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Decisions for War, 1914-1917 Hardcover – December 13, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0521836791 ISBN-10: 0521836794 Edition: 0th
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Editorial Reviews


"The debate on the origins of the First World War remains one of historyas most important and hotly contested topics, and this excellent book does it justice by presenting up-to-the minute research in a refreshingly accessible way. The breadth of its coverage is especially impressive, with Hamilton and Herwig treating the outbreak of the war as a global rather than merely a European event. Quite simply, this is the best introduction to the origins of the 1914-18 war yet published."
Dr. Gary Sheffield, Senior Lecturer in History, Kingas College London

"The First World War was it an accident or was it design? Historians have debated this question for 90 years, and this latest contribution, aimed at a general audience, offers comparative conclusions about the major and minor powers' motivations for fighting in World War I. Hamilton and Herwig make a convincing case for the importance of human agency in the decisions for war, ranging from a forced hand, blunder or miscalculation, to decisions calculated to provoke a conflict. This book is a welcome contribution to the continuing debate on the origins of the First World War and will provide readers with a useful guide through the maze of conflicting interpretations on this controversial subject."
Dr. Annika Mombauer, Senior Lecturer, The Open University, UK

"This book is an abridged version of the collection of essays edited by the same two authors, The Origins of World War I (Cambridge University Press, 2003). The footnotes have been removed and its text and bibliography skillfully abridged in order to produce a shorter and cheaper edition that can be made more readily accessible to students and the general reader. This wider accessibility is greatly to be welcomed. The book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date account available of the decisions that led first to the outbreak of the First World War and then to intervention by most of the global powers. A strong feature is the authors' comparative approach, which focuses attention on who made the crucial decisions in each country, how they did so (in what institutional context), and why they acted as they did.
Prof. David Stevenson, Department of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science

"Make this well-written work required reading for anyone interested in the origins of the First World War."
John H. Morrow, JR., The International History Review

"As a book intended for class use, Decisions for War succeeds in introducing students to the major issues and controversies relating to the outbreak of World War I." Canadian Journal of History Frederic Krome, American Jewish Archives

Book Description

Decisions for War focuses on the choices made by small coteries, in Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France, Britain, and elsewhere to address an easy, yet perplexing, question--why did World War I happen? In each case, the decision to enter the war was made by a handful of individuals--monarchs, ministers, military people, party leaders, ambassadors, and a few others. In each case also, we see separate and distinct agendas, the considerations differing from one nation to the next. The leadership of not just the major countries, but also Japan, the Ottoman Empire, Italy, the Balkans, and the United States are explored.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (December 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521836794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521836791
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,511,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andreas Wozny on September 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
The book is organized in the order the involved countries decided to go to war, starting with Austria-Hungary and ending with the United States. It breaks down who was involved in the decision making and shows that neither the euphoria of the masses nor the duties of the alliances were the true reason for their decisions. The reasons ranged from stopping the self- perceived decline of the country, to better now than later, to preventing Germany from becoming the sole power on the continent and many others. It further shows how the greater powers dragged smaller countries into this enormous struggle on basis of promises that mostly weren't kept after the war or were the seed for the coming Second World War. It furthermore shows that the reason for the Great War cannot be understood without the knowledge of the prior conflicts like the Balkan Wars, Russian-Japanese war, Italy's annexation of later Libya to name just a few. The book created the desire to know more about this pivotal time period and I just bought July 1914 by Sean McMeekin.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading Decisions for War, 1914-1917, by Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig. Hamilton and Herwig’s thesis is that the decisions made by the “nations” for war was made by small coteries of “elites” within each nation. They compare their thesis with the tradition theories of uncontrolled nationalism, imperialism, social Darwinism, and my favorite, entangling alliances.
I appreciated the way the book began with a chapter on The Great War: A Review of the Explanations. The information provided was excellent. The authors mention that the French Revolution was a result of France’s financial difficulties brought on in part by French support to the United States during the American Revolution, this is a fact most Americans are unaware of. The author’s explanation of the battle death rates and intensity rates of the First and Second World Wars and other wars brought into perspective just how devastating the First and Second World Wars were. Their theory that there were actually seven world wars is also interesting as well as enlightening.
I thought Hamilton and Herwig did an outstanding job organizing the book in a way that the reader could absorb the written information concerning one nation before moving on to the next. Often a reader becomes confused by who said or did what, and when, while reading about the causes of both World Wars. Organizing the book by devoting a chapter to each nation so the reader can learn, instead of just reading, was brilliant.
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Format: Paperback
The origins of the Great War have long been debated, with an abundant historiography discussing the causes of the great catastrophe. Among this vast literature at least 17 books have the title Origins of the First World War. The major themes include the alliance system, nationalism, social Darwinism, economic imperialism, militarism and the arms race, press agitation, the accidental war - that the initial combatants unintentionally slid into such a catastrophic war, and the domestic cause theme - that conservative elites, faced with serious internal threats, chose war to save their positions.

In this thoroughly interesting and revealing study, the authors take a different tack, and get down to the nuts and bolts of how the respective nations actually became embroiled in the war. Eschewing the traditional themes, Hamilton and Herwig argue that a small coterie of no more than eight or ten men made the decision to go to war, and in some cases such as France, one dominant figure played the key role. In doing so, each group was motivated by separate and distinct sets of concerns. The authors make their case well, and remind us that over the course of history, the Great War was actually World War VII

Following a review of the above themes, and setting the scene of the international tensions prior to the war with an overview of the European Wars between 1815 and 1914 that undid the Congress of Vienna’s ‘balance of power’, the authors deal chronologically with each of the principal countries that entered the war between 1914 and 1917. Each gets a separate chapter, except Japan and the Ottoman Empire which share one, as do Bulgaria, Romania and Greece.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Reel on August 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is the abridged version--original is much too expensive.
Book's thesis: a handful of men were responsible for WWI; not the alliance system, not militarism, not nationalism, etc. Interesting arguments, especially on industry and banking interests having nothing to do with the start of the war, but I'm not sure I can believe social factors had little to nothing to do with the war.
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8 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Eugene Fleisher on September 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
Very good and scholarly work. This book could only have been written when many of the "secret archives" became available after the Berlin wall came down. Many of the German documents were stored in eastern Germany, thus unavailable to modern scholars of the period. Austria wanted to have a "small" Balkan war that they could win quickly. The various treaties between

France, Russia,and Great Britain on one side, and Germany, Austia-Hungary, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria etc.on the other. A faction in the Serbian military were supporting a secret conflict to destabilize Bosnia-Hersgovenia a part of the Austo-Hugarian Empire, by supplying Serbian "freedom" fighters with arms.The resulting bad luck and wrong turn lead to the death of Franz-Ferdinand, and his wife.They really killed the wrong man; Franz-Ferdinand was in favor of allowing the small Balkan countries to unite.

Austria wanted to punish Serbia for its roll in this assination. With Austria afraid of the Russians, coming to the aid of Serbia, they approached, Kaiser Willhem II of Germany. Germany thus gave Austria, Carte-Blanche to go to war against Serbia. Austria and

Germany, thought they would have a fast victorius war,and would be the new superpowers in Central Europe. Once they got that ball rolling everything fell into place exactly wrong.

Three Empires (Russia, Germany, and Austria-Hungary were toppled...and the seeds of Hitler's rise to power would bud in 20 more years. The best example of the Law of Un-Intended Consequences ever seen;and another example of brinksmanship followed to its logical end by diplomats, Generals and foolish leaders, on almost all sides. Austria-Hungary, and Willhem of Germany, getting the most of the points for blame
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