scene." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "[A] superbly researched political history of the weeks between the assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of World War I... McMeekin's work is a fine diplomatic history of the period, a must-read for serious students of WWI, and a fascinating story for anyone interested in modern history." Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review "[A] thoroughly rewarding account that spares no nation regarding the causes of World War I... McMeekin delivers a gripping, almost day-by-day chronicle of the increasingly frantic maneuvers of European civilian leaders who mostly didn't want war and military leaders who had less objection." Booklist "Alluding to historical controversies, McMeekin ably delivers what readers demand from a WWI-origins history: a taut rendition of the July 1914 crisis." Norman Stone, author of World War Two: A Short History "Sean McMeekin is establishing himself as a--or even the--leading young historian of modern Europe. Here he turns his gifts to the outbreak of war in July 1914 and has written another masterpiece." Michael Neiberg, author of The Blood of Free Men "Sean McMeekin has given us a riveting and fast-paced account of some of the most important diplomatic and military decisions of the 20th century. He depicts with chilling clarity the confusion, the incompetence, and the recklessness with which Europe's leaders went to war in that fateful summer. Any understanding of the world we inhabit today must begin with an examination of the events of July 1914. McMeekin provides his readers with a balanced and detailed analysis of the events that gave birth to the modern age." James Sheehan, author of Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?: The Transformation of Modern Europe "This is a meticulously researched and vividly written reconstruction of the decisions that lead to war in July 1914. McMeekin captures the human drama of this fateful month and offers a provocative assessment of the different players' moral responsibility." Charles Hill, Diplomat in Residence at Yale University, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and author of Trial of a Thousand Years: World Order and Islamism "Winners write the histories, so wars are misunderstood. Sean McMeekin takes a wider stance to get a fresh angle of vision on The Great War, and casts all war-making in a new light."
The outbreak of the First World War was ‘a drama never surpassed’.
One hundred years later, the characters still seem larger than life: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, brooding heir to the Habsburg throne; the fanatical Bosnian Serb assassins who plot to murder him; Conrad and Berchtold, the Austrians who exploit the outrage; Kaiser Wilhelm and Bethmann Hollweg, backing up the Austrians; Sazonov, Russian Foreign Minister, trying to live down a reputation for cowardice; Poincaré and Paléologue, two French statesmen who urge on the Russians; and not least Winston Churchill, who, alone among Cabinet officials in London, perceives the seriousness of the situation in time to take action.
July 1914 tells the story of Europe’s countdown to war through the eyes of these men, between the bloody opening act on 28 June 1914 and Britain’s final plunge on 4 August, which turned a European conflict into a world war. The outbreak of war was no accident of fate. Individual statesmen, pursuing real objectives, conjured up the conflict – in some cases by conscious intention. While some sought honourably to defuse tensions, others all but oozed with malice as they rigged the decks for war.
Dramatic, inevitably tense and almost forensically observed, Sean McMeekin’s unique book retells the story of that cataclysmic month, making clear as never before who was responsible for the catastrophe. You will never think the same way again about the origins of the First World War.