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180 of 195 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "O piteous spectacle! O bloody times!
Whiles lions war and battle for their dens,
Poor harmless lambs abide their enmity." Wm. Shakespeare. King Henry VI, Part 3.

Max Hasting's "Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War" is a masterfully crafted account of Europe's descent into the apocalypse known as the Great War. It is a study that focuses on Europe's sabre-rattling lions who led millions...
Published 11 months ago by Leonard Fleisig

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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Well written but superficial
This is a very well written introduction but Hastings is a journalist, not a historian. He makes unjustified leaps and confuses categories of information; for instance, he fails to distinguish between aggression in the political sphere and aggression in the military sphere, which seem to be rather different in terms of desirability and effect. He criticizes Christopher...
Published 4 months ago by interested bystander


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent insight into the background and early months of the Great War, 23 Feb 2014
By 
Christopher Bristow (Canterbury, Kent UK) - See all my reviews
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A well-researched and well-written book on the lead up to the First a World War, and the subsequent engagement of the various protagonists.it describes the events through to the end of 1914, which would then continue to be played out on the following years.
It was my first Max Hastings book and it has certainly made me want to read more. I enjoyed the style and the view of the players - from those at the top to men, women and children from all nations - through their diaries and correspondence. The presentation of the material made good 'page-turning' reading in so far as the disasters of this conflict become more disturbing or unbelievable in the ever-increasing loss of life, the inadequacies of the leadership (of all involved), and the knowledge that it would continue until 1918.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Indeed, even if you have read a lot about WW1, 16 Jan 2014
This review is from: Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914 (Hardcover)
World War 1 is in some ways more fascinating than WW2, and there are plenty of us who have read a lot on the subject. For that reason I didn't really fancy this. I thought it might be a rehash of stuff I already knew.

However, I must say that Max Hastings has done a quite brilliant job. The book is extremely readable, with so many details of personal experience, that I don't think I have read anything that comes close. hastings has not only assembled first hand accounts from the British, French and German angles, but also Russian, Serbian and all the rest. There is so much in there that I had no idea about.

Hastings makes an impassioned case that the War in 1914 was not a pointless "lambs to slaughter" situation. Soldiers went into with their eyes open, knowing what they were fighting for. Furthermore, he makes a good case that although Britain and France were certainly worse off after the War, they had saved the continent from German domination, which was the only alternative.

A point which Hastings does not make explicitly, but certainly comes through from the text, is that the big loser was Russia. In 1914, Russia was growing economically at 10% a year and modernising rapidly. By 1916, the Germans would not have dared take them on. Yet Russia was wrecked by the war, and further, spent 70 whole years with its people's lives wrecked by Communism.

I would recommed this book to anyone interested in history.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Generally easy to read- but too journalistic, poorly balanced and aggresively insulting to the British Expeditionary force., 24 July 2014
Mr Hastings is a famous journalist and here he combines journalist mush with some concise historical comment- but the book is sadly conventional in the modern idiom through its depreciation of everything to do with the British expeditionary force.

The early chapters are quite good and present the descent into war in a fairly concise way. The early battles in Serbia and the 'battle of the frontiers' are covered better than in most English language accounts. However, although Tanenberg is well described the battle of the Masurian Lakes is hardly touched on, whilst the campaigns in Gallicia and Poland are reduced to a vague overview based on letters and newspaper articles of the time. Towards the end there are chapters like 'Did you ever dance with him?' that amount to a sentimental hash of letters from people on the home front that I found tedious and over- long. In fact, due to content of this kind the whole book becomes over long.

Its not surprising that the most detailed accounts cover the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and here I became very annoyed. Call me an old fashioned patriot if you wish, but this attempt to rubbish every aspect of the BEF- not just the dodgy generalship, but the effort of common soldiers as well- I found very distasteful. This is of course the conventional modern way, but there is much here that simply is not true. It is, for example, ridiculous to claim the British were not outnumbered at Mons and Le Cateau: the numbers on the immediate front may have been similar, but behind the foremost German waves were many more- as the BEF knew very well.

I'm not at all surprised Sir John French did not trust the French army- which was precipitously retreating along side him. There was every reason to believe the French were about to collapse as they had done in 1870 and that the BEF would be over- run along with them. What was French supposed to do- stand heroically and be engulfed by Klucks multitude? Hastings finally has to admit that the BEF efforts on the Chemin des Dames were of critical importance, and if the British commanders had allowed the tiny BEF to be destroyed in the early weeks there would have been nobody to fight the Battle of Ypres- and no, the French army did little to share the credit that for that victory as Hastings claims: their contribution was restricted to a much less hotly contested area to the south of the front. It is interesting to note that when General Jofre had the chance to ensure Sir John French would be dismissed he did not take it. But more distasteful to me are the extended accounts of BEF deserters and others who did not distinguish themselves. All armies had to confront the fact that, on 'the day', not all their soldiers would walk willingly towards almost certain death.

There is a whole lot of wisdom after the event in this book and a good deal of armchair generalship- and I'm somewhat surprised by that, given Max Hastings undoubted knowledge of modern day military conflicts.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An Account of Europe's War not the World War, 1 Aug 2014
This book provides a detailed description of the build up to and first few months of the war, however I was dissapointed when the years of 1915-1918 were summed up only in the final few chapters. I was also dissapointed by the lack of any information regarding the war in Asia, Africa, Turkey/Arabia or even Italy as well as describing the entrance of the USA into the war only in the final chapter.

Make no mistake, this is a journalistic account of the part of the Great War fought in Europe in 1914 rather than a history of the Great War!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Clear book about a confused topic, 6 Aug 2014
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Hastings shows his usual ability to turn a complex narrative into an excellent read. The personal narrative and the wider picture are well woven together to make tangled situations and motives easy to follow. Buy the physical book (from your local bookshop!) rather than Kindle if you want to see the maps. My only criticism is that Hastings returns too often to his criticism of the Niall Ferguson view that Britain should not have entered the war; a slight feeling of the writer "banging on" about this sometimes blurs his narrative.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Indian Army in the trenches, 23 May 2014
While this is a good book and an enjoyable read , Mr Hastings allocates one and a half paragraphs to the early contribution of the Sepoys .At Ypres 1 two Indian Divisions served with the British Army .They suffered great casualties and performed with honour and distinction.Had they not done so the battle would have been lost with enormous consequences for this country and the outcome of the war .This neglect on Mr Hasting's part is unfair and ungenerous .The Expeditionary Force had two Corps .The Indian Army represented a third Corps .In all they served on the Western Front for 15 months ie two winters .The conditions were particularly harsh as of course a northern French winter was alien to them and they were thousands of miles from home .But contrary to the impression in this book , they did their duty .They were a volunteer army .It is also misleading of the author to refer to them as "mercenaries ".They served the King Emperor of India.In 1916 they were transferred to the Middle East where they were vital to the defeat of the Turkish Arny .
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2.0 out of 5 stars A book which I found very heavy going with masses ..., 28 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914 (Hardcover)
A book which I found very heavy going with masses of detail in relation to events leading up to the first world war. I found that I couldn't maintain any continuity with this book when I put it down and then picked it up again a day or so later. If you want every detail then buy it but if you are looking for an overview and a coverage of the war itself then look else where.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, 21 July 2014
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A succinct, lucid introductory section provides the reader with current thinking on the causes of, and events leading up to, the Great War. The detailed descriptions of the fighting are difficult to follow without a good military atlas as the book maps are a problem on a Kindle. A comprehensive work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very readable, 10 July 2014
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Depressing but clear and well written. The cause was just and the price high. Amazon should pay a fair rate of UK taxes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good, 9 July 2014
By 
D. Nixon (SWINDON UK) - See all my reviews
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Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914
Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914 by Max Hastings (Hardcover - 12 Sep 2013)
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