July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a book to give a proper deep understanding. It is a slow read. It is a good one.
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.Read more ›
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)
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When there are already so many books on this subject, you'd hardly think there was room for another. However if you had to choose just one, it would be this one. Read morePublished 2 months ago by cpsw
Who would have thought that so much novelty and in so many new ways can be added to a very old story? Read morePublished 11 months ago by Squinancy
This is an absolutely excellent book, focusing on the precise events which happened between assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the outbreak of war, including bringing out... Read morePublished 20 months ago by D P Walker
I think this is the clearest and most detailed book I have read concerning the actions and events in the few weeks before the outbreak of WW1. An excellent read.Published 23 months ago by Strephon