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The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 Kindle Edition

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Length: 746 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The immense documentation of the origin of WWI, remarks historian Clark, can be marshaled to support a range of theses, and it but weakly sustains, in the tenor of his intricate analysis, the temptation to assign exclusive blame for the cataclysm to a particular country. Dispensing with a thesis, Clark interprets evidence in terms of the character, internal political heft, and external geopolitical perception and intention of a political actor. In other words, Clark centralizes human agency and, especially, human foibles of misperception, illogic, and emotion in his narrative. Touching on every significant figure in European diplomacy in the decade leading to August 1914, Clark underscores an entanglement of an official’s fluctuating domestic power with a foreign interlocutor’s appreciation, accurate or not, of that official’s ability to make something stick in foreign policy. As narrative background, Clark choreographs the alliances and series of crises that preceded the one provoked by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, but he focuses on the men whose risk-taking mistakes detonated WWI. Emphasizing the human element, Clark bestows a tragic sensibility on a magisterial work of scholarship. --Gilbert Taylor

Review

Formidable ... one of the most impressive and stimulating studies of the period ever published -- Max Hastings Sunday Times Easily the best book ever written on the subject ... A work of rare beauty that combines meticulous research with sensitive analysis and elegant prose. The enormous weight of its quality inspires amazement and awe ... Academics should take note: Good history can still be a good story Washington Post A lovingly researched work of the highest scholarship. It is hard to believe we will ever see a better narrative of what was perhaps the biggest collective blunder in the history of international relations -- Niall Ferguson [Reading The Sleepwalkers], it is as if a light had been turned on a half-darkened stage of shadowy characters cursing among themselves without reason ... [Clark] demolishes the standard view ... The brilliance of Clark's far-reaching history is that we are able to discern how the past was genuinely prologue ... In conception, steely scholarship and piercing insights, his book is a masterpiece -- Harold Evans New York Times Book Review Impeccably researched, provocatively argued and elegantly written ... a model of scholarship Sunday Times Books of the Year Superb ... effectively consigns the old historical consensus to the bin ... It's not often that one has the privilege of reading a book that reforges our understanding of one of the seminal events of world history Mail Online A monumental new volume ... Revelatory, even revolutionary ... Clark has done a masterful job explaining the inexplicable Boston Globe Superb ... One of the great mysteries of history is how Europe's great powers could have stumbled into World War I ... This is the single best book I have read on this important topic -- Fareed Zakaria A meticulously researched, superbly organized, and handsomely written account Military History Clark is a masterly historian ... His account vividly reconstructs key decision points while deftly sketching the context driving them ... A magisterial work Wall Street Journal This compelling examination of the causes of World War I deserves to become the new standard one-volume account of that contentious subject Foreign Affairs A brilliant contribution Times Higher Education Clark is fully alive to the challenges of the subject ... He provides vivid portraits of leading figures ... [He] also gives a rich sense of what contemporaries believed was at stake in the crises leading up to the war Irish Times In recent decades, many analysts had tended to put most blame for the disaster [of the First World War] on Germany. Clark strongly renews an older interpretation which sees the statesmen of many countries as blundering blindly together into war -- Stephen Howe Independent BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Product Details

  • File Size: 4404 KB
  • Print Length: 746 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reprint edition (March 19, 2013)
  • Publication Date: March 19, 2013
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008B1BL4E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,939 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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147 of 151 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Teese on September 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The standard mid-20th century narrative explained how WW1 happened: Europe was a tinderbox primed for war; the assassination of an obscure Austrian arch-duke not important in itself, merely the match struck which finally plunged the continent into a war that was waiting to happen; then a quick cut to the military mechanics: who mobilized when and where. Somewhat mystifying and ultimately unsatisfying considering the scope and the horrific after-shock of WW1. I could never settle for "it just happened".

What I liked right away about Christopher Clark's book is that he takes the Sarajevo assassination seriously, he takes the Serbian assassins seriously, he tells us more about that obscure Austrian arch-duke. He devotes the first two chapters of his book to the history of Serbia and its relationship to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With a few swift strokes he sketches in how the Austro-Hungarian Empire came to be, writing as if the reader knows nothing about central European history and needs to be brought up to speed. He elucidates great power tensions arising from the declining Ottoman Empire; what that decline meant for Russian interests in the Turkish Straits; the effect of that on Russia's relationship with Austro-Hungary.... I could feel myself relaxing into this book right away. Serbs, Russians, Hungarians, Austrians, Bulgarians and Ottoman Turks -- it reminded me of my favorite WW2 novelist Alan Furst who writes about the lesser-known venues of the war. A new perspective on the familiar story, and illuminating because of that.

The particular strength of Clark's history is elucidation of the great power alliance systems of pre-war Europe, starting in the 1890's.
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393 of 420 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 on March 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Which was most important, the spark or the powder keg? There are probably enough books on the origins of the First World War to rebuild the great wall of China with. Thanks to the influence of the 'annales' school and its long view of history, however, and then of Marxist thinking and its predilection for structural causes, most of that literature has focused on the powder keg. In Sleepwalkers, Clark chooses to ask about the spark: how the First World War came about rather than why, though how is of course also expected to inform the question why. The book thus devotes close attention to Balkan politics, and it includes what must be one of the most detailed accounts of the Sarajevo murders anywhere. In this sense and to a degree, it is a return to the 'battles and princes' history of earlier times. Look for irony in this if you like, but Clark makes the point that our twenty-first century multi-polar world, with its fluid politics and shock-prone environment - think 9/11 and its aftermath - resembles the pre-WWI era more than much of the twentieth century, and perhaps makes that era more approachable.

Sleepwalkers is actually divided into three sections. The first, which I found the best, deals with the Balkans, Serbian irredentism, the Black Hand, and the Habsburgs' fraught involvement and Russo-French investment in the region. The second teases out longer-term risk factors over the ten to fifteen years to 1914, and the third section puts the characters and events immediately leading to the war declarations under the microscope. Inevitably the book's second section rehashes already well-covered points: the hardening of the alliance system, mobilisation plans, colonial competition, though it does make the important argument that not every trend pointed towards military confrontation.
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Sullivan on August 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You know how it goes. I venture to say that we general History readers could pretty readily agree that the causative factors recited in most World War I accounts are pretty rudimentary and follow a well-trod narrative (or series of them). Aside from the British and German naval build-up's and other peripheral military and diplomatic chess-playing, there invariably comes the discussion of Balkan unrest. Serbia and its neighbors were a `powder keg' ripe for detonation. Austria-Hungary was the tired old man unable to retain its grasp on its southeastern putative possessions. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

To the extent I've thought about it, and I have, my feelings have been mixed about learning more about the Balkan background than typically is provided in these tomes. After all, one could fairly speculate about the reasons why the accounts are usually so adumbrated. It could be, for instance, that many historians who purport to be WWI `experts' really don't understand this tangled web themselves and are simply anxious to satisfy their readers' expectations by getting on to the fighting as expeditiously as possible. But it strikes me as more likely that they are of the mind that we `general' readers simply don't have the patience to wade through a detailed explanation of who in the Balkans did what to whom in the years preceding the conflagration, and what effects these events had on the relations of the Great Powers. After all, sitting still for this stuff could be like listening to a lecture on the Peloponnesian Wars delivered in ancient Greek.
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