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123 of 130 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Failure of Brinkmanship
'Preventive war is like committing suicide out of fear of death' (Bismarck).

'It had to come' (US Ambassador in London, 1914).

'Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilised, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves:and these were of doubtful utility'. (W.Churchill).

'Please restrain Conrad'...
Published 9 months ago by Dr Barry Clayton

versus
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, precise language but so repetitive
They Were Counted (The Writing on the Wall: the Transylvanian Trilogy)

I was so excited about this book because Prof. Macmillan's general reviews have been excellent and I have just finished the Transylvanian Trilogy which she quotes (link above) so getting a better idea of the causes of WWI was of great interest.

There is no doubt that Prof...
Published 7 months ago by H. M. Sykes


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5.0 out of 5 stars If you're interested in the causes of the great war then I can't recommend this book enough, 21 July 2014
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Superb book. If you're interested in the causes of the great war then I can't recommend this book enough.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the two best books on the subject to be published in 2013, 11 Dec 2013
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I have read Margaret Macmillan's book after reading Christopher Clark's "The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914". In many ways they are excellent accounts and cover the same material. Neither tries to say who was to blame in any simplistic way. The causes are too complex to identify one single cause or one single guilty nation as many have tried to do.

Margaret Macmillan takes a wider longer perspective in the build up of tensions and alliances from the Franco Prussian War. She presents her conclusions and illustrates them: for example the role of the German Naval armament race. She is a historian who writes about the main characters involved and clearly sees them as independent forces rather than actors responding to larger forces. I am sure she would deny it but there is much emphasis on the physical appearance of the leading players and it would be easy to think she believes that physical appearances lead to an understanding of how people behave and how their emotions affect their actions.

You will not find answers as to why the Enlightenment of Spinoza Kant Locke and Voltaire came to be eclipsed by the philosophy of Hegel and Nietzsche and in this her book is similar to Clark's. Nor will you find much to explain why economic growth of the 19th century lead to decades of peace but finally ended with the cataclysm of WWI. A war that effectively blighted the 20th century and continued in a second phase, WWII, which left one totalitarian regime communism victorious and the Allies to broken and weary to challenge it. Soviet communism eventually failed under the weight of its own economic ignorance but only after ruining generations of lives in East and Central EUrope.

I would recommend reading both books. Clark's is a better guide to answer the question "how did the assassination of the arch Duke unleash the horror of war?". To understand whether Macmillan is even handed in her assessment of France's role you need to compare her account of President Poincaré with that of Clark's.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarship and Entertainment, 17 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (Hardcover)
I have read previously McMillan's work regarding the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and enjoyed that work enormously. This latest work gave no cause for disappointment. She offers a wide-ranging survey which indicates sound research from both primary and secondary source and which is leavened by humourous anecdotal snippets along the way. I recommend it to anyone seeking an understanding of the 'zeitgeist' relevant to this period of history, the conseuences of which resonate to the present day.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and comprehensive, 20 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (Hardcover)
I think this is undoubtedly the best of the many books I have read on the causes and build-up to World War 1. The author provides a detailed and most readable analysis of the tensions and interactions leading up to the events of 1914. Most highly recommended
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction To The Great War, 27 Nov 2013
By 
James Gallen (St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (Hardcover)
"The War That Ended Peace" is an extensively researched study of the people and events that led Europe to World War I. The Road To 1914 did not begin in Sarajevo. Author Margaret MacMillian begins with the state of Europe in 1900 and then examines the countries, leaders and issues that drove history down that road. The readers learn much about the Kaiser, Kings Edward VII and George V, Tsar Nicholas, Emperor Franz Joseph, colonial rivalries and the flare-ups over places like Morocco and the Balkans and shifts in relative power that threatened to bring the Great Powers into conflict. With the background laid MacMillan examines the plans for war and peace and the interests that threatened to reshuffle the alliances in the days leading up to war. Finally the narrative covers the downward slope through the assassination, ultimata, negotiations, mobilizations and declarations until "The lamps are going out all over Europe."

This is historical writing at its finest. I do not, by any means, consider myself an expert on World War I. Despite that limitation this book never left me confused or bored. What I found to be a rare but fascinating quality is the ability to draw parallels between events of a century ago and more recent ones. The comparison between the visit of King Edward VII to Paris and President Nixon to Beijing is one example. Many of us will will become much more familiar with World War I during the upcoming Centennial. "The War That Ended Peace" is a great introduction to the Great War.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FIVE CRITICAL LESSONS, 13 Dec 2013
By 
Yehezkel Dror (Jerusalem Israel) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (Hardcover)
I would not add a review to the many already published ones, but they neglect main lessons to be drawn from the comprehensive and enlightening treatment in this (and other) books of the path to World War One. I will try to partly rectify this omission by prevent five of the lessons that I draw from this book, directly and indirectly.
But let me start with two point of criticism: (1) the author inserts a number of uncalled-for and partly misleading comparisons to recent and current issues (e.g., pp. 561, 563). And (2) the index does nor covering subjects, as necessary in such a book. But, of course, these aberrations do not impair the high quality of the book as a whole.
Moving on to the five crucial lessons, out of many more, here they are in a nutshell:
1. "There are always choices" (p. 645). However important cultures, imaginaries, implicit assumptions and so on are in shaping history and choices, historic processes are not over-determined. Thus, the World War did not have to happen. It is quite likely that some war was hard to avoid given the stream of events. However it could have been local and limited in scope and consequences. As stated by the author "it so easily could have been different" (p. 140). True, decision makers were subject to many constraints, such as posed by growing importance of public opinion and mass media. But, still, they had a range of options and significant freedom of choice. Therefore if a leader claims "I had no other choice," he is either at least partly blind or not saying all of the truth.
2. Very few top level politicians and senior advisors make critical choices shaping the fate of multitudes. As explicated clearly by the author "the decisions that took Europe into the war - or failed to prevent it - were made by a surprising small number" (p. 247 and 249). This continues to be the case in many though not all critical domains, despite liberal democracy, the importance of "public space," and so on. A few top level politicians and their senior advisors do impact significantly on the future, increasingly so given the growing capacities of human action to shape the future thanks to the tools supplied by science and technology.
3. Civilian leaders should closely supervise military planning and choices, going also into details. As stated by the author "Europe's civilian leaders failed, first by not informing themselves as to what their war plans entailed and secondly by not insisting on a range of plans..." (p. 323). This grave error has in no way disappeared, much of military planning in many countries suffering from inadequate political supervision and direction; and many top level political leaders lacking the will, knowledge and staffs to do what is necessary.
4. Forget Clausewitz! Despite awareness of the effectiveness of machine guns and barbered wire for stopping massive infantry attacks, the "the lessons were not that the attack no longer worked but that it had to be pressed harder, with more men" (p. 329). Examples abound, then and now, of militaries fighting the next conflict with the doctrines learned from the last one, also when using novel technologies. Given the rapid changes in political, social and normative contexts and the wherewithal of conflicts, my conclusion is that military history and most of "classical" military theory, including writings of Clausewitz, are becoming more misleading than enlightening.
5. The quality of high level politicians must be radically improved. The problems facing humanity are getting even more serious, such as environmental degradation, increasing possibilities to synthesize mass killing viruses in "kitchen laboratories," and "human enhancement." Free markets, self-regulation by scientists and so on cannot cope with them, doing so being the mission of politicians. But there is no reason to assume that present political leaders are now better than those in charge of the choices bringing about the catastrophe of the First World War and its repercussions: Communism, Nazism, the Second World War and their barbarities. Therefore, the most important lesson which I draw from the road to World War One, as ably presented in this book, is that the taboo subject of radically improving democratic political leaders must be seriously taken up.
Reading this book and pondering seriously its lessons is therefore strongly recommended. I will surely include it in the recommended reading list of my next book.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thorough but dull, 16 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (Hardcover)
Not a patch on Peacemakers. No new insights are offered and the overall pace of what is a narrative history is pretty slow. The book is not helped by a large number of spelling/ typographical errors.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first-rate in-depth study, 29 Nov 2013
By 
R. T. Stevens "Rog" (Somerset) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (Hardcover)
I find this book full of information and insights that put the flesh on the bare bones of a well-worn history. It also helps to explode some of the myths about the origins of the War and to shed light on the actual outlook and behaviour of the participants in the preceding quarter century. In addition it is written in a very readable style, I wish that books like this had been around 50 years ago when I was a student!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mistake that makes me wonder, 9 July 2014
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I have not got far with this but I have seen one particularly bad error.

Professor MacMillan writes that Erskine Childers, the author of the Riddle of the Sands, was executed by a British firing squad.

He was executed by an Irish firing squad of the pro treaty forces during the Irish Civil War
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it NOW!, 18 May 2014
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This review is from: The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (Hardcover)
You will enter a forgotten world that was the theater of the absurd. A world like our own… intelligently stupid!
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The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War
The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War by Professor Margaret MacMillan (Hardcover - 17 Oct 2013)
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