The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 Paperback – 4 Jul 2013
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Formidable ... one of the most impressive and stimulating studies of the period ever published (Max Hastings Sunday Times)
Easily the best book ever written on the subject ... A work of rare beauty that combines meticulous research with sensitive analysis and elegant prose. The enormous weight of its quality inspires amazement and awe ... Academics should take note: Good history can still be a good story (Washington Post)
A lovingly researched work of the highest scholarship. It is hard to believe we will ever see a better narrative of what was perhaps the biggest collective blunder in the history of international relations (Niall Ferguson)
[Reading The Sleepwalkers], it is as if a light had been turned on a half-darkened stage of shadowy characters cursing among themselves without reason ... [Clark] demolishes the standard view ... The brilliance of Clark's far-reaching history is that we are able to discern how the past was genuinely prologue ... In conception, steely scholarship and piercing insights, his book is a masterpiece (Harold Evans New York Times Book Review)
Impeccably researched, provocatively argued and elegantly written ... a model of scholarship (Sunday Times Books of the Year)
Superb ... effectively consigns the old historical consensus to the bin ... It's not often that one has the privilege of reading a book that reforges our understanding of one of the seminal events of world history (Mail Online)
A monumental new volume ... Revelatory, even revolutionary ... Clark has done a masterful job explaining the inexplicable (Boston Globe)
Superb ... One of the great mysteries of history is how Europe's great powers could have stumbled into World War I ... This is the single best book I have read on this important topic (Fareed Zakaria)
A meticulously researched, superbly organized, and handsomely written account (Military History)
Clark is a masterly historian ... His account vividly reconstructs key decision points while deftly sketching the context driving them ... A magisterial work (Wall Street Journal)
This compelling examination of the causes of World War I deserves to become the new standard one-volume account of that contentious subject (Foreign Affairs)
A brilliant contribution (Times Higher Education)
Clark is fully alive to the challenges of the subject ... He provides vivid portraits of leading figures ... [He] also gives a rich sense of what contemporaries believed was at stake in the crises leading up to the war (Irish Times)
In recent decades, many analysts had tended to put most blame for the disaster [of the First World War] on Germany. Clark strongly renews an older interpretation which sees the statesmen of many countries as blundering blindly together into war (Stephen Howe Independent BOOKS OF THE YEAR)
From the Back Cover
On the morning of June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, arrived at Sarajevo railway station, Europe was at peace. Thirty-seven days later, it was at war. The conflict that resulted would kill more than fifteen million people, destroy three empires, and permanently alter world history.
The Sleepwalkers reveals in gripping detail how the crisis leading to World War I unfolded. Drawing on fresh sources, it traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts among the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade. Distinguished historian Christopher Clark examines the decades of history that informed the events of 1914 and details the mutual misunderstandings and unintended signals that drove the crisis forward in a few short weeks.
How did the Balkans a peripheral region far from Europe's centers of power and wealth come to be the center of a drama of such magnitude? How had European nations organized themselves into opposing alliances, and how did these nations manage to carry out foreign policy as a result? Clark reveals a Europe racked by chronic problems a fractured world of instability and militancy that was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. These rulers, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, stumbled through crisis after crisis and finally convinced themselves that war was the only answer.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, The Sleepwalkers is a magisterial account of one of the most compelling dramas of modern times." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Clark's argument is that such reasoning is simplistic, and that all the statemen of Europe in 1914 were in effect sleepwalkers - walking into the abyss of a continental war.
Clark is the first to agree that the literature on 1914 is enormous and increasing - and that documentation exists to support many hypotheses about the causes and origins of the war.
Clark argues that it was not Germany that triggered the war, but a combination of factors: The development of the competing alliance system in Europe which tied Russia to France and France to Britain, versus Germany and Austria-Hungary's alliance, Serbia's extremist nationalists who were prepared to use violence on their neighbours, the aggressive mobilisation plans of most countries' military establishments terrified of being caught out by their neighbours mobilising first, and the preparadness of statesmen to risk war while pursuing foreign policy.
He has been accused of being an academic apologist for Germany (and worse by some) which only shows that 100 years on, the divisions and consequences of the war still run deep in Europe.
I should note that there are some excellent and detailed reviews here on Amazon which challenge Clark's thesis - which emphasises French and Russian war planning and mobilisation rather than the 'blank cheque' Germany gave Austria-Hungary.
For me, the essential point I took away from the book, was that too many statesmen on all sides were prepared to use war - and war on a massive scale if need be - as a policy tool.Read more ›
Sleepwalkers is actually divided into three sections. The first, which I found the best, deals with the Balkans, Serbian irredentism, the Black Hand, and the Habsburgs' fraught involvement and Russo-French investment in the region. The second teases out longer-term risk factors over the ten to fifteen years to 1914, and the third section puts the characters and events immediately leading to the war declarations under the microscope. Inevitably the book's second section rehashes already well-covered points: the hardening of the alliance system, mobilisation plans, colonial competition, though it does make the important argument that not every trend pointed towards military confrontation.Read more ›
The author does have a reputation for being more sympathetic to German views on how the war arose than is common amongst British historians at any rate.
The Sarajevo assassination and the Serbian entanglement with this is treated in great detail. There are also valuable discussions on the different ways that decisions were made in the major countries concerned. How Austria-Hungary for example to make a decision on anything will puzzle many modern political commentators. Much detail will surprise those not specialists on this historic period. For example the fact that the President of France was on a state visit to Russia at the end of July 1914, returning home only a few days before the outbreak of war.
It is a tough and complex read though. And even with this length and complexity a number of important matters are skimped over or not mentioned. The untenable strategic situation in the Polish lands for example following the partitions of Poland in the 18th Century, reinforced by the post-Napoleonic settlements. The Russian salient including Warsaw made a defence of Prussian lands very precarious in the case of hostilities. Only an international understanding such as the `Dreikaiserbund', defunct by 1914, could manage the situation in Poland. Stressing this might reinforce a more conventional interpretation of how the war situation arose.
The discussion of the politics in Britain will leave most lay readers puzzled, as there are frequent references to the Liberal Imperialists but no explanation of who they were, and how important in the politics of the time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have just finished this book and enjoyed it a lot. I learned a great deal about the origins of the war, which is explained to be labyrinthinly complex. Read morePublished 3 months ago by TonyX
A truly excellent, thought provoking book that should be required reading for all politicians in Europe, especially those who would seek to reduce the links the UK has with the EU. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Donnymac
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand over an obscure Serbian nationalist issue drew Europe into the worst military, political and social catastrophe yet. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Jozef Kosik
The King and The Kaiser . And the story of what was was the worlds biggest, and bloodiest, family argument .Published 4 months ago by XSmith
This book is a well-researched and well-written account of the events leading up to World War I. Rather than playing the blame game, the author seeks to present key people, events... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Y. Robbers
A huge and authoritative study which sheds new and frequently surprising light on the origins of the First World War. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Graham Walker