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The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 Paperback – 4 Jul 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (4 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141027827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141027821
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Formidable ... one of the most impressive and stimulating studies of the period ever published (Max Hastings Sunday Times)

Easily the best book ever written on the subject ... A work of rare beauty that combines meticulous research with sensitive analysis and elegant prose. The enormous weight of its quality inspires amazement and awe ... Academics should take note: Good history can still be a good story (Washington Post)

A lovingly researched work of the highest scholarship. It is hard to believe we will ever see a better narrative of what was perhaps the biggest collective blunder in the history of international relations (Niall Ferguson)

[Reading The Sleepwalkers], it is as if a light had been turned on a half-darkened stage of shadowy characters cursing among themselves without reason ... [Clark] demolishes the standard view ... The brilliance of Clark's far-reaching history is that we are able to discern how the past was genuinely prologue ... In conception, steely scholarship and piercing insights, his book is a masterpiece (Harold Evans New York Times Book Review)

Impeccably researched, provocatively argued and elegantly written ... a model of scholarship (Sunday Times Books of the Year)

Superb ... effectively consigns the old historical consensus to the bin ... It's not often that one has the privilege of reading a book that reforges our understanding of one of the seminal events of world history (Mail Online)

A monumental new volume ... Revelatory, even revolutionary ... Clark has done a masterful job explaining the inexplicable (Boston Globe)

Superb ... One of the great mysteries of history is how Europe's great powers could have stumbled into World War I ... This is the single best book I have read on this important topic (Fareed Zakaria)

A meticulously researched, superbly organized, and handsomely written account (Military History)

Clark is a masterly historian ... His account vividly reconstructs key decision points while deftly sketching the context driving them ... A magisterial work (Wall Street Journal)

This compelling examination of the causes of World War I deserves to become the new standard one-volume account of that contentious subject (Foreign Affairs)

A brilliant contribution (Times Higher Education)

Clark is fully alive to the challenges of the subject ... He provides vivid portraits of leading figures ... [He] also gives a rich sense of what contemporaries believed was at stake in the crises leading up to the war (Irish Times)

In recent decades, many analysts had tended to put most blame for the disaster [of the First World War] on Germany. Clark strongly renews an older interpretation which sees the statesmen of many countries as blundering blindly together into war (Stephen Howe Independent BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

About the Author

Christopher Clark is Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St Catharine's College. He is the author of The Politics of Conversion, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Iron Kingdom. Widely praised around the world, Iron Kingdom became a major bestseller. He has been awarded the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Sleepwalkers was shortlisted for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and finalist for the Mark Lynton History Prize, and is the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History, French Prix Aujourd¹hui, Cundill Recognition of Excellence Prize, Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Literature and the Braunschweiger Geschichtspreis.


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

153 of 168 people found the following review helpful By Tim62 VINE VOICE on 4 Mar. 2013
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I found the book a gripping read, and Clark's mastery of his sources satisfying. The issue that is dividing reviewers is the central one that Clark sets out to answer - were the Central Powers, in particular Germany, guilty of starting World War One?
Clark's argument is that such reasoning is simplistic, and that all the statemen of Europe in 1914 were in effect sleepwalkers - walking into the asbyss of a continental war.
Clark is the first to agree that the literature on 1914 is enormous and increasing - and that documentation exists to support many hypotheses about the causes and origins of the war.
Clark argues that it was not Germany that triggered the war, but a combination of factors: The development of the competing alliance system in Europe which tied Russia to France and France to Britain, versus Germany and Austria-Hungary's alliance, Serbia's extremist nationalists who were prepared to use violence on their neighbours, the aggressive mobilisation plans of most countries' military establishments terrified of being caught out by their neighbours mobilising first, and the preparadness of statesmen to risk war while pursuing foreign policy.
He has been accused of being an academic apologist for Germany (and worse by some) which only shows that 100 years on, the divisions and consequences of the war still run deep in Europe.
I should note that there are some excellent and detailed reviews here on Amazon which challenge Clark's thesis - which emphasises French and Russian war planning and mobilisation rather than the 'blank cheque' Germany gave Austria-Hungary.
For me, the essential point I took away from the book, was that too many statesmen on all sides were prepared to use war - and war on a massive scale if need be - as a policy tool.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Skaitytojas Darllenydd on 14 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback
An important book, especially for those who may disagree with the views it implies on German War Guilt, who need to deal with the evidence prsented here.

The author does have a reputation for being more sympathetic to German views on how the war arose than is common amongst British historians at any rate.

The Sarajevo assassination and the Serbian entanglement with this is treated in great detail. There are also valuable discussions on the different ways that decisions were made in the major countries concerned. How Austria-Hungary for example to make a decision on anything will puzzle many modern political commentators. Much detail will surprise those not specialists on this historic period. For example the fact that the President of France was on a state visit to Russia at the end of July 1914, returning home only a few days before the outbreak of war.

It is a tough and complex read though. And even with this length and complexity a number of important matters are skimped over or not mentioned. The untenable strategic situation in the Polish lands for example following the partitions of Poland in the 18th Century, reinforced by the post-Napoleonic settlements. The Russian salient including Warsaw made a defence of Prussian lands very precarious in the case of hostilities. Only an international understanding such as the `Dreikaiserbund', defunct by 1914, could manage the situation in Poland. Stressing this might reinforce a more conventional interpretation of how the war situation arose.

The discussion of the politics in Britain will leave most lay readers puzzled, as there are frequent references to the Liberal Imperialists but no explanation of who they were, and how important in the politics of the time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susman VINE VOICE on 29 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback
As we approach the first 2014 and, what will be the first centennial, I am sure there will be a plethora of academic publications that will deal with all aspects of the `Great War' also known as the `First World War'. Mr C Clark's book at some 697 pages long is not a light read by any means that said it is readable, with good referencing and research. The start of the book deals with an exploration, in depth, of the players and triggers which brought the Balkans situation/crisis as the pre-eminent catalyst that lead to World War.

Two thirds of way through the book the language of the narrative, for me seemed to get convoluted and I seemed to have stumbled in the arena of a chauvinistic nature of early 20th century male dominated areas of power play and politics of Europe, while I could understand the need explain and flesh out the greater background, I found narrative flow was way off course. I guess I will need to re-read this book. Still this a well done piece of research and presented not in dry and mundane fashion, as some I have read. If this period of history is something that interests you, then I would recommend purchasing this book, or at the very least, getting it from your local library.

Lastly returning to Lloyd George, who was Prime Minster during the WW1, his comments some 22 years later on Hitler and his leadership of Germany was very supportive to say the least, in `Appeasement of Germany', 1919-1945 (published 2011) page 247 Lloyd George says Hitler was "the greatest living German". So maybe quoting him, as my title for this review may not have been such a good idea?
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