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July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • ASIN: B00LABQLHE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,790,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the first book that is written by a historian of diplomatic history that has emerged from the plethora of books about the July crisis 1914. Surprisingly Professor Otte draws out the details and the obscure documents and refrains from being judgmental on areas where the judgments have flow fast and furious. The surprises include the Kaiser. he cannot again be regarded as a war monger but a blunderer but a man who was led by the head of the German foreign service Jagow, and the chancellor Bethmann Hollweg. Two men emerge who had they been listened to in Vienna and Berlin would have prevented any third Balkan War turning into the First World War. They were the Austrian and German ambassadors in London. The Russians and the French emerge as at least a significant part of the descent into war.

This is a book to give a proper deep understanding. It is a slow read. It is a good one.
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This is an outstanding book. Certainly, as measured by the number of bookmarks I made "I didn't know that", "that's interesting", "I must read that again" ... it warrants that description.

It is a narrative of what happened and why, from the plotting of the Archduke's assassination to Britain's declaration of war on Germany on the 4 August and it divides that fraught period into helpful sub-divisions and managers very well the difficult task of describing so much going on in parallel without confusing or losing the reader. The author also has the knack of selecting just the right bit from the many telegrams, diaries and other primary sources he quotes.

It is a good read throughout. I personally found the account of how the Austro-Hungarians reacted, got Tisza, the Hungarian prime minister, to fall into line, and made their decisions, especially informative and convincing. There is neat balance of facts and interpretation.

There is also plenty to argue with. Jagow is given a much stronger role than I expected even to the extent of giving the Austro-Hungarians a "second blank cheque" seemingly without Bethmann's approval or knowledge. Jagow and Stumm are credited with undermining the Kaiser's "halt in Belgrade" proposal without reference to Bethmann when it was forwarded to Vienna but it seems to me most unlikely that Bethmann did not see and fully approve such an important communication going out over his signature. And, it was the point where Germany's plans were beginning to unravel

The roles of two ambassadors, Paleologue the French ambassador in St Petersburg, and especially Tschirschky the German ambassador in Vienna, while not over played, are shown to be most emphatically negative, pushing in the direction of war.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In the midst of a deluge of WW1 books, this offers a fresh re-examination of the diplomatic sources from the fatal month of July 1914. Taking a panoramic view encompassing Vienna, Berlin and St.Petersburg as well as London, this explores the decisions taken by individuals in the moment of crisis and without the benefit of foresight.

Otte's book is not for the casual reader wanting a general overview of the lead up to war. It's good on the multiple 'perceptions, misperceptions and deliberate deceptions', and thus strives to find the role of individual agency in the move to war, rather than locating its causes in systemic forces.

Otte isn't the most elegant of writers but this is an interesting read for anyone with a fairly informed prior knowledge of the literature on the causes of the war.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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This is an excellent study displaying the very highest standards of historical scholarship. In some respects it is a return to an older style of diplomatic history with less emphasis on 'the primacy of domestic policy' and more emphasis on the outlooks and attitudes of the major politicians and officials of the powers involved. I commend the book with enthusiasm not least for the implicit warnings it gives us about how to deal with crises in our own days.
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T.G. Otte has written what should be classed as the definitive book of the July Crisis. He manages to combine an engaging and well-paced narrative with a convincing, and to my mind persuasive, argument. He successfully places the actions of those involved within the context of recent events and diplomatic issues (such as the Balkan Wars) and why certain key players, especially Germany and Russia, acted so differently this time round.

He doesn't ascribe any malicious intent to any of the Powers (unlike the Fischer thesis) or that the Alliance systems or mobilization plans meant that war was almost inevitable no matter what anyone did. Instead, Otte stresses the role of individuals and governments and the consequences of each of their actions throughout the crisis, without placing singular blame on anyone person or Power. Of course, certain individuals such as Jagow, Berchtold, Tschirschky, Sazonov and Paleologue do not emerge from the book with much credit, either blindly pursuing their own agendas without regard for the wider consequences or exceeding their instructions from their own government. Equally, the Governments of all the Powers, especially Austria, Russia and Germany, do not escape criticism for their actions.

Whilst ready to criticize (in a restrained and scholarly way) when required, Otte is equally ready to praise the actions of those who tried to prevent the initial escalation of the crisis and the ultimate descent into war. In taking this approach, Otte manages to portray those involved as human beings with very human successes and failures. Furthermore, this approach also enables all involved to have their roles and actions given full analysis and exposure.
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