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VINE VOICEon 31 January 2014
This short book summarises the series of mishaps, misunderstandings (both accidental and wilful) and coincidences (along with a certain measure of malice) among the great powers that led to the outbreak of the First World War. He describes almost amusingly and ultimately, of course, tragically the rigid adherence of the great powers to train timetables for mobilisation of their troops, combined in other areas with absurd lack of planning, such as there being no plans for shared intelligence and planning between the British and French armies. He then looks at the chance events that led to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, and the course of the decision-making process in Vienna, Berlin and London that led to war. This is a classic statement of the thesis that the world blundered into this war, statesmen and military leaders believing that war could not actually really come about it, but willing or feeling forced into pushing decisions along in a certain direction. Although he doesn't say so explicitly here, and there is plenty of blame to be shared all around, I think he believes that Austria-Hungary is more responsible than any other nation for setting the train of events in motion, for wanting to punish Serbia for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, while refusing to accept that the assassin Princip was not being supported or encouraged by the Serbian government. Reading the unfolding narrative, one is left with a horrible feeling of how differently events could have turned out, especially if any of these leaders could have foreseen the horrors to come.
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on 8 June 2014
With the anniversary of WWI fast approaching, I wanted to brush up my knowledge of World War I and its origins. I downloaded this book as I recalled AJP Taylor's other works when I was a student and liked his direct, sometimes blunt writing. This did not disappoint. Although written sometime ago, it puts more recent books to shame by its brevity, style and the way it challenges you. There were several times that my knowledge was challenged and sometimes changed by this book. For example, I thought Gavrilo Princep was put up to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand by Black Hand Gang. Taylor shows how he was not a member and that it was likely that no-one in Serbia had an idea of his planned actions. Another example of where my previous views were challenged was this "As the record shows, Wilhelm II was one of the few who made persistent and consistent attempts to avoid war. Bethmann had greater responsibility, yet came off far better". I liked the way that AJP Taylor shows it was a complete muddle and that "all were trapped by the ingenuity of their military preparations, the Germans most". I wish I had read this book when doing A level history. I would recommend this book to any student of history as well as those wishing to understand what lead to the terrible events of 1914-1918.
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on 20 September 2013
Mr Taylor is rightly acknowledged as one of the world's best historians and in this insightful classic he pulls back the curtain on the preparations and implementation of military movements before and during WW1 in a clear and comprehensible way.
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on 13 December 2013
This book is a good introduction to how world war one started. As it is a fairly short book, more reading is required for more in depth information.

I found it well written and read most of it on a one and a half hour flight.
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on 2 April 2014
AJP Taylor has an excellent reputation as a historian. I have found inthe past that amny historians write extremely well - many could take up fiction writing as a side-line - and this book is no exception. It is extremely short - you never know how many pages with kindle - but well-broken down into sections that are self-contained. The author has a clear familiarity witht the scenario and main cast members and is able to move effortlessly from Potsdam to London to Sarajevo or Belgrade. He depicts a scenario where everyone lurched or slipped into an appaling conflagration, with a clear impresion that teh whole thing could have been called off right up tothe last moment.
Very informative history, very well-written.
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on 29 September 2014
It's a short book, and some of the conclusions in it are drawn from seemingly minimal evidence. It makes the politicians of 1914 seem like bumbling idiots (which may be true in some cases).
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on 14 July 2014
I have been a great fan of AJP Taylor since he used to appear regularly on television 40 or more years ago, standing alone in an empty studio set, national health glasses perched on the end of his nose, hands clasped together in front of him and speaking totally without notes with fluid clarity for up to an hour.

This book is just as I expected. I could see him there like that talking to me just as he always did. The book was riveting from start to finish and I learned a lot about the prominent characters as they lurched by misunderstanding and stupidity to the awful conclusion.

I loved it.
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on 23 January 2015
If the central premise of this book is correct, in that the First World War came about largely because of a misunderstanding about the different definitions of 'mobilisation' in the various countries, then this clearly makes the war even more pointless than it has frequently been portrayed. Mr. Taylor evokes a picture of a group of countries being herded toward a war that nobody seemed to want, as a consequence of the machinations of a few who definitely did want that outcome, or who thought that they could achieve their ends without it ever coming to all-out war. Deeply depressing.
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on 29 September 2013
Given the number of books on the beginning of WW1 just now, I am surprised that this first class book has not been given more prominence. It certainly deserves it.
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on 24 April 2014
Very good analysis which considers the impact of the both the attitudes and misconceptions of the key characters involved in the events which lead to the outbreak of war and how the technology of the early 20th Century - the impact of railways and the rigidity of military mobilisation timetables, the inadequacy of telephone communications - contributed to the disaster of WW1.
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