Was a European war inevitable in 1914? That's the question that author/historian Paul Ham attempts to answer in "1913: The Eve of War." Regarding the build-up to the war, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August is clearly the classic work on the subject. Ms. Tuchman thoroughly covered all the political and military aspects of the long build-up to war. So does Paul Ham, but his book approaches the subject a bit differently. Guns of August focused on the high-level political and military developments in the decades prior to the war. Ham covers this too, but he also describes the cultural and social developments that resulted in millions of young European men willingly volunteering to fight in the trenches for their country.
Ham concludes that the European nations did not just stumble into war; instead, by the end of 1913, the political and military leaders of the European nations saw war as a necessity. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 was only the spark that set off the inevitable war.
It's a well written book, a concise look at the state of the European nations in the early 20th century, and the many factors that led to the Great War. I'm not a historian, so I can't say with any certainly how accurate the author's conclusions are, but he's done a fine job of describing the various events and circumstances that resulted in a war that produced 37 million casualties.