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on 9 August 2017
In my opinion a massively overhyped book. It spends relatively little time on the most important question of why the European nations went to war. Most of the book is focussed on the military mistakes on the Western Front. With more perspective than Tuchman had, it is not clear these mistakes were in fact errors and those errors only happened because of the political mistakes that preceded them. The other two fronts in the war are given very short shrift but are equally important even if less well known.
Don't waste your time with this book, try one of the more modern works that actually try to address the question as to why the war started: "Sleepwalkers" and "The war that ended peace" are much better bets.
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on 19 October 2013
With the centenary of the start of WW1 less than a year away, Barbara Tuchman's account of the lead-in to and first month of the War, published originally in 1962, provides a wide-ranging and insightful study of the events and personalities that led to the catastrophe that would determine the course of the Twentieth Century. Given the UK Government's £50m investment in 'commemoration', much of the book is a sobering reminder of many of the realities: the comparatively minor, and reluctant, part played by the BEF, sent by a vacillating British Government only when its treaty obligations to Belgium could not be dodged and then lumbered with conflicting aims that led to its virtual betrayal of the French army; the scale of German atrocities in Belgium, obscured by the larger-scale horrors to come, that might pose a few problems for a 'neutral' approach to blame in the commemorations; the general failure of political leaders to act with integrity and decisiveness - only King Albert of Belgium emerges with any credit. As, most of the time, does the ordinary soldier, as usual paying the price.
If history is to teach us anything, there are lessons aplenty in this masterly work. Not least that countries are always preparing to fight the last war. There are uneasy echoes in this book of attitudes to the current US brinkmanship over their budget and 'small problems' in the Balkans: economic rather than military issues though ones that evoke similar human weaknesses and might have consequences as unimagined as those of that summer a hundred years ago.
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on 14 October 2017
the most readable and informative work that goes into the great defining moment of the 20th century - and down to today. The characters of this fatal conflagration are drawn with total understanding of the national pressures that erupted in August 1914. Truly this book illustrates the pity of war and that jaw-jaw is always better than war-war. Hope Donald reads it - he reminds me of little Willy - Kaiser Bill, totally vacuous and out of his depth.
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on 5 August 2014
This is a superb classic account of the events leading to WW1. Barbara Tuchmann has well researched the sources, and even though it dates from about 50 years ago, the scenario has not changed now, 100 years after 1914.
The German invasion of Belgium in 1914 for "military necessity" reasons tells us a lot about the politics prevalent at the time, but have things changed much over the last 100 years???
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on 11 September 2016
Amazing book covering in a lot of detail but accesible reading a very important and at the same time short period of time.
If you are just a bit interested in the First World War, this book is a must.
Very centered in historical figures and their personalitites and behaviours.
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on 14 November 2017
An outstanding book. As someone who sometimes struggles with dry history books this account pulled me in and kept me engaged. A really enjoyable and informative read.
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on 7 May 2015
The out-of-control spiral into global war is brilliantly written by Barbara Tuchman. I found it an easy, informative read. The descent into chaos by a belligerent Kaiser and the behind-the-scenes attempts to stop an all-out war by Belgium, France and Britain makes compelling reading. Alas, once the wheels of German mobilisation began, how could the steamroller be stopped? Buy it, read it, learn from it.
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on 14 August 2014
The 'timetable' argument has its opponents these days, but this is a riveting account nonetheless
and can be set alongside modern accounts such as those of Max Hastings.
A strongly argued and flowing description - essential reading for all politicians.
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on 7 November 2016
History at its best. Unputdownable, beautifully written, exciting.
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on 17 December 2016
Re-reading after thirty years, I realise how good it is, and how unnecessary the carnage was.
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