The world of nihilistic terrorist conspiracy, paranoid empires and diplomatic opportunism that Fromkin (In the Time of the Americans) describes in this terrific account of WWI's underpinnings will seem eerily familiar to 21st-century denizens. Fromkin allies a direct, compulsively readable style with a daunting command of sources old and new, unrolling a complex skein of events with assurance and wit and dispatching numerous conventional wisdoms. The view (most influentially stated in Barbara Tuchman's Vietnam-era Guns of August), that the war, unwanted by all, was the result of an unfortunate series of accidents, is neutralized by the clearly presented evidence of careful premeditation and planning on the part of Germany and Austro-Hungary, as is the more recent assertion of Niall Ferguson's The Pity of War that if only the rest of Europe had acceded to Germany's imperial ambitions, the whole business might have been avoided. The enormity of the horrors unleashed in that fateful summerand the culpability of all sides in exacerbating themhas made laying blame for the war squarely at the foot of the German and Austrian leadership unfashionable, but the evidence assembled by Fromkin is strong. His pictures of a Germany feeling itself (without real cause) surrounded, convinced of an imminent national demise from which only war could save it and of the Kafkaesque Austro-Hungarian empire lurching toward Armageddon are pitiless and sharp. Readers who ate up Margaret MacMillan's account of the war's aftermath, in Paris 1919, shouldn't miss this equally accomplished chronicle of its beginning.
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*Starred Review* Fromkin's answer to the question posed in his subtitle is succinct: Helmuth von Moltke, imperial Germany's army chief in 1914. In his clearly delineated argument, Fromkin addresses alternative theories about the cause of World War I, but he returns to the decision chain of a small number of officials in Berlin and Vienna. Their destruction of key evidence hampers the precise reconstruction of their actions as does, Fromkin maintains, historians' confusion about what the Germans were licensing in agreeing to whatever chastisement Vienna decided to deliver upon Serbia, on the pretext of avenging the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. In contrast to theorists of rigid alliances, to whom the notorious "blank check" initiated events almost beyond human control, Fromkin arraigns the actions of Moltke and his colleagues, especially in late July 1914, when the procrastinating Austrians had yet to crush Serbia in war, as Moltke expected. Hijacking the bollixed-up situation, he overrode Kaiser Wilhelm II's resistance, Fromkin concludes, to a deliberate instigation of a second war against Russia and France. The boldness of Fromkin's argument is enough to warrant attention, but his fluidity of expression guarantees a large audience for this book. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Best book on the origins and outbreak of WW1 that I have read.Published 13 days ago by Martin P Adams
This is the first comprehensive study of the period leading to WWI that I have read, and it follows my having read two personal accounts of the devastation of trench warfare. Read morePublished 3 months ago by chauvesouris
It is not an academic read, but concisely gives an account of the start of the Great War.Published 6 months ago by Wilford Godwin
Excellent book - and it can be read in
less than 24 hours. What more can you
The book challenges the long-held belief that Europe simply blundered into war, with all parties equally responsible. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Sonia Kantor
Author David Fromkin's approach to the origins of WWI eschews multifacted explanations of the war's genesis and endeavors to place the blame on specific individuals—primarily on... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Anthony Sarmiento
A good book, but the author gets too bogged down in details that are interesting but not worth lengthening book for. I found myself skipping over parts as a result.Published 11 months ago by LTSafford