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AJP Tayloe - the ultimate lecturer.
on 29 January 2014
How Wars Begin A.J.P Taylor
As a TV presenter, A.J.P Taylor spoke to the camera fluently, without any audio-visual props – and
mesmerised us all. His story-telling, his wit and his clinical analysis brought clarity to some of the
muddiest historical waters. In print, his message is still compelling.
Taylor chooses an interesting selection of conflicts to uncover some general truths about war.
He sees the French revolutionary wars as a great turning point in European conflict, with armies
contesting ideologies for the first time. He then shows how war can take on the guise of grotesque
comedy. The Crimean War grew out of a dispute between Othodox and Catholic key-holders to the Holy
Christian Places in Jerusalem. 'As it was the Turkish government that had to allot the keys, both France
and Russia put pressure on Turkey. France sent a battleship through the straits to Constantinople' ….......
and so to war.
In the chapter on Bismarck's Wars, AJP recounts a charming incident prior to war between Austria and
Prussia when in the middle of 1865, the King of Prussia and his ministers met at Gastein and held a
council of war to decide 'whether they should go to war with Austria the next week'. Gastein was
actually in Austrian territory. 'Fancy going on holiday in your enemy's territory and discussing whether
you should go to war with him.'
Taylor made a fascinating observation about the presence of the Archduke and his wife in Sarajevo in
1914. 'His wife was only a countess so she did not rank as an archduchess but if he went to Sarajevo
which was still under military occupation he could go as Inspector General of the army and she would
rank right at the top. It was to give his wife a treat that he went to Sarajevo.'
These essays are stylish and lucid – a great accompaniment to the literature of international relations.