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Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War Paperback – May 13, 2014


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 13, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307743837
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307743831
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Colossal. . . . The first five months of [WWI] have never been told with quite this much drama, sensitivity and poignant detail. . . . A worthy addition to the literature of [WWI]. . . . At a breathtaking pace, the reader is transported to battles in Belgium, France, Serbia, Poland and Prussia. . . . Hastings’s book is the perfect example of what a good journalist can add to the study of war. . . . We need authors like Hastings to remind us of how the best of human spirit can be squandered by the worst of human motive.”
The Washington Post

Catastrophe 1914 brilliantly shows how, within its first few months, World War I came to assume the dispiriting and bloody form it would hold for the next four years.”
The New York Times Book Review
 
“Hastings is in top form. . . . A lively and opinionated account. . . . [Hastings’s] vivid rendering of the first months of a cataclysm that grows more distant with each passing year makes the book a worthy addition to the canon.”
The Christian Science Monitor
 
“Absorbing and compulsively readable. . . . Superb. . . . Like an eagle soaring over this vast terrain, Hastings swoops in and out, spying broad features and telling details alike.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[Hastings is] an outstanding historian . . . a victorious foray. . . . Tuchman has been supplanted.”
The New York Times

“Hastings over the past two decades has become the contemporary premier historian of 20th-century war. . . . The real strength of this story is how Mr. Hastings portrays the principal characters, not as stereotyped tyrants, greedy empire builders or mindless militarists, but rather as very real human beings with as many flaws as virtues.”
Washington Times

“Highly readable. . . . What makes this book really stand out is Mr. Hastings’ deliberate efforts to puncture what he labels the many myths and legends of the events of 1914. . . . His deep research, insightful analysis, and wonderful prose make this an excellent addition to his long library of titles.”
New York Journal of Books

“Hastings argues persuasively that the war’s opening phase had a unique character that merits closer study. . . . Hastings ends his deft narrative and analysis by observing that the price of German victory would have been European democracy itself. Those who died to prevent that victory—despite the catastrophic decisions of 1914—did not die in vain.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Significant. . . . Hastings doesn’t mince words, and one of the chief pleasures of his very readable and engaging account is his mordant humor, and the precision with which he skewers his history’s many fools and mountebanks. . . . He is able to persuasively assess blame and responsibility.”
The Dallas Morning News

“Does the world need another book on that dismal year? Absolutely, if it’s by Hastings. . . . Splendid . . . Readers accustomed to Hastings’ vivid battle descriptions, incisive anecdotes from all participants, and shrewd, often unsettling opinions will not be disappointed. Among the plethora of brilliant accounts of this period, this is one of the best.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Hastings makes a very complicated story understandable in a way that few serious history books manage. An ideal entry into World War I history.”
Library Journal

“Invites consideration as the best in his distinguished career, combining a perceptive analysis of the Great War’s beginnings with a vivid account of the period from August to September of the titular year.”
Publishers Weekly

“Magnificent. . . . Hastings writes with an enviable grasp of pace and balance, as well as an acute eye for human detail. . . . Moving, provocative and utterly engrossing.”
The Sunday Times (UK)

“[Hastings’s] position as Britain’s leading military historian is now unassailable . . . enormously impressive. . . . Magisterial. . . . This is a magnificent and deeply moving book, and with Max Hastings as our guide we are in the hands of a master.”
—The Telegraph (UK)

“A seamless, vivid and compelling narrative. . . . Hastings is a master of the pen portrait and the quirky fact . . . His greatness as a historian—never shown to better effect than in this excellent book—lies in his willingness to challenge entrenched opinion and say what needs to be said.
London Evening Standard (UK)

“Compelling. . . . Told with an equal richness of detail and sure narrative sweep. . . . [A] formidably impressive book.”
The Spectator (UK)

“Forcefully reasserts the thesis of German guilt in Catastrophe. . . . Magnificent. . . . A splendid read.”
The Guardian (UK)

About the Author

Max Hastings is the author of more than twenty books, most recently Inferno: The World at War, 1939–1945. He spent his early career as a foreign correspondent for BBC TV and various newspapers, then as editor of Britain’s Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph. He has received numerous awards for both his books and his journalism. He lives in the English countryside west of London.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
5 star
63%
4 star
25%
3 star
13%
2 star
0%
1 star
0%
See all 8 customer reviews
His attention to detail keeps one glued to the book.
Herbster
There have been a slew of books published this year about World War I, largely due to the fact that we are “celebrating” the hundredth anniversary of the Great War.
Paul J. Markowitz
Don’t worry though, you will still get an assessment of battles, generals, and maneuvers if that’s what you look for in a good military history.
Sondra McClendon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul J. Markowitz on July 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
There have been a slew of books published this year about World War I, largely due to the fact that we are “celebrating” the hundredth anniversary of the Great War. One of the better ones would be Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by the eminent military historian Max Hastings. Hastings as he did with his earlier study of World War II, Inferno: The World at War 1939-1945 - not only marshals the facts, but brings the events and personalities to life.
Hastings covers the traditional subject of whom and what started the war and does not shrink from an analysis of assigning blame for a war that most thought totally unnecessary. While there is considerable blame to be spread around, Germany ultimately tops the list. This analysis of ultimate blame is not so obvious when on so many occasions and in so many countries one finds “lions led by donkeys.”
Where many of the recent books stop with the start of the war, Hastings continues with a description and analysis of the war for its first five months up to the end of 1914. This is where Hastings really excels. As a celebrated military historian, he conveys his knowledge through his vivid battle descriptions and his astute analysis of their significance. The early battles, both on the western and eastern fronts, would set the tone for the next three years. Hastings analysis shows why a decisive victory was highly unlikely.
World War I would, like many a war, find armies and their leaders fighting in a manner consistent with earlier wars only to face technological innovations that would drastically change the equation. The end result is usually mass slaughter, as it was with World War I. With so many countries and people involved, the consequences were bound to be grotesque. Thus was it so here.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sondra McClendon on July 31, 2014
Format: Paperback
What happened to Europe in 1914? Well, WWI started. But what exactly happened is what Max Hastings delves into in Catastrophe 1914. This acclaimed military historian moves from his usual studies of WWII to the First World War and what has been called one of the most “complex series of happenings in history”.

Hastings focuses on several months in 1914 as he describes in vivid detail how the war began and the many, individual battles that followed. Setting aside the typical lists of generals and tactical maneuvers (tedious), he chooses instead to couple his extensive knowledge of this era with diary entries, letters, etc. from the period to give a more well-rounded view of what really went on.

Don’t worry though, you will still get an assessment of battles, generals, and maneuvers if that’s what you look for in a good military history. But you’ll also get extra color. You’ll cross seven nations and see through the eyes of everyone from soldiers to housewives. In this way, Hastings demonstrates the truths of war in a very interesting way.

This period in history was full of drama and Catastrophe 1914 captures the frenzy amazingly well. A must-read for WWI buffs.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on September 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
I've read many of Max Hastings' books over the years, most of his World War II stuff, for instance, and I've generally enjoyed it. This book, though it's on World War I, continues the trend. I enjoyed the book and the way it was constructed, for the most part. Hastings concentrates on the start of the fighting itself, focusing on the opening moves on the battlefields and their impact on the rest of the war. The result is a fascinating look at how the fighting developed, with the author making sure to avoid looking back at the fighting from 1918 and imagining trench warfare from the beginning.

I did have one complaint, though. The maps are pretty inadequate, given how much detail is included in them. My rule is that there shouldn't be a place name in a book's narrative that isn't on a map, if you have maps. Military maneuvers that are depicted on maps should all be in the narrative, and vice versa. This book violates these rules both several times. The maps especially depict things like cavalry raids that are never mentioned in the text, and some of them are way too busy, with numerous villages that aren't in the text on the map. The text, by contrast, has places (villages and streams, typically) which are absent from any of the maps, near as I could tell.

One other annoyance: Hastings apparently speaks French, but doesn't speak German. This means that all of the German that appears in the text is translated, but he often produces whole sentences, sometimes several, in French without translation. I finally had to bookmark my French-English translator on my cellphone so I could continue reading this book; not something I found particularly appealing about it. I liked the book, but that I found annoying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By millipede on November 19, 2014
Format: Paperback
Max Hastings writes an interesting account not only of the thinking and actions of statesmen and generals but also of the experience and feelings of ordinary soldiers during the first half year of World War 1. He talks about what happened on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. He talks about the mystery of the war: "Posterity has puzzled endlessly over how the leaderships of the world's greatest powers, mostly composed of men no more stupid or wicked than their modern counterparts, could first have allowed the war to happen, then continued it for four more years." Hastings position on the war is that the German military (personified by the Chief of Staff Moltke), feeling they were temporarily in a position militarily to be able to dominate Europe, looked for an excuse to start a war in 1914 and found the murder of the Archduke Ferdinand a good pretext for doing this. Thus Austria-Hungary was told Germany would back it if they issued an unacceptable ultimatum to Serbia that would likely bring the Russians then France and then England into the war, making it a World War, with all of the misery that followed. Hastings believes that, once having entered the war, the military clique became so dominant and were so power-mad that any attempt by anyone within or outside Germany to stop the war prior to the defeat of Germany would have been disastrous for the future of Europe and mankind. In taking this position, Hastings is reacting to a different position by Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War. Ferguson takes the position that Germany was basically a civilized nation that would have, if unopposed, imposed an economic union on Europe not much different than the European Union that now exists.Read more ›
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