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The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain's Rush to War, 1914 (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – 12. August 2014

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“Should Britain have entered the war in 1914? This question has recently aroused controversy. As Douglas Newton shows, it was controversial in 1914, too. This book is a compellingly written, tightly argued, deeply researched and bracingly revisionist study of the decisions that led to British intervention. Newton uproots many hardy myths and reveals the deep divisions within the political elite of a country on the brink of war” —Christopher Clark, author of The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
“I felt I was breathing the pure, clear mountain air of real, refreshing history. Not justifying, not rehashing, not regurgitating, but boldly telling what the writer feels very strongly is an important truth, a truth which has reached out of the archives and put its thumb in his eye.” —Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
“A gripping story of high drama as fundamental decisions shift back and forth from day to day and even from hour to hour. These are also events about which we should say: ‘Lest we forget!’” —Dr Robin Archer, London School of Economics
“Both scholarly and accessible. This in-depth account of the British response to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand will open the eyes of many hitherto reluctant to face the facts.” —Professor Keith Wilson, University of Leeds

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Douglas Newton was the Associate Professor of History at University of Western Sydney. He is the author of British Policy and the Weimar Republic 1918–19; Germany 1918–45: From Days of Hope to Years of Horror; and British Labour, European Socialism and the Struggle for Peace 1889–1914. He lives in Australia.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x966280f0) von 5 Sternen 5 Rezensionen
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0xa732f3a8) von 5 Sternen Exploding the Myths of Why, How, and Importantly When Britain Decided on War in 1914. 16. Februar 2016
Von Alphonse - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Newton delivers a solid piece of historical research, exploding the myths of why, how, and importantly when Britain decided on war in 1914. The classic myth is that Britain only decided on war AFTER Germany invaded “plucky little” Belgium on August 4th, declaring war late that evening. Newton shows that the very senior members of Britain's government, acting without Parliament or even the larger Cabinet, decided on war August 2nd, in support of the “Ententes” with Russia and France, themselves designed not to constrain Germany, but to de-conflict the British Empire's colonial holdings in Africa and Asia.

In this account, PM Asquith, Foreign Minister Grey, and First Sea Lord Churchill controlled the descent into war. Only Asquith's motivation is explored in depth, stressing his desire to keep his Liberal government in power. (Ironically, a coalition with the Conservatives was unavoidable in May 1915, resulting from poor management of the war.)

Newton also all too briefly sketches the nascent opposition to war, nipped in the bud by the heavy-handed rush to war.

Newton's writing style is solid but academic, and the book is not a”page-turner.” It is however a useful counter to the “fairy tale” of Britain being forced into war by “dire necessity.” At the least, any reader interested in the origins of World War One should read Newton's last two paragraphs, Radical Recriminations, and Conclusion,where he gives an excellent summary of his arguments.
4 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x96641a44) von 5 Sternen To join in or stay neutral? 16. Juli 2014
Von Ken Newham - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
The Darkest Days is an intriguing book. With so many books for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, it is great to have such a highly focussed study. Rather than being a wider study of the subject, this book is primarily focussed on Britain in the last few weeks of peace in 1914 and its decision for either war or neutrality.

I found it an exciting and highly readable narrative, which weaves together two main stories: the story of those in Britain who were eager for Britain to ‘join in’ and the story of those who wished to keep Britain neutral. A quick note here, it is not necessarily about those who sought peace in Europe (although there are many of them featured in the book), but also the interesting faction who simply wanted to keep Britain out (neutral).

The intricate examination of the Cabinet debates and arguments between 27 July and 4 August are particularly interesting. I also enjoyed the study of Britain’s newspapers at the same time as they battled for public opinion.

In summary, there are a number of preconceived notions for many of us that are challenged: that it was the invasion of Belgium that was the main reason for Britain’s entry into the war, that the Cabinet was united (the numbers supporting war from the Cabinet change from day to day throughout the book, highlighting that it was a rather agonizing choice for many – four even resigned just days before the outbreak), and that there was little or no debate over Britain’s choice for war in the wider public.

I would like to make one comment regarding the conclusions of the book. It seems that there is always criticism of any critical study of Britain’s choices and behaviour regarding WW1, as if any criticism somehow absolves Germany or Russia etc of any blame. There is no such absolution here. The author makes no such contention that I could see. Prussian militarism or Austro-Hungarian foolishness is not excused of anything. The point is that this story is focussed on Britain, and in that, critical examination is needed. Finally, I think the author makes clear that this kind of debate and agonizing over the war was probably more pronounced in Britain than anywhere else.

Nevertheless, although one clings to hope during the book that somehow the neutralists might prevail, of course, in the end, intervention wins out over neutrality.
2 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x96284f9c) von 5 Sternen ... the British government in the days leading up to Great Britain's entry into World War I 15. Oktober 2015
Von historybuff - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
An inside view of the split within the British government in the days leading up to Great Britain's entry into World War I. The author has masterfully researched his topic. Is narration is very accessible. The reader gets in stark detail events and political positions.
HASH(0x96b92090) von 5 Sternen Five Stars 10. Juni 2015
Von R W PATTERSON - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Well worth reading, one things for certain, Russian and French politics hasn`t altered in both wars, even today.
6 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
HASH(0x96641ed0) von 5 Sternen Everyone is to blame – here's where Britain went wrong 12. Juli 2014
Von Alan Paton - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
# For the information provided, for the story and its telling, this book easily gets 5 stars. It concentrates one hundred percent on Britain from the 27 July to 4 August and about half is devoted to the last four days.

There is a lot of important detail that is simply skipped over in most histories. Coverage of what the British press had to say and the great division between those in favour of joining the war and those against is especially revealing. The author's analysis of what went on at cabinet meetings is similarly effective and he conjures up the human angle, the tension and drama, to provide a gripping read.

It is also fascinating to get a fuller picture of the peace movements and read substantive extracts from Keir Hardie's speech at a peace rally in Trafalgar Square.

# For its conclusions and for objectivity I wouldn't give this book any stars at all, if that was possible.

The British government did the wrong thing and it did it deviously. It should have kept Britain neutral. On one side are the Liberal Radicals, the non-interventionists, the good guys, and on the other side are the interventionists, the very bad guys, led by Asquith, Grey and Churchill.

Churchill's initiatives in keeping the Royal Navy together on the 26 July and ordering it to its war stations on the 28 July are heavily criticised. They are two of the author's most important examples of actions taken without full cabinet approval (where non-interventionists were in the majority up to the last moment).

He asks "What was its effect?" Did it incite Russia to act boldly? (p28) The author has to admit that, in fact, Russia had already decided on the 24 and 25 July to act boldly and had started military preparations. So it must have had an impact on the French. The author claims that Churchill's action on the 26 July was significant in deciding the French to send encouraging massages of support to the Russian's, but there is minimal evidence for this, and in any case Poincare had made it abundantly clear where France stood when he gave a public warning to the Austro-Hungarian ambassador in St Petersberg on the 21 July the week before.

And, was Churchill really so reckless? The Kaiser asked on the 19 July, a full four days before the presentation of the ultimatum in Belgrade, that the German shipping lines whose fast liners would be converted to armed light cruisers in case of war, be warned that a war could break out and to be careful where their ships were located. The Kaiser also ordered the German High Seas Fleet to return early to Kiel on the 25 July and was at least a day ahead of Churchill in making naval moves. (See Rohl, "Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile", p1039)

There are a number of other cracks in the author's argument that show bias. For example, he says (p46) in relation to Grey's ambassadors' conference mediation proposal, "It is important to emphasise both Russia and Germany [author's italics] found fault with the plan". That is a most unfair portrayal of Russia's attitude. Sazonov said he preferred to pursue direct talks with Vienna (which at that point looked like a very sensible way forward) but if that didn't work he was open to other suggestions.

The author brings up the British fleet again in connection with Russian mobilisation. Its move to Scapa Flow encouraged them. He doesn't explain the event that really did push Russia to take this drastic step, the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on Serbia and the bombardment of Belgrade which the Russians took to be the start of an invasion. It was clear from the beginning that Russia would go to the defence of Serbia and when it came to a decision it didn't really care where the Royal Navy was. Sazonov believed Britain would be dragged in eventually anyway.

Grey is criticised for rejecting German neutrality proposals. Not only the one that would have been at the expense of France but the one made by Lichnowsky regarding Belgium in the closing days of the crisis. Even the author admits that Lichnowsky was "attempting some remarkable diplomacy on the run". The German ambassador was desperate and acting on his own. By then it was plain to everyone the German army was going through Belgium.

Amazingly, the author offers (p304) the Kaiser's demand that the whole German army march to the East in response to Grey's proposal on the 1 August (the proposal that turned out not to be a proposal) as a sign that war in the West could have been avoided. He doesn't mention what was almost certainly the German military requirement for no war in the West; the handing over to Germany of the French line of fortresses.

There might be a reasonable case that Britain should have given neutrality a chance, but apart from the deviousness of the interventionists (a very debateable notion) the author's view seems to rest on the fact that no one in Britain really knew what would happen if Britain remained neutral. He makes this point strongly several times. Of course no one knew!

But the interventionists had the good sense to ask themselves what was most likely to happen. And this key to Britain's decision hardly gets a mention let alone any serious consideration. It's only implied in some of the coverage pro-interventionist press and in a few disdainful and vague references to the "balance of power".
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