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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 19 April 2016
bit disappointig
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on 4 September 2014
Max Hastings at his best, the most comprehensive description of the events of 1914 I have read
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on 28 April 2014
A very readable book which also works for people, such as myself, who are not natural students of battles and military practice. Max Hastings has a tall order, though, in explaining what he says 'has justifiably been described as the most complex series of happenings in history'. He also gives enough in the way of character description to enable the reader to remember (possibly with the aid of a few notes) who is who in the six or seven main countries involved. So, there is, for instance, the dedicated fantasist Moltke (head of the German army) and the incompetent on an epic scale von Hotzendorf (head of the Austrian army). I did lose the thread a bit in some of the fighting on the eastern front - but, overall, it was a very clear explanation of those fascinating and appalling events.
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on 3 July 2014
All the books Max Hastings writes are so well researched, and I enjoyed the read very much
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on 26 September 2014
Mostly about the first few months of WW1, though interesting detail on how it all started.
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on 22 July 2014
Brilliant. Now reading Sean McKeekin's July 1914 Countdown to war to see how it compares .
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on 30 December 2015
Classic Hastings as usual very well researched and written should be a school text book
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on 25 September 2013
This isn't history as far as scholarship goes, in fact it makes some dangerous and false claims regarding the outbreak of war and is dismissive of the machinations of Russia and France that hemmed Germany in. Compared to academics writing on the subject there are a plethora of stories and a curious leaping about from the front line soldier to the civilian or general which gives it colour - drawn largelly from the press. As the centenary approaches many books will be published on the subject - the danger is that the popular, erroneous account such as this will be read in favour of the comprehensive scholarship offered by the academic community. If you want to read about what took Europe to war in 1914 make it Professor Christopher Clark's book and for an even more detailed account of the July Crisis read Sean McMeekin.
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on 14 January 2015
I got bogged down with this one. I might try it again some other day but not for now.
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on 31 October 2013
Sir Max Hastings' new book on the first year of World War One will be widely read, because of the forthcoming centenary of the start of World War One, because of Sir Max's reputation as a popular historian, and because the book has already been serialised in the Daily Mail.

Hastings tries to prove that the millions of deaths were not in vain, because it was necessary to beat the aggressor power Germany. He asserts that Germany started it, ignoring all the evidence to the contrary.

For example, the British ambassador to Russia, Sir George Buchanan, sent a telegram to the Foreign Office on 24 July 1914, summarising the result of the French Premier Poincaré's visit: "France would not only give Russia strong diplomatic support, but would, if necessary, fulfil all the obligations imposed on her by the alliance." France and Russia had agreed that when Russia went to war against Germany and Austria, France would fulfil her commitment to Russia. This telegram was concealed from the world for ten years.

Hastings claims that, unlike the German government, "the Asquith government told the truth as it saw this." In the real world, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey and Prime Minister Herbert Asquith repeatedly lied to Parliament that Britain had no secret obligations to France or Belgium. For example, Grey claimed on 11 June 1914, "There were no unpublished agreements." Again, on 3 August, "I have assured the House - and the Prime Minister has assured the House more than once - that if any crisis such as this arose . . . that we would have no secret engagement which we should spring upon the House."

This, despite the secret naval agreement with the French government, and despite the secret military agreements with the French and Belgian General Staffs for British troops to intervene in Belgium early in the war. In a private letter to his ambassador in Paris, Grey noted, "there would be a row in Parliament here if I had used words which implied the possibility of a secret engagement unknown to Parliament all these years committing us to a European war ...."

Hastings writes, accurately for once, "The war had not been precipitated by popular nationalistic fervor, but by the decisions of tiny groups of individuals in seven governments." That is, it was not caused by nationalism, as the common lie goes, but by the ruling classes of both sides.

He shows that finance capital followed its usual priority of maximum profit for itself: "the City of London continued to finance and insure many cargoes destined for Germany."

The soldiers of both sides should have taken George Bernard Shaw's advice - "shoot their officers and go home to gather their harvests and make revolutions in the town." This would have saved immeasurable suffering.
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