Customer Review

143 of 168 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good literature, mediocre history, August 5, 2008
This review is from: The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic About the Outbreak of World War I (Mass Market Paperback)
First, I really enjoyed this book. I believe Tuchman did a masterful job of giving life to the people and events that led to WWI. This book is well worth reading, but only for what it is: half-history, half-literature.

This is not the place to start if you want to understand what led to WWI. The author does have a distinct anti-German bias that glosses over most of the complexities that influenced Germany's actions. Given when the book was written, this bias is understandable, but it does affect its historical value. Moreover, Serbia and the Hapsburgs are essentially footnotes in this book when in reality, they are essential for understanding the causes of the war. When you ignore Serbia and Austro-Hungary, well, all you're left with is Germany acting like a belligerent punk under the hand of the man-child Wilhelm II.

Also, Tuchman definitely prefers some individuals over others. For example, she gives Sir French pretty short-shrift in comparison to Lord Kitchener when in reality, there was more than enough incompetence to go around (not that I would have done any better than they).

I do whole-heartedly recommend this book, but only as a halfway step from history to fiction, perhaps sandwiched between A World Undone and All Quiet on the Western Front.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 27, 2009 1:27:36 PM PDT
It told me of the shortcomings of this book, gave me a timely warning

Posted on Aug 25, 2009 4:53:12 AM PDT
sonnojoi says:
According to Fromkin's "Europe's Last Summer," the Hapsburg war on Serbia was entirely separate from WWI, other than Russia's half-mobilization was the excuse German military and civilian leaders (principally Moltke) were waiting for to start a premeditated war. So "Germany acting like a belligerent punk under the hand of the man-child Wilhelm II" may be pretty close to the truth, although Wilhelm for all his problems was against the war, which is subordinates maneuvered to create behind his back.

Posted on Jun 23, 2011 9:15:13 AM PDT
H. Childs says:
I appreciate the notes about bias, other viewpoints, and that you still appreciate the book. This will help me to accept it for what it is -- forewarned, my politics and biases will have less impact.

Posted on Nov 2, 2012 7:09:39 PM PDT
aw_muc says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Jun 2, 2013 8:59:42 AM PDT
JH says:
Calling this book half fiction is a step too far. However, leaving out the details about the Serbian and Austria-Hungarian conflict is a detraction from the book. John Keegan provides a great description of the indecisive handling of the situation by the Austria-Hungarians. Tuchman's position is that whatever the spark World War I was inevitable because of the leaders and actions taken so far. She provides a broader perspective and detail that Keegan does not have the time to get into because he explores the whole war.

But the war was caused by the insecurity and history between the various parties. Forming alliances that complicated the policies of the individual countries. Wilhelm can be blamed for putting Germany in the position they were in (bellicose rhetoric, losing Russia as an ally, challenging Britain for control of the sea) and allowing Austria-Hungary to determine its fate. Germany's military can be blamed for rushing to action and limiting the time to resolve the conflict. Russia can be blamed for pre-mobilization and bolstering Serbian resolve. Serbia for inciting terrorism and not accepting the consequences of its actions. There is enough blame to go around. Everyone had a motivation to act in the manner that they did, but no one was strong enough to take the high road and disarm the situation.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2013 5:02:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 18, 2013 5:05:11 PM PDT
sonnojoi,
Actually Russia was the first country to FULLY mobilize to supposedly protect the belligerent state known as Serbia.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 3, 2014 8:42:39 PM PDT
The French were itching for a fight with the Germans so they could redeem themselves from the humiliation in 1870 and the loss of Alsace. Plan 17 was the French vision to defeat the Prussians. The French ploy to get the Germans to shoot first was a lesson they learned from Bismark in 1870. By getting the Germans to shoot first, the French were able to take the high moral ground. But do not be mistaken, Joffre wanted war as bad as Moltke.
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