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July 1914: Countdown to War [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Sean McMeekin
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9. Mai 2013
When a Serbian-backed assassin gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in late June 1914, the world seemed unmoved. Even Ferdinand's own uncle, Franz Josef I, was notably ambivalent about the death of the Hapsburg heir, saying simply, "It is God's will." Certainly, there was nothing to suggest that the episode would lead to conflict--much less a world war of such massive and horrific proportions that it would fundamentally reshape the course of human events. As acclaimed historian Sean McMeekin reveals in July 1914, World War I might have been avoided entirely had it not been for a small group of statesmen who, in the month after the assassination, plotted to use Ferdinand's murder as the trigger for a long-awaited showdown in Europe. The primary culprits, moreover, have long escaped blame. While most accounts of the war's outbreak place the bulk of responsibility on German and Austro-Hungarian militarism, McMeekin draws on surprising new evidence from archives across Europe to show that the worst offenders were actually to be found in Russia and France, whose belligerence and duplicity ensured that war was inevitable. Whether they plotted for war or rode the whirlwind nearly blind, each of the men involved--from Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold von Berchtold and German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov and French president Raymond Poincare--sought to capitalize on the fallout from Ferdinand's murder, unwittingly leading Europe toward the greatest cataclysm it had ever seen. A revolutionary account of the genesis of World War I, July 1914 tells the gripping story of Europe's countdown to war from the bloody opening act on June 28th to Britain's final plunge on August 4th, showing how a single month--and a handful of men--changed the course of the twentieth century.

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July 1914: Countdown to War + The Russian Origins of the First World War
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  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 464 Seiten
  • Verlag: Basic Books (9. Mai 2013)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0465031455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031450
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 23,9 x 15,7 x 4,1 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 15.182 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)

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National Review "[A] gripping and well-researched new book. In prose of admirable clarity, [McMeekin] relates the enormously complex events of that fateful summer... In his day-by-day and even hour-by-hour account, [McMeekin] brings a sprawling cast of characters to life." Philadelphia Inquirer "[McMeekin is] a young, talented historian... [He] is scrupulously fair and judicious in assigning blame... McMeekin has written a fascinating and original study of the opening stages of World War I, a book that supersedes, in my view, any previous study of that great topic." Harold Evans, New York Times Book Review "The historiography of World War I is immense, more than 25,000 volumes and articles even before next year's centenary. Still, ... Sean McMeekin, in July 1914, [offers a] new perspective... McMeekin has chosen the zoom lens. He opens with a crisp but vivid reconstruction of the double murder in the sunshine of Sarajevo, then concentrates entirely on unraveling the choreography day by day." Sunday Times (London) "[A] work of meticulous scholarship... It is McMeekin's description of the details of life in the European capitals -- comparatively small events which influenced great decisions -- which make July 1914 irresistible... It is that sort of intimacy which makes the story come alive -- as well as confirming the assiduity with which it has been researched." New York Review of Books "Sean McMeekin's chronicle of these weeks in July 1914: Countdown to War is almost impossible to put down... [McMeekin] delivers a punchy and riveting narrative of high politics and diplomacy over the five weeks after Sarajevo, more or less day by day, dwelling on small groups of decision-makers in and between the various capitals, and their interactions, by turns measured, perplexed, cordial, artful, angry, even tearful." Times Higher Education (UK) "In this detailed account of the events and decisions that marked the road to war, Sean McMeekin demonstrates how, during what seemed a peaceful summer month, something that might have ended (at worst) in just another bloody Balkan battle led instead to the outbreak of the greatest conflict since the Napoleonic Wars... [A] startling exercise in revisionism." Washington Times "Masterful." Financial Times "Stimulating and enjoyable... Sean McMeekin's July 1914 is controversial, arguing that Russia and France were more bent than Germany on war in July 1914... [A] well-written book." On Point Radio "McMeekin makes this old story new. His history reads like a novel. Better, it unfolds like a play... McMeekin adds dollops of fresh savory fact on every page. More importantly, he sees the whole crisis unclouded by bias for or against his characters or their countries... July 1914 is superb history and compelling reading." Columbus Dispatch "Blending scholarly research with a breezy and descriptive writing style, McMeekin makes a reader feel like a firsthand witness to the key events of that fateful summer... McMeekin's work is also a primer for today's diplomats on how not to allow a small event to spiral out of control into a major war." The Independent (London) "Lucid, convincing and full of rich detail, the book is a triumph for the narrative method and a vivid demonstration that chronology is the logic of history." Prospect (UK) "McMeekin's account is particularly worth reading for the weight it puts on the French and Russian contribution in taking the continent to war, drawing on his excellent previous book The Russian Origins of the Frist World War... [A] refreshingly original counterpoint to the traditional focus on Germany above all." Sunday Express (London) "Sean McMeekin's splendid July 1914 unravels all the shenanigans, bluffs and bunglings by which Europe's leaders and diplomats turned a minor murder in a Balkans backwater into total war... McMeekin has rendered the complicated events of that fateful month as clearly and vividly as anyone could desire." Choice "[A] fascinating study of Austrian and German ham-handed diplomacy (bordering on cluelessness) combined with Russian and French duplicity, with a dose of British disengagement added for good measure." World War One Historical Association Magazine "[McMeekin's] recounting of the imbroglio of July 1914 reads like a crime novel with personality sketches of the primary actors such as the belligerent Austrian Chief Of Staff von Hotzendoff and the shifty Serbian Premier Nicola Pasic." Journal of Military History "McMeekin convincingly challenges, as others are now doing, the more usual view of Germany as the driving force behind the war... [His] explication of the successive diplomatic steps to war makes it easy for any reader to see the missed chances for possible negotiation or a slowing of the momentum to war." San Antonio Express-News "In an intimate narrative, McMeekin...delves into the five weeks between the assassination and Britain's declaration of war, shedding new light on the conflict... From a failed assassination attempt to a world war, McMeekin skillfully dissects the catastrophic events of July 1914... July 1914 is an eye-opening elucidation on the beginning days of a war that was to end all wars." Daily News "July 1914 is a carefully-researched diplomatic history of the month leading up to World War I. Well-written, it reconstructs the tensions and turmoil as well as the confusion and blundering of the diplomats who guided Europe into its most destructive war. It concludes with an excellent analysis of the responsibilities and failures of the major figures." Dallas Morning News "The conventional wisdom of the last 100 years holds that Germany's desire for empire and cultural hegemony turned Princip's deed into an excuse for war. Barbara Tuchman's famed history, The Guns of August, makes the most of this case. Sean McMeekin...argues that ambitions in Russia and France were at least as responsible and traces the foibles of Europe's major powers in a month that launched a disaster for them all... McMeekin praises Tuchman's 1962 epic for inspiring him to write July 1914. What he's delivered is a strong challenge to The Guns of August." MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History "McMeekin is a wonderful storyteller, with a keen eye for the descriptive act, person, or scene." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review "[A] superbly researched political history of the weeks between the assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of World War I... McMeekin's work is a fine diplomatic history of the period, a must-read for serious students of WWI, and a fascinating story for anyone interested in modern history." Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review "[A] thoroughly rewarding account that spares no nation regarding the causes of World War I... McMeekin delivers a gripping, almost day-by-day chronicle of the increasingly frantic maneuvers of European civilian leaders who mostly didn't want war and military leaders who had less objection." Booklist "Alluding to historical controversies, McMeekin ably delivers what readers demand from a WWI-origins history: a taut rendition of the July 1914 crisis." Norman Stone, author of World War Two: A Short History "Sean McMeekin is establishing himself as a--or even the--leading young historian of modern Europe. Here he turns his gifts to the outbreak of war in July 1914 and has written another masterpiece." Michael Neiberg, author of The Blood of Free Men "Sean McMeekin has given us a riveting and fast-paced account of some of the most important diplomatic and military decisions of the 20th century. He depicts with chilling clarity the confusion, the incompetence, and the recklessness with which Europe's leaders went to war in that fateful summer. Any understanding of the world we inhabit today must begin with an examination of the events of July 1914. McMeekin provides his readers with a balanced and detailed analysis of the events that gave birth to the modern age." James Sheehan, author of Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?: The Transformation of Modern Europe "This is a meticulously researched and vividly written reconstruction of the decisions that lead to war in July 1914. McMeekin captures the human drama of this fateful month and offers a provocative assessment of the different players' moral responsibility." Charles Hill, Diplomat in Residence at Yale University, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and author of Trial of a Thousand Years: World Order and Islamism "Winners write the histories, so wars are misunderstood. Sean McMeekin takes a wider stance to get a fresh angle of vision on The Great War, and casts all war-making in a new light."

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Sean McMeekin is an assistant professor of history at Koc University. He is the author of four highly acclaimed books, including The Russian Origins of the First World War, which won the World War One Historical Association's Tomlinson Prize, and The Berlin to Baghdad Express, which won the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies' Barbara Jelavich Book Prize. McMeekin lives in Istanbul, Turkey.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen interessant 30. Juli 2014
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Mein Mann ist sehr interessiert an Geschichte. Er findet das Buch verständlich, leicht zu lesen und interessant geschrieben. sehr zu empfehlen.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 von 5 Sternen  98 Rezensionen
79 von 89 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Minute By Minute Account Of An Unwinding Disaster. 9. April 2013
Von John D. Cofield - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Heir to the Throne of Austria-Hungary, made a ceremonial visit to the city of Sarajevo with his morganatic wife Sophie. Members of a Serbian terrorist organization dedicated to wresting Austria-Hungary's south Slav provinces away from her lined the streets that day, determined to assassinate the Archduke. One succeeded, and the aftereffects of his fatal two bullets (Sophie was also shot and killed) reverberate through the next century. In a little over a month's time the major European powers were embroiled in conflict, and over the next four years the war expanded until it became a global affair which ended with the collapse of a European order which had lasted for a century,laying the groundwork for an even larger global war a generation later.

It is a well known truism that history is written by the winners. Because Germany and Austria-Hungary were defeated in World War I they were assigned the entirety of the blame for the war in the peace treaties, and most historians have tended to concur with it. Sean McMeekin's fine new history of the missteps that led to war at the end of July, 1914, does not entirely refute that judgement, but it does add in new layers of complexities.

McMeekin's approach is to take the reader step by step through the diplomatic negotiations that began almost immediately after the news of the Sarajevo assassinations hit the European newspapers. Few in Austria-Hungary mourned the Archduke and his wife, but many were determined their country's fading international image be restored through a short, victorious little war of reprisal against Serbia. Serbia's traditional Russian protector also felt the need to regain prestige through conflict. These two rickety empires began in early July to make moves they hoped would lead to a short, localized conflict. Unfortunately both Austria-Hungary and Russia had allies. Germany assured Austria of its support in a notorious "blank check," while France told the Russians that it would stand by its alliance. For the moment Great Britain, distracted by turmoil in Ireland, paid little attention to the Continental troubles.

McMeekin details the month of July, 1914 in a series of well written, dramatic chapters in which the personalities of men like Berchtold, Conrad, Bethmann-Hollweg, Sazonov, Grey, Cambon, and many others are sharply drawn, along with the diplomatic manueuvering which they pursued. Much of the negotiations took place behind the scenes, with the public and much of the media of the nations affected almost completely unaware of the danger until it was too late. There were many short sighted blunders, including many cases where vital information was not forwarded to the officials who desperately needed it because it didn't suit the agenda of another official or ambassador. The two monarchs who are most often criticized for having dragged their countries into war, Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II, emerge as more thoughtful and cautious than they are usually characterized, but with much less power to stop their bureaucracies' moves towards war than is generally supposed. Throughout the book the reader realizes over and over again how different the outcome might have been had the diplomats and generals put a little more thought into what they were doing. McMeekin assists in this by describing not only what was done, but what should have been done instead.

The book ends in the early days of August, 1914, with the guns beginning to blaze. McMeekin provides a fine Epilogue on the responsibilities to be laid at the feet of the various nations, considering not only their post-Sarajevo actions but also their policies for years beforehand. In a world that is even more dangerous than it was in the summer of 1914 it is always a good idea to be reminded of the consequences of decisions made without due reflection. President Kennedy famously said that he always kept Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August" on his desk in the Oval Office to remind him of the danger of sudden war. Thoughtful leaders and diplomats today would do well to keep Sean McMeekin's "July 1914: Countdown to War" on their own desks.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Exhaustive Study But Pushes the Envelope 8. Mai 2013
Von Paul - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
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This work by historian Sean McMeekin shows in detail the one month leading up to the Great War after the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria while on a visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia.

The author does a great job of taking the reader through the process day by day as foreign ministers and heads of state reacted to the event and formulated the responses that eventually led to world war by early August.
This book attempts to blame Russia and France as the primary culprits responsible for the war. I have to admit that I read in detail and enjoyed his 2011 work The Russian Origins of the First World War which also placed the blame on the Russians and French. Rather than all of this being a "tragedy of miscalculation" as other historians have claimed, or totally the fault of Germany and Austria (losers do not get to write history), McMeekin in this work lays it squarely on, primarily Russia, claiming that her need for a warm water port and the need to access to the Mediterranean was vital to her economic well-being, and the need to bring allies like France and England was critical for her survival and progress ahead. And it is a major revisionist theory but one I found interesting, while others claimed he cherry picked documents. I don't know enough to make that call.

The same theory translates into this book, although the author does not hit on it as hard (and so far the reviews have not hit on the author as some on the previous work)and he is going into much detail on who did what and when during the critical month before the firing began. It is fascinating reading of how so much went wrong in so short a period and a simple chronology of just over a page is prepared to summarize a very complex time, but with that being said, the book showed me that a handful of people who should have known better, bungled their way through this with the result that England, France, and Russia (until her revolution) essentially killed and were killed by Germans, Austrians and Hungarians. From a lay history point of view it was obvious to me that the people that mattered did not have their eye on the ball and this whole thing was avoidable. It sounds cold, but it seems to be had Austria Hungary simply invaded and occupied Belgrade quickly, as requested by Germany, drawn their quart of blood, and obtained concessions the whole thing would have been a regional issue, and over with before major powers could become involved, but the dual monarchy bungled it, and the book shows clearly how they all were allowed to sleepwalk into a world war.

Now anyone can show duplicity in foreign affairs. The Russians are good at it, but do not hold a patent. After all, diplomacy is the art of saying enough but at times leaving your audience unclear of what you did say, or even more simply to evade the truth, or plain out lie about it. It is all here on several stages, but in the end it was Austria-Hungary mishandling this thing. and pulling in Germany that resulted in the war. There is blame to be placed everywhere, but this was a progression of errors and incompetence in diplomacy which far overweighted deception in this progess of tragic events.

So, the book is interesting and well written, and worthy of reading, but for me, it did not convince me entirely of the author's premise.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent Read 3. Mai 2013
Von Mike Eisenrauch - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Reading this excellent history of the July Crisis felt more like a novel than non-fiction. I found it hard to put down. The story takes you day by day, hour by hour (even minute by minute at times) through the fateful events of July 1914 leading to world war. While not taking sides for or against any one country in the age-old question of responsibility, it does provide new perspective on the aggressive (and coordinated) policies of Russia and France and the blind negligence of Britain. Highly recommended for the fan of history, particularly those of us who can't get enough of this complex and compelling period leading up to WWI.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Informative,detailed and diligent,first class narrative,controversial conclusions 26. Juli 2013
Von D.V. KOKKINOS - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
The title informs clearly the potential reader what he/she is about to read.As there are thousands of books on the origins of the First WW,the first question is why select this one.
The answer is ,in my opinion,because it is one of the better ones in describing the events and because it is very well written,with literary skill in modern but elegant prose.Also because it is bound to be controversial.The book is a blow by blow account of how,within one month,Europe went from peace and prosperity to a 20 million dead war that became global and turned the rest of the 20th century into the biggest war century of all times.It is also very scholarly with a clear text.
The reader should be cautioned that the author is judgmental.He does not consider that the responsibility for starting the war,normally assigned to A-H and Germany by many historians,is an open and shut case.He points the responsibility for this strongly to Russia and France and,I consider,he tilts more than fair to that side.Yet,I consider that,in challenging the prevailing opinion on responsibility for the war,he provides a lot of arguments and food for thought,as certainly the responsibility for this war is not s clear cut case and there are a lot of responsible states,differing only by their degree of guilt.
The three main causes of War ,Militarism,Nationalism and Imperialism should taint all European Nations involved,because they transformed by their adoption the 20th century into a powder keg waiting for the spark.The only innocent Nations were Belgium and Luxembourg.
I do not expand on this because I stated my views in my review of The Sleepwalkers and this review is about this book.The three profound causes that I mentioned are not adequately covered ,but they are not the stated subject of the book either.
The reason,I believe,that the author shifted so much the blame on Russia and France ,is that Russia encouraged through her Representative in Serbia a panslavic confrontational attitude against Austria and indirectly Serbian State terrorism and France because she aligned with Russia for anti German reasons.Also because they prepared both war by timetable like everybody else but Russia mobilized first. This however is not the whole story.
Granted that they could equally well abstain on the basis that Serbia was not worth 20 million dead but they were not the cause of the spark.The primary responsibility for the spark is with Serbia,Austria and Germany.
The author treats the Kaiser in a softer way than most historians ,putting on the dock instead Bethmann,Berchtold and Conrad as Principals responsible for the war on the Triple Alliance side and underlines the belligerence and inflexibility of Samsonov and Pointcare,absolving to an extend the Tsar and Viviani on the Entente side
The incompetence of the Statesmen, their political myopia and inability to foresee the consequences of their act to the point of imbecility and their willingness to use brinkmanship to the limit to obtain insignificant aims are excellently and persuasively described.
I consider useful to go away from the cliche that all responsibility for this war is on Austria and Germany and be critical about it,but I feel that the author in his effort to do so charges the other side with more responsibility than they deserve.
In any case the readers of this sort of books are all thoughtful people and can draw their own conclusions.
The debate is endless and over simplifications should be avoided.Already clubs are formed assigning the responsibility to this or that Nation.You can join any of them or start your own.
The important matter is that the study of the origins of this war by responsible and intelligent Statesmen saved us a few times from a Nuclear Armageddon during the Cold War.
This is the real contribution of books like this one.
To facilitate those who start reading about this war's origins below is a not exhaustive list of some significant works on the subject
-The guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
(Impressionistic style ,excellent prose,easy to understand)
-The origins of the war of 1914 by Luigi Albertini
(The Classic )
-Political Philosophy and the Great War by G P Crean IV
(Broad analysis)
-The origins of the First World War by Stephen Van Evera,MIT Political Science Dept
(Lists all points of view on responsibility,Neutral)
-The Sleepwalkers by C.Clark
(An excellent, very deep and profound analysis of the causes and the actors,exceedingly well written,avoids assigning responsibility)
-Europe's Last Summer by David Fromkin
(Very good Primer for the American Public,Classic conclusions)
-The origins of the First World War by William Mulligan(Broad and deep with thematic essays and a new approach as to the inevitability of the war)
-The Origins of ww1 edited by R Hamilton and H Herwig
(The most recent product of serious Scholarship.It goes as far back as 1815.Ten American and one British author examine the Nations behavior and conclude.No European author)
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5.0 von 5 Sternen This is a real contribution.... 31. August 2013
Von Paul K. Rowe - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
McMeekin mentions in his introduction that there are more than 25,000 books on WW1, many of them dealing with the question of "cause" and "responsibility." McMeekin's new book is an important new contribution, which is rare; especially for those of us who do not read foreign languages and are not professional historians. Why is this book better than most of the others that have come out recently (centenary approaching, publishers salivating....)? (1) McMeekin appears to have limited his account to contemporary archival and first-hand sources -- there is none of the annoying (though entertaining) reliance on postwar self-justifying memoirs that so many professional and journalistic historians of the period rely on. (2) McMeekin proceeds by taking the reader through a careful, detailed, almost moment-by-moment chronology; the beginning of wisdom. Following the trail of evidence in 6 or more capital over 40 days is difficult, but it is the beginning of wisdom. (3) McMeekin has a sensible approach to the "Who were the deciders?" question in each capital; he shows you what people did and said, and from that record there emerges a sense as to how events were shaped. To give a few examples -- neither Wilhelm II nor Nicholas II were really "deciders", in the sense, say, of US Presidents today, but they were important; nevertheless, McMeekin recognizes the primacy of the chancellors, ministers and others just below the "sovereign"/head-of-state level. (4) McMeekin recognizes that despite the crowned heads and ostrich plumes on the surface, the great European powers in 1914 were close to modern democratic states in which public opinion mattered -- sometimes for real, sometimes as a screen. (5) Importantly, McMeekin has a finely judged sense of contingency -- yes, there were "deep forces" at work; but some totally contingent events played a large part in how events developed. His discussion of counterfactuals is lively and provocative, but also appropriately restrained and illuminating. (6) There is a brief chapter at the end in which McMeekin offers a kind of summing-up of the "sins" -- he uses that word -- of the Great Powers. This is a tour de force -- persuasive by its very Olympian detachment ("None shall 'scape whipping", was my personal reaction.) ....... And here is perhaps the central aim of McMeekin, to balance out the inevitable hindsight effect of Hitler and World War II. It is easy now, in retrospect, to assume the German government in 1914 was as lawless, aggressive and arrogant as in 1939. But such was not the case. The "German war guilt" thesis does not hold up. It may be that McMeekin slightly overweights Russia's appetite for war. But it must be said, his evidence is there and the "case" he makes that the French egged the Russians on is both somewhat new in popular history (most Anglophone historians are rather pro-French) and convincing. All right, how about the negatives? I can think of only one -- McMeekin is not an especially gifted writer; he is clear (a difficult feat given his task), he has an eye for the telling detail, but his prose is rather flat. Here and there his publisher, perhaps, has encouraged him to engage in popularisms that fall somewhat flat (entitling a chapter "The Last Chance Saloon", for example). That's it. This was a much more satisfying book than Christopher Clark's Sleepwalkers (although the two historians share the same general Germany-isnt'to-blame-for-everything view). (Coda: So what did cause WW1? In a nutshell, I would summarize McMeekin (or what I took from McMeekin) as follows: After years of humiliations, Austria felt she must respond to the Sarajevo outrage; she contemplated a short, local response -- perhaps a brief occupation of Belgrade; she asked Germany whether Germany would support this, and Germany, giving too little thought to consequences but probably with the idea that Austria's move would be localized and contained, gave her only ally support -- unfortunately, support in the form of the famous "blank check"; once Austria sent a humiliating ultimatum to Serbia, Russia seized the opportunity -- or recognized a necessity -- of standing behind her Slav compatriots; France then seized the opportunity of engaging Russia in a two-front war against Germany; Germany diplomacy and strategic thinking was incapable of wiggling out of the resulting situation, as Britain was incapable of wiggling out of its prior soft assurances to France; and so, by the first week in August, Germany, Britain and even Austria (by this time) went into a war none of them wanted, only France and Russia really being happy about the outcome. Of course, no one knew how bad it would be. But McMeekin quotes some evidence suggesting that German leaders -- Wilhelm, Moltke and others -- had the same premonition Yamamoto had at the time of Pearl Harbor; i.e., that whatever the start of the war looked like, they were doomed to defeat. And all along, the story is one of successful deceit (all's fair, etc., but the French and Russians were much better at this than the Germans or British); bluster and war-lust alternating with reality checks and the fear of regime-destruction: and, most of all, unutterably depressing ignorance and incompetence on the part of all the players -- ignorance of what was actually happening (this was a world reliant on the telegram) and incompetence in judging realities, formulating strategic aims and then following through. I will leave to others the obvious parallels to our own time.) (Further coda: McMeekin generously credits Barbara Tuchman, a non-academic historian, as piquing his initial interest in WW! and its causes (although he is not shy in pointing out her mis-dating of an important event). I have always thought we all owe out present lives, literally, in some part to the fact that JFK was (with all his faults on other issues) in charge during the Cuban missile crisis and that he had recently read Tuchman's Guns of August, which argues a crude-but-effective version of the "railroad timetable" theory of WW1 causation; along with his anger at being misled over the Bay of Pigs, this helped teach him to question the rigidities of advice about military matters (I can almost imagine him repeating to the Joint Chiefs the point Wilhelm II made to Moltke when the Kaiser believed that re-directing Germany's attack tothe East rather than to France would keep Britain out of the war, and Moltke mumbled that operational and supply considerations would not permit the change.) McMeekin does not follow a crude version of the railway timetable approach, but gives appropriate weight to the key geopolitical consideration that was perhaps the largest determinant of the war's inevitabilty once the diplomats had made their blunders -- the fact that Russia, due to her enormous size, had to mobilize earlier than anyone else, and that once Russia mobilized, Germany had to, and then.....
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