In The Sleepwalkers acclaimed historian and author of Iron Kingdom, Christopher Clark, examines
the causes of the First World War.
SUNDAY TIMES and INDEPENDENT BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2012
The moments that it took Gavrilo Princip to step forward to the stalled car and shoot dead Franz Ferdinand and his wife were perhaps the most fateful of the modern era. An act of terrorism of staggering efficiency, it fulfilled its every aim: it would liberate Bosnia from Habsburg rule and it created a powerful new Serbia, but it also brought down four great empires, killed millions of men and destroyed a civilization. What made a seemingly prosperous and complacent Europe so vulnerable to the impact of this assassination? In The Sleepwalkers Christopher Clark retells the story of the outbreak of the First World War and its causes.
Drawing on many fresh new sources, this account reveals a Europe very different from the familiar picture, putting Serbia and the Balkans at the centre of the story. Starting with the brutal assassination of Alexander I of Serbia in 1903, Clark shows how, far from being the place of enviable stability it appears to us, Europe was racked by chronic problems: a multipolar, fractured, multicultural world of clashing ideals, terrorism, militancy and instability, which was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. He shows how the rulers of Europe, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, behaved like sleepwalkers, stumbling through crisis after crisis and finally convincing themselves that war was the only answer.
'Formidable ... one of the most impressive and stimulating studies of the period ever published' Max Hastings, Sunday Times
'The arguments [Clark] sets out in this quite superb account of the causes of the First World War are so compelling that they effectively consign the old historical consensus to the bin ... a masterpiece. 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
'Impeccably researched, provocatively argued and elegantly written, his book is a model of scholarship' Sunday Times, Books of the Year 2012
'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
'A brilliant contribution' Times Higher Education
'Clark is fully alive to the challenges of the subject. Planting himself at the contingent end of the spectrum, he prefers to establish how the war happened rather than to explain why by means of hindsight ... It is a refreshing approach. 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
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.