"The War That Ended Peace" is an extensively researched study of the people and events that led Europe to World War I. The Road To 1914 did not begin in Sarajevo. Author Margaret MacMillian begins with the state of Europe in 1900 and then examines the countries, leaders and issues that drove history down that road. The readers learn much about the Kaiser, Kings Edward VII and George V, Tsar Nicholas, Emperor Franz Joseph, colonial rivalries and the flare-ups over places like Morocco and the Balkans and shifts in relative power that threatened to bring the Great Powers into conflict. With the background laid MacMillan examines the plans for war and peace and the interests that threatened to reshuffle the alliances in the days leading up to war. Finally the narrative covers the downward slope through the assassination, ultimata, negotiations, mobilizations and declarations until "The lamps are going out all over Europe."
This is historical writing at its finest. I do not, by any means, consider myself an expert on World War I. Despite that limitation this book never left me confused or bored. What I found to be a rare but fascinating quality is the ability to draw parallels between events of a century ago and more recent ones. The comparison between the visit of King Edward VII to Paris and President Nixon to Beijing is one example. Many of us will will become much more familiar with World War I during the upcoming Centennial. "The War That Ended Peace" is a great introduction to the Great War.
Concise but detailed. Readable, while full of information. Excellent explanation about what lead to war while showing that there could have been alternatives. My sad conclusion is that a number of actors were doomed since the beginning. The importance of the right governance is also seen by the consequences of bad, unprofessional leadership
This account is well researched and shows how the alliances in Europe led toma chain reaction once one party declared war on another. That some observers understood how the machine gun and modern artillery would check offensives and result in a drawn-out war of attrition is remarkable. The general lack of first-rate leaders is objectively described. The editing could be better, and the author would have done well to avoid colloquialisms such "getting it". That is my only criticism. James Cunningham, Basel, Switzerland.
Erstklassige Beschreibung der entscheidenden historischen Hintergründe ! Soziologische Zusammenhänge werden besonders subtil herausgearbeitet und kritisch bewertet. Der Automatismus bei Kriegsbeginn wird überzeugend erläutert.
One cannot understand the causes of the Great War unless one also understand the political, economic, social and cultural environment in which it took place.
Hence, the ramshackle nature of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the constitutional arrangements of Germany post 1870,the first and Second Balkan Wars, the familial relations of the monarchy system in Europe, the fragile nature of Tsarist Russia, arms race between Great Britain and a resurgent Germany, the British and Japan,the desire of Germany to launch offensive warfare , social Darwinism, belief in romantic and heroic views of warfare, increase in weapon technology, and so on, are taken in account by Margaret Macmillan.
Given the nature of history, the mountain of variables, the dubious quality of many sources and the inability to adopt in full the scientific method that science depends on, it is no wonder that despite the over 46000 books plus articles on the Great War there is still so much disagreement about its causes and conduct.
There is, of course, no agreement among historians or political scientists about what causes war. Is it the nature of man, the type of state or states involved, or problems with the anarchical international system, such as balance of power, instability or lack of a credible international law? Opinions differ widely. Mathematical models have been built and used with poor results. Even wars that appear easy to analyze in this respect prove to be very complex, for example, the American Civil War, the Iraq-Iran war, the Korean war.
Finding the causes of war is difficult because there are so many varieties of each. The idea that wars can be caused by one specific factor, individual or systemic has long been derided. There also is a view that a war of such titanic proportions must have been determined by causes of a similar titanic scale.
Margaret MacMillan starts by stating that all the major Powers must share the blame for a war that caused around 10 million deaths, 15 million wounded and destroyed four major Empires (as well as 1 million horses). But while she words it in a very politically correct way, if you look at the details, she believes Austria-Hungary and Germany were the main culprits. In so doing, she disagrees with Clark and Mcmeekin. Instead she supports the writings of some leading German scholars and the superb accounts by Albertini, Strachan, Stevenson, and many others that the available evidence would convince any unbiased jury to see the actions of these two countries as a cause.
Professor MacMillan is a Canadian who is Warden of St Antony's College Oxford, She is the author of several best sellers and international relations scholar. She writes beautifully clear English making a 700 page book easy to read. She is authoritative, fair and objective. Her Great Grandfather was David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain during the war from 1916 on.
In her book of 20 chapters she spends 17 of them examining the period from 1900 to 1914. She discusses the many Balkan crises and the Moroccan crises, pointing out how these had all been settled diplomatically. She, like others, mentions how the war had surprised many Europeans given the economic, technological and commercial progress during the previous 30 years. Those like Ivan Bloch, the Polish entrepreneur, who gave, in five brilliant volumes, dire warnings about the nature of a war in the 20th century, were ignored by generals for the simple reason his views, if believed, would have put them out of a job, as were the lessons of the Russo-Japanese war and the American Civil War. This was not the first or last time that the past was to be ignored. The other major reason why few were willing to believe that warfare had changed was because in all previous interstate wars it had been possible to turn a flank. Come Xmas 1914 this was no longer possible. Siege warfare became the name of the game. No general had any knowledge of this nor was it taught in our Staff College. No wonder the learning curve was almost vertical.
Given the focus and structure of her book, it could have been entitled: "European History: 1900-1918." It is `not' a military history book, there being hundreds of those available. Whereas they deal with the: How, When and Who, this book deals with the far more complex question 'Why'.
She addresses the key question, namely, how did an incident in a far away country result in a terrible war, or why did peace fail in 1914 when it held in 1908 and 1912? It is a question that has perplexed many, many historians.
She points out that the war took place among much bellicosity and militarism, and that it was confidently believed that if war came it would be limited as had the wars of 1866 and 1870-71. Only in the Epilogue does she touch briefly on the war and its conduct. The author discusses the various plans for war. These have been misunderstood by many who know little of military matters. These 'plans' reveal that it was only the German plan which involved an attack upon another power (France). It was only that plan which involved the violation of a neutral country, and it was only in the German plan that mobilization meant not preparation but war.
The author , unusually in books on the war, includes a chapter on the importance of the Peace Movement, that was instrumental in setting up the Hague Conferences. This important movement in fact began after the Napoleonic Wars largely due to Quakers and liberal middle class business men. It drew on the ideas of Bentham, Say, Turgot, and James Mill. Its aim was to end war. In fact although it flourished in Britain, France and The USA it met opposition from growing militarism by 1900.
There is very little that is new in this book-how could there be? What makes it so good is the way the author synthesizes the mass of evidence available in such a convincing manner. It is not, to use an overused word, definitive. When interpretation and judgment are the name of the game, there can never be a final agreed verdict.
Her view that it was the handful of decision-makers who failed to control the crisis from escalating, I believe, is very sound. They had grown used to peace. It is people, not systems that cause war. They say, like Bush and Blair did:'Yes' instead of 'No'. What if Kennedy had allowed the Air force Chiefs to have their way and bomb the missile sites in Cuba? What if Obama had not listened to critics and gone ahead and bombed Syrian bases? What if Truman had agreed to 'bomb the Soviets back to the stone age's one very senior general advocated? Wars are determined not by vast impersonal forces. They are the result of deliberate policy decisions by men (almost always men) who are at the mercy of the whole range of human frailties. Unfortunately, there are few signs that our decision-makers today are any different or better than those in 1914 despite the availability of computers and a bevy of special advisers.
The author does not shrink from making a number of analogies with problems in today's world.
However she rightly places little importance on the Sarajevo assassination. It was, at best a pretext for action by Austria-Hungary (with the help of Germany) to destroy Serbia. She could have mentioned also that assassination was all the rage after 1890. Four Presidents (2 American), two Queens, two Prime Ministers, a Shah, two Kings and a Crown Prince were murdered in this period. None it should be noted caused a war.
She also mentions that already on June 30 1914 (5 days before Hoyos's trip to Berlin to discuss it) Wilhelm II wrote:The Serbs must be disposed of, and that right soon.(The War That Ended Peace, p.563)
On July 3, 1914, in fact, the German General Staff expressed that they considered German involvement in a coming war likely and favored it. Or as General of the German Cavalry Wenninger, wrote to the Saxon Minister of War;Berlin, 3 July 1914:
I have to report to your Excellency that in responsible circles here the political situation is regarded as very serious - also for us. At the memorial service for His Imperial Highness Archduke Franz Ferdinand I had the opportunity to talk things over with Generalmajor Count Waldersee, Generalquartiermeister in the Great General Staff. What he said seemed to be the opinion of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army. He opined that we might become involved in a war from one day to the next. Everything depended on what attitude Russia took in the Austro-Serbian business. In any case the course of events was also being closely watched by the Great General Staff. I gained the impression that they would regard it with favor if war were to come about now. Conditions and prospects would never become better for us.
According to MacMillan even the Emperor of Austrian-Hungary showed little concern over the Archduke's demise. The Archduke was disliked by many, yet ironically as he was anti-war he may have been the only person who could have prevented the lemming-like process.
Finally, she also attempts to explain irregular behavior and the difficulty of prediction. Small changes can make systems unstable; this certainly happened in the 19th century.
At the end of the war European dominance of the globe had ended. After the fighting on the Western Front, and elsewhere, Europeans could no longer speak of a civilizing mission to the world. Did it end war? Unfortunately not. We are still awaiting the solution to that question. One fears it will be a long wait.
The Bibliography and Notes are excellent. The maps are adequate, given the focus of the book. I have tested the index, it is sound. It is very pleasing to see that Macmillan thanks her team of researchers: so often these very hard working people are overlooked.
The war was not, as MacMillam says, inevitable. However, as the author shows once it began its course depended on a range of contingent factors. Finding out why war broke out is a very important historical and political endeavor for we need to learn lessons from it even today.
In conclusion also a word of caution, no book of this magnitude and complex subjects combined in one, will be without also some weak points.
For example Macmillan seems to have been to some degree influenced by the latest book about the origins of WWI at the time of writing her own book, Clark The Sleepwalkers,the only other book that makes the unwarranted comparison of those involved with the assassination of the Archduke and Islamic fundamentalists such as Al Qaeda.
Interessante, aber auch erschreckende Analyse über die Konflikte und die Handelnden, die Europa und die Welt in den Grossen krieg trieben. Z.T. etwas ausufernd, auch in den Darstellungen der beteiligten, her nicht wirklich wichtigen Persönlichkeiten. Am Ende reibt man sich die Augen und versteht immer noch nicht, wie es geschehen konnte.