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Thirteen Days: The Road to the First World War [Kindle Edition]

Clive Ponting
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

At the end of WWI, Germany was demonised. The Treaty of Versailles contained a 'war guilt' clause pinning the blame on the aggression of Germany and accusing her of 'supreme offence against international morality'. Thirteen Days rejects this verdict. Clive Ponting has made a thorough study of the incredibly complex diplomatic documents. His interpretation also rejects the thesis that Europe in 1914 had reached such a boiling point that war was bound to erupt and the theory that the origins of the War lay in a mighty arms race. He argues that the War occurred primarily because of the situation in the Balkans, while he gives full weight to Austria-Hungary's desire to cripple Serbia instead of negotiating, and to Russia's militaristic programme of expansion.

Clive Ponting begins with a dramatic recreation of the assassination in Sarajevo on 28 June. He then examines how things spiralled out of control during the weeks that led to war. The tension builds as his story criss-crosses the capital cities of Europe and describes developments day by day, and, latterly, hour by hour.

The First World War destroyed the old Europe. During four years of fighting nearly nine million soldiers were killed and twenty-one million wounded; over ten million civilians died. By the end of the War, three great European empires - Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia - had disintegrated. Why did the War happen? In 1914, the states of Europe had been at peace for forty years, and every diplomatic dispute had been resolved peacefully.

Thirteen Days describes failures of communication, fateful decisions and escalating military moves; it is an extraordinary narrative of personalities and diplomacy in the dying weeks of an era in which telephone networks were in their infancy and governments relied on telegrams in code and face-to-face meetings of ambassadors.

Product Description


"It is a hugely difficult feat of juggling, but Ponting somehow manages to keep all the balls in the air. His methodical approach and lively style result in a very clear account of an otherwise confusing period of frenetic diplomacy" (Scotland on Sunday)

"Compelling revisionist history" (Sunday Tribune)

"[A] fascinating picture of double-dealing, misread signals of intent and naked self-interest which afflicted every major capital over a crucial period" (Glasgow Herald)

Book Description

Enormously gripping popular history of the 13-day crisis that led to world war.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1195 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (15 Feb. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0046XRKJG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #422,081 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A day by day account of how the war started 8 Sept. 2010
In his very detailed book Mr. Ponting traces the diplomatic events in the main European capitals that plunged Europe and then the world in the first modern world. Starting by a wonderful narrative of the murder of the Austro-hungarian heir in Sarajevo (personally, my favourite bit of the book), the author then carries on with a day by day account of events in the different European capitals where the war was decided upon.

The book itself is rather easy to read and I consider it suitable even for people who are not used to reading history books though I feel the narrative goes down somewhat towards the end. The main setback of the book is the author's goal of proving a point that his own narrative belies (or I think so), Russia's great responsibility in the start of the war. But I would recommend you to read and judge by yourself...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thirteen Days: The Road to the First World War 23 Sept. 2014
By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER
This book, published in 2002, is an extremely ambitious non-fictional account of the pivotal time leading up to the outbreak of the First World War. It is broken down into sections as follows:

Part One: Sarajevo, Sunday 28 June 1914
1. The Assassination
2. The Conspiracy
3. The Reaction
Part Two: Prologue
4. Europe in 1914
5. The Twenty-Four Days: 29 June – 22 July
Part Three: the Thirteen Days
6. Thursday 23 July
7. Friday 24 July
8. Saturday 25 July
9. Sunday 26 July
10. Monday 27 July
11. Tuesday 28 July
12. Wednesday 29 July
13. Thursday 30 July
14. Friday 31 July
15. Saturday 1 August
16. Sunday 2 August
17. Monday 3 August
18. Tuesday 4 August
Part Four: Epilogue
19. Aftermath
20. Consequences

The book concludes with three Appendices:
1. The Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia, 23 July 1914
2. The Serbian Government reply to Austria-Hungary, 25 July 1914
3. Individuals involved in the thirteen days (broken down by country/nation – this is particularly useful given the huge number of people involved in the diplomatic and political circles in various nations).

As can be seen, the crucial “thirteen days” are those of 23 July to 4 August, the time from when Austria-Hungary sent its ultimatum to Serbia to the time when the major European powers were all at war.

I read the book slightly out of order, reading chapter 4 with its overview of Europe in 1914 first, then chapters 1 – 3 with the detailed narration of the assassination of Archudke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo on 28 June.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ponting begins his book by rejecting '...the common view of [Germany's] primary responsibility for the war'. Sadly much of the evidence he goes on to offer supports this, the academically accepted view.

From the 'Blank Check' to Berlin's haranguing of Vienna to declare war on Serbia and subsequent failure to assist the efforts of third parties to mediate, Ponting provides a balance of evidence to suggest that Germany played not just a part, but the principal role in escalating an assassination in Sarajevo to the point of global crisis. He also offers primary source evidence of Berlin's diplomatic efforts to avoid the blame for the outcome of their actions.

Of 30 July 1914, Ponting argues that the, '... Russian decision to order general mobilisation was the one move in the crisis that was bound to produce a European war'. This conveniently ignores the fact that Russian mobilisation did not lead inexorably to war, and while Russian decision makers would have deduced that their own mobilisation would trigger a corresponding German reaction, they could not have known that for Germany, mobilisation and war were one and the same thing. These charges can be laid upon Germany alone.

Germany's only military plan, the Schlieffen Plan, demanded a speedy and direct transition from mobilisation to war - and all before Russia could complete its own mobilisation. Many senior German politicians and diplomats were entirely unaware of the details of this plan, so it beggars belief that their Russian, French or even allied Austro-Hungarian counterparts might know of its details and implications.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thirteen Days 13 Jan. 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This has to be one of the best books I've ever read on WW1. The day by day, hour by hour approach to tell the story really does build an incredible tension as events unfold. At one point, despite being perfectly aware of the real outcome, I even found myself starting to believe that the diplomatic efforts to avoid war might succeed! There is a confusing array of names to get your head round, including monarchs, assassins, ministers and diplomats, but fortunately Ponting provides a Who's Who in one of the appendices. A great read and a huge revelation of how and why the first seeds of war were sown. I look forward to seeing this one on the big screen!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real "causes" of World War I 24 Dec. 2011
By Warbeck
This is truly a magnificent book. The detailed description of the wrangling and behind-the-scenes approach makes it exciting despite the outcome being known. What really strikes you is just how avoidable the war was if only somebody had the courage to pull back. I stupidly loaned this book to somebody and it was never returned. So now, I'm buying it again - not just to have it but to read it again.
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