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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 10 September 2013
This astonishingly well researched book will help anyone interested in the origins of the war that changed the world to try to understand the complexities of Europe before August 1914. His focus on the Balkans has resonance today. His judgments are solidly based on evidence. This can be unreservedly recommended to the intelligent general reader as well as the spevialist historian.
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on 20 July 2014
The book deals expertly with the multiple causes if war and the factors that influenced the key decision makers, and more importantly, the interaction of these casual and influencing factors. The book is rich in data and pointed in its analysis. Well worth reading, especially for students of security dilemmas and leadership studies.
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VINE VOICEon 11 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Given the volume of erudite reviews, here are a few mundane observations. The hardback version is beautifully presented and will enhance your bookshelf. On a purely practical note, for ease of reading, I spent the whole reading experience wishing that I had the kindle version instead. This is a house-brick of a book.

Given the depth and breadth of research, I would also have appreciated a few more maps and/or illustrations to benchmark the narrative.

This leads into a point concerning the target audience for this work. As many reviewers have stated, this is a detailed, painstaking account. It is no GCSE broad sweep of Prussian militarism, Ententes, Franz Ferdinand, Schlieffen Plan.

The book seems to have generated a fraught, historiographical debate, yet I did not find Mr Clark's interpretation as radical as others. There are many excellent books on the causes of the Great War and I would add this to the list.
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on 6 November 2014
A masterly telling of a tragic story. Although the author does not point an accusing finger at one part of the cast in particular I find myself regarding the French as being true "agent provocateurs".
I also feel Grey and Asquith did not perceive the death blow the war would give to the economic power of England.
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VINE VOICEon 1 April 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an excellent book that covers the build up to WW1 in great detail, dealing with each of the protagonists at length and with a depth of understanding that helps show why the war developed, how it could have happened differently and ultimately why the war became unavoidable. Any 'mistakes' people or countries made are put into context to explain why they made the choices they did, whether for good or bad reasons, and help show the choices were made without our benefit of hindsight.
The last third of the book is amazing and really builds the tension well, despite the fact you know exactly what is going to happen. The reason I gave this book 4 stars is that I felt the first two thirds were a little slow in places and I did find that I had to force myself to sit down and read it on occasion. That said, I would definitely recommend the book, just make sure you stick with it.
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This book, yet another on the causes of the First World War, can only be recommended with caution.
The sources used are very much weighted in favour of Germany. Attempts to show the Kaiser in a more favourable light will simply not wash. He was, as Sir Michael Howard showed many years ago, neurotic about security, intent on restoring Germany to the centre of Europe and enthralled by military matters, not for nothing did he always appear in full military regalia. It was a great misfortune of Germany and indeed the world that the All Highest War Lord was the Kaiser Wilhelm in 1914.

Modern research has amply demonstrated that Germany by 1910 was intent on solving her-largely invented-belief that she was under siege from France and Russia. The so-called Schlieffen Plan-in fact we now know there was no PLAN as such- failed because the much overrated German General Staff committed an awful blunder, they ignored logistics. That is why the attack on France failed. The Germans failed to study Ivan Bloch's 'La Guerre Future' in which he pointed out in great detail that victory had to be quick. Germany's strategy ignored this and suffered the consequences.

Militarism was rife throughout Germany after 1870 indeed it was institutionalised throughout society.It was this plus vaulting ambition that led the Germans to believe they could win a European war come 1914. Hence, a 'Forward Strategy' was decided on to restore what arrogant German politicians and military believed was their 'rightful place in Europe'.

The author also attaches far too much importance to the assassination of the Archduke. There had been at least 8 other similar events in the preceding decade. All had been resolved without war. It was Austria's ultimatum to Serbia, an ultimatum she knew would be refused,that led eventually to war. Attempts by the author to implicate Italy over Libya are simply silly. By supporting Austria Germany knew war was a very likely outcome. By choosing to attack France, who was not involved in the dispute, and by assuming British neutrality, Germany's military planners made grievous errors of judgement.

For many, many years, attempts have been made to blame, among other,: alliances, arms races, the Balkans and even technological developments for the 1914-18 war. All are unconvincing. Wars occur because someone wants a war. Wars are not the result of inanimate things. In 1914 war was NOT inevitable as many have argued. It was entered into deliberately by Germany in the same way as was the Second World War by Hitler. Attempts therefore to switch the blame for war in 1914 away from Germany will not convince anyone who has studied the documents, and by that I mean all the available and relevant ones, not a select few.
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on 17 December 2012
This is a very detailed account of the background to the events leading up to the outbreak of the First World War.
When thinking of purchasing the book I did note a critical review by someone who had not read the book but who feared that it was an attempt to exonerate Germany of all blame. I would be interested to know if he has yet read the book and his judgement of it.
I personally found the book very detailed and at times felt confused but that probably accurately reflects the events leading up to this disaster for Europe. Certainly my own conclusion was that there were many vested interests at play and I think the title is apt. Clearly at least one protagonist was keen to recover lost domains or acquire new, one needed access to the Med, one wanted to stop terrorist activities and didn't want to give up domains, two seem to have got themselves committed by history and treaties.
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on 2 May 2014
This is of the Norman Davies history genre - a high level, non nationalistic point of view. It outclasses others on this subject, especially the acclaimed 'War that ended Peace' by Margaret Macmillan that takes an anti German, pro British approach.
Sleepwalkers takes a comprehensive look at the background and history of all the main participants who seemingly conspired to make the War happen. It is difficult to lay blame, except to say that all the politicians and leaders involved seemingly allowed it to happen. It goes through this in detail and allows you to see the complexity of the build up. As the title says the leaders sleepwalked everybody into it. It would be a good read for all our leaders and politicians today to show how easily this can happen, especially given the instability on some parts of the continent.
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on 9 May 2013
This is a very detailed account of the events leading to the first World War, perhaps for the average amateur military historian rather too detailed. I found it a little difficult to remember who was who at times amongst the profusion of difficult Balkan names, and the sheer amount of detail did not always make for easy reading. This is undoubtedly a very carefully researched account, but it may be of most use to the really dedicated historian. For an easier read try David Fromkin's excellent book "Europe's Last Summer".
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VINE VOICEon 19 January 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was born in the mid 1950's and so, when I went to school, most of my teachers had served in WW II. I can understand that, for them, it was important that the other side was totally to blame. The second World War was almost a direct consequence of the first so, my history master was in no doubt as to the culpability of Germany when looking for the cause of the Great War. The many stories, in our comics, of brave British soldiers thwarting those sly underhand German troops simply confirmed a prejudice which was so prevalent, that we were unaware that it was a prejudice!

Almost fifty years later - I am not a great fan of war and have not rushed to re-educate myself upon such a dismal story - I was lucky enough to come across this excellent book. Christopher Clark begins without pre-conceptions as to the 'guilty' individuals, or nations. The book starts incredibly slowly, and I was tempted to lay it aside: thank goodness, I didn't. Having criticised the early chapters, I cannot see how the author could have done better: I certainly needed the background information therein to enable me to appreciate the arguments expounded in the remainder of the book.

As with any unbiased look at history, the book does not find an individual who is entirely to blame for events. No major nation, or politician/monarch comes out particularly well but equally, none end up with horns and a tail. The major problem seems to be that European nations felt that they had a God given right to carve up the rest of the world and that the only question was which of them got the biggest slice. The two world wars were almost necessary to burn this possessive attitude out of Europe.

I am sure that most of us know that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip was the event that finally lead to war but, this book shows the many sub plots circling ominously beneath the surface. Incidentally, the actual story of the assassination is an almost surreal chapter in itself. I will not spoil it with a clumsy paraphrase, but it is almost a comedy of errors!

In addition to a fascinating re-understanding of history, this book has an added relevance at a time when England appears to be doing her level best to break up a European governance. The inability of nation to speak peace unto nation: indeed, sometimes to speak to each other, was an undoubted factor in war. We sometimes mock the USA for delaying their entry into our European contretemps but, perhaps we should be grateful that they entered at all and be a little more cautious to ensure that we are not found needing them to rescue us again!
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