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Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives!: A World without World War I Hardcover – January 7, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


One of the 7 Books You Should Own (Belfast Telegraph)

Lebow persuasively argues that the outbreak of world war was contingent on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand…. So, what if there had been no First World War? Lebow imagines the best and worst plausible worlds…. These forays are fun. (The Times (London))

Richard Ned Lebow is a prolific political scientist who uses counter-factual hypotheses to illuminate the possibilities of a far from simple situation in Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives! (Financial Times)

A well-written, thought-provoking read, particularly for people with a keen interest in modern history. (Discover Your History magazine)

A curious look at an alternative history. (Your Family Tree magazine)

Lebow's 'counterfactual' worlds are fascinating… This is an entertaining and plausible series of 'what-ifs' that makes us pause and consider the contingency of what we are pleased to call the real world. (New Internationalist magazine)

The thought-experiments in Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives! serve purposes on multiple levels. At its core, Alternate History has always been an intriguing chance to ponder "what if?" Through Lebow's work, we may see further through analysis that we can apply to our own world and judge our own trends in culture, and science, and political leadership. (BlogCritics)

Lebow has written a sharp… work that many with an interest in the first world war will enjoy. As well as providing a "what-if" analysis of a world without the conflict, Archduke Franz Ferdinand Lives! invites us to reflect in new and unexpected ways on the connectedness of things - and on the unpredictability of history. (The Observer)

Astute, challenging exercises in consequence and contingency. (Kirkus Reviews)

Though we can't escape the realities of our past, Lebow provides his readers with exciting alternatives to consider (Publishers Weekly)

What if WWI had never happened? No Nazis, no Bolsheviks, no Holocaust, no WWII, no Cold War, perhaps no nuclear weapons. Then again: Kaiser and Tsar would have ruled the 20th century, holding back democracy and decolonization. A century of peace would have delayed war-related inventions like radar, penicillin, nuclear energy, long-distance air travel, computers. Without frenzied industrialization in the service of war, no Black mass migration to the North - and neither civil rights nor Obama. Ned Lebow has produced the most sophisticated "what-if" history in many years. Read this fascinating book to jog your mind and to understand the worst and best century in world history - why we are where we are now. (Josef Joffe, Publisher-Editor of Die Zeit, and Distinguished Fellow, Stanford University)

An extraordinary counterfactual book.… The playful alternatives that Ned Lebow so cleverly constructs have a serious purpose in helping to explain the failures and success of the 20th Century. (Sir Richard Dearlove KCMG, OBE, former head of MI6 and Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge)

If you ever had doubts about why the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife so changed our lives, you won't after reading Richard Ned Lebow's prodigy of historical speculation. Can there be a book that better explains why the counterfactual matters? (Robert Cowley, editor of the WHAT IF? Series)

This is a thoughtful, insightful and provocative study which will intrigue a broad range of readers. Ned Lebow's impressive deconstruction of the events leading to World War I and its shattering consequences is a timely reminder that policy decisions based on linear predictions are often wrong and that contingencies and the unexpected must be considered very carefully by policy makers before pursuing the path to war. That lesson is particularly relevant today and Lebow is to be congratulated for presenting it so effectively. (Kenneth S. Yalowitz, US Ambassador (ret.))

About the Author

Richard Ned Lebow is professor of International Political Theory in the Department of War Studies at King's College London and James O. Freedman Presidential Professor Emeritus of Government at Dartmouth College. He is also a bye-fellow of Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge, and the author of almost 30 books. His work has been cited in The New York Times , The Wall Street Journal , and The Economist , and he has been interviewed on NPR, the BBC, CSPAN, and German, French, and Italian radio and television. He lives in London, England and Etna, New Hampshire.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1137278536
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137278531
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #927,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Randy Stafford VINE VOICE on March 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Professor Lebow's book contains something to interest everybody and, as a total package, will probably satisfy few.

The veteran reader of alternate histories will get impatient with the length of the first chapter explaining the idea of counterfactuals and the place of contingency in history.

The reader interested in World War I will find too little following the "sharp agate point" (to borrow a phrase from Winston's Churchill's foray into alternate history) on which Lebow's worlds deviate from ours.

The three alternate histories Lebow gives us when World War I fails to occur seem too little developed and too heavily emphasize the place of certain ethnic and racial groups in this world.

This is not to say Lebow's work is implausible. Part of the fascination with World War 1's origins is that it is filled with contingencies. Lebow starts with the Archduke surviving his trip to Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. In depicting the consequent events, Lebow, a "political psychologist", chooses to concentrate on personalities, particularly Kaiser Wilhelm's and Franz Ferdinand's. He argues that 1914-1917 were the danger years, that after that period the war, never inevitable, became less likely. In the academic language he sometimes lapses into, he concentrates on the agents, the people, of history and not the structure, the circumstances.

And the worlds he describes are plausible. He may spend, for my taste, too much time covering the fate of individual European Jews who don't end up in America absent a Nazi regime to chase them out of Europe, but, if you're going to talk about the development of classical music, science, and movies in the Western World, Jews are important.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Miranda on March 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover
What If books are a common thing anymore, and a world without the world wars is a common topic in them. Lebow takes a different tack than I've seen before. What I've read prviously makes me think that Germany and Austria-Hungary would have used any slight pretext for war, and lacking a good one would have created one themselves. Lebow sees them as more cautious but doesn't ever explain way.

Organization is a big problem in this book. The very last chapter "A Look Back at the Real World" actually focuses mainly on the What If world, and rather than summarizing and strengthening his positions he uses it to bring up topics he's barely addressed in the rest of the book.

He switches between the real world and What If world in the middle of paragraphs, and the only real separation comes when he talks about the differing lives of specific people in the middle chapters. He mentions changes as if he's already explained them but that explanation comes chapters later or not at all.

At times he directly contradicts himself. First he mentions in passing that JFK's older brother Joe, killed in WWII, would become president without the world wars. Then later he says JFK never would have been nominated without the wars due to pervasive anti-Catholic bias, then chapters later he's back to Joe as president, nothing about how he overcame the more severe Catholic bias of the imagined world. There were several of these contradictions.

Lebow gives a random date for the creation of a League of Nations in a world without the wars, but no explanation for why it would come about at that time.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Steven M. Anthony on January 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I’ve read many alternative histories, and when done well, they can be outstanding. In my experience, the alternative histories I have been exposed to have been works of fiction. After all, it has to be fiction, right? This work, on the other hand is a bit different. It is almost written in the style of Masters thesis or even a high school report. The author doesn’t deal in alternative history; his term is “counterfactuals”. He begins with the premise that Archduke Franz Ferdinand survived the 1914 assassination attempt in Sarajevo, thus subverting World War I. He then maps out several potential history paths that may have emerged as a result.

Now, first of all, I didn’t exactly find this to be captivating reading, or even very interesting. The style of the work (as noted above) is not conducive to entertainment. Worse, however, I found many of the author’s conclusions to be just silly, and or clearly erroneous.

His primary “counterfactual” is that if Franz Ferdinand had not been assassinated, Europe would have enjoyed 100 years of peace. If your assumption is that WWI never occurred, then you might have an argument. However, I suspect most historians are in agreement that the Sarajevo incident was merely the trigger that released the long pent up military buildups and diplomatic maneuvering that precipitated the war. The author’s assertion that nobody really wanted a war is flatly not true. The statement flies in the face of the rapturous celebrations that broke out in every European capital when war broke out. Pacifism was simply not a political stance that held much sway in 1914. It was only AFTER the horrors of WWI that pacifism spread through Europe.
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