7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
One of the two best books on the subject to be published in 2013,
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This review is from: The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War (Kindle Edition)
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.