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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed Account, 28 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (Kindle Edition)
This history is a long detailed account of the processes that led to the outbreak of WW I. You will get a detailed description but not a claim to have found the cause.

You will not find any grand theory that tries to explain why the long run trend towards a more peaceful planet that seems to have started in the 18th century was so violently disrupted by the Great War. There is no attempt to analyse how the rapid economic growth, seen in the latter half of the 19th century, allowed an armament race to take place across Europe. This rapid arms race must have increased the likelihood of a devastating conflict. Nor is there an explanation why this armament race did not deter while the nuclear armament of more recent times seems to have deterred a nuclear holocaust. Instead great emphasis is placed on the personalities and prejudices of key players and these are deemed to be Heads of State, especially unconstitutional Monarchs, foreign secretaries, ambassadors and military attaches.

The length of the book is a challenge: I was left feeling that no diplomatic telegram had been left unquoted, no diary entry failed to be paraded as evidence. The book is nevertheless short on quantifiable evidence. There are a few scattered numbers but no detail on the extent of the arms race or the size of economic growth across Europe in the half century leading up to the outbreak of war.

Despite these reservations no one who has read all of this book can ignore the crucial role of the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo in 1914. Serbia, ruled by an irredentist, regicidal, unstable government was aware of the plot mainly because the government was intimately connected to the terrorist Black Hand movement. Serbia's intention to "liberate" other slav people in the Balkan peninsular was fueled by France's encouragement to re-arm helped with cheap finance. France also played a key role in funding Russian armament and railway construction that facilitated the key decision to mobilize ahead of Austro-Hungarian threat to invade Serbia and France also openly encouraged this Russian policy.

Nevertheless Christopher Clark does not allocate blame largely because his evidence supports the explanation that all the parties involved stumbled into war in response to what they saw as the real or intended actions of others. I found it tempting to conclude that Great Britain should have stayed out of the conflict
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