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1913: The Eve of War by [Ham, Paul]
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1913: The Eve of War Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Review

'[A] vivid, comprehensive and quietly furious account ... Paul Ham brings new tools to the job, unearthing fresh evidence of a deeply disturbing sort. He has a magpie eye for the telling detail.' (The Times)

'Provocative and challenging ... A voice that is both vigorous and passionate.' (The Daily Express)

'Controversial ... Well documented and stringently argued.' (The Daily Mail)

Book Description

Discover the reasons behind the First World War in Paul Ham's controversial and concise essay, 1913: The Eve of War.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1110 KB
  • Print Length: 83 pages
  • Publisher: Endeavour Press Ltd. (5 Nov. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GGMKQMS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #88,541 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Ham questions the orthodoxy that the war was inevitable, but concludes that it was because those in power determined that it was so. Europe was divided into armed camps and there were complex alliances that ensured a domino effect once one nation entered into conflict with another, but these armed camps were the product of deep mistrust. War plans became so advanced and meticulous that war became virtually inevitable - the plans became self-fulfilling. Furthermore, many of the leaders felt there was a need for war to ensure their country achieved their ambitions or took their rightful place at the top table.

Take Germany, for example. Germany had been late into the colonial race and by the time it had entered the world had been carved up, largely by the British, French and Russians. Although Germany was the most powerful emerging economy, there was no place for it on the world stage. Thus, expansion in Europe was the only way to fulfill its ambitions. Couple that with fear that Russia would soon become the dominant world power if it wasn’t cut down to size, and France would inevitably rekindle its old rivalry because of the loss of Alsace Lorraine, Germany’s only recourse was to fight on both fronts, and a quick defeat of France was necessary to enable it to turn its attention to Russia in the east.

And then there was the social climate of the time. The much cited Belle Epoque was a middle and upper class phenomenon. Ordinary working people were fervently patriotic and, persuaded by a partial press, were willing to die gloriously for their country. The youth of Europe was in rebellion against their cynical elders, and the war machine was fed by the fodder of millions of young men eager for the glories of war.

The world of 1913 was a dangerous place.
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I know what I disliked most about this book. It wasn't the tired Marxist analysis which viewed the events leading up to WW1 through the prism of class struggle and the assumption that class, trumping all other considerations, was the prime mover in causing the war, in that the author seemed to be suggesting that the kings and autocrats of pre-War Europe conspired, if unconsciously, to stop the inevitable triumph of the proletariat and left-liberal ideals by diverting their energies into war.

It wasn't the author's Schroedinger's Cat portrayal of Germany both as the meek, mild victim of Anglo-Russo-French malice and 'Germanophobia', yet as a nation full of rabidly nationalist Prussian generals, social Darwinists and other racists as hellbent on war as the other Great Powers; Germany changed from page to page in order to underline whatever point he was making at the time.

It wasn't the page after page of socialist ranting (screeds of it, unbroken by references) casting snide asides at the upper classes and the leaders of the time and, when they didn't perform as he - or the socialist dialectic - demanded, the lower orders.

It wasn't even the pompous epilogue in which he castigates "bad" historians for viewing history using hindsight as an analysis tool - something which he had done throughout and indeed, without which, history is just so much story-telling.

My principal beefs with this book manifested themselves within the first few pages. First was Ham's promise to cut through the "misinformation, propaganda and outright lies", immortal words which I normally associate with conspiracy theories rather than proper academic works. Second was presence of factual errors which may be blamed either on Ham or his proofers.
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As I've mentioned in other reviews, I find the immediate pre-WWI years to be very interesting, and this short and easy to read book certainly held my attention. It goes further than looking merely at the geo-political issues, such as military build-ups and "what we need is a good war" (a sentiment denied by various people after four years of appalling carnage). These, of course, are fully addressed but other not unrelated aspects are also examined. For example, the growth of the railways played a pivotal part in the lead up to the War, as did on-going friction in the Balkans. There had also been five decades of rapid mechanisation; a considerable amount of newly acquired wealth; but also poverty and labour unrest. Also in Britain there was substantial anti-German feeling, in spite of having what was in effect a German Royal Family.

I'm not sure that this book says anything new, but it does give a rational and sober analysis of the build up to a catastrophe.

Incidentally, I came across some interesting words in Mr Ham's book, such as solipsistic, recrudescent and sclerotic.
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A short alternative history of the timetable to the Great War. Ham lays the blame on the Russo-Serbian alliance and Serbian aggression in bringing the world to war in 1914. Well written and a very convincingly argued. Lots to think about and a great read
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This cracking little book, by the historian Paul Ham, looks at one of the most complex subjects in history, the causes of the First World War. Short, sharp and provocative I found it to be an especially interesting and timely read during the final days of 2013, a century on from the events it considers.

Ham has little time for those, like Christopher Clark, who argue that Europe's leaders were Sleepwalkers who drifted into war by accident and describes the idea that the First World War was some kind of careless mistake as "nonsense". Nor does he particularly agree with the likes of Max Hastings that the Catastrophe of the Great War was a necessary reaction to the proto-fascist aggression of the Kaiser's Germany.

Rather, Ham believes that the Great Powers planned for the war for years and years beforehand and that their plans were so precise and so detailed that they became, in effect, self-fulfilling prophecies. By the time the carnage was unleashed the politicians and generals were caught up in events they could no longer control as years of pent-up rivalry and mistrust were unleashed.

As a concise re-examination of the origins of the First World War, I doubt this book could be bettered. In fact, as a short introduction to the subject [it runs to the equivalent of 80-odd printed pages] I'd even recommend it over Niall Feguson's
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