- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (April 9, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780465031450
- ISBN-13: 978-0465031450
- ASIN: 0465031455
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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July 1914: Countdown to War 1st Edition
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McMeekin’s sally into the ever-burgeoning genre of WWI origin stories does not refrain, as does historian Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers, from apportioning blame for the outbreak of the war. This can be a tricky task for historians, complicated by documentary gaps about the July 1914 crisis, which indicate some of the power players involved destroyed or doctored evidence. Historian David Fromkin (Europe’s Last Summer, 2004) seized on this to indict Germany as the primary instigator of WWI. While hardly absolving Germany, McMeekin argues that the principal suspects are the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Sazonov, and the French president, Raymond Poincaré, both of whom also altered evidence during the same period. McMeekin incorporates diplomatic exchanges among the powers, which both acknowledge responsibility and attempt to saddle their opponents with the brunt of it, and grants the Entente powers better success than the Triple Alliance at the high-risk, not to say cynical, operation of assigning blame for starting a continental European war. Alluding to historical controversies, McMeekin ably delivers what readers demand from a WWI-origins history: a taut rendition of the July 1914 crisis. --Gilbert Taylor
[A] gripping and well-researched new book. In prose of admirable clarity, [McMeekin] relates the enormously complex events of that fateful summer.... In his day-by-day and even hour-by-hour account, [McMeekin] brings a sprawling cast of characters to life.”
[McMeekin is] a young, talented historian.... [He] is scrupulously fair and judicious in assigning blame.... McMeekin has written a fascinating and original study of the opening stages of World War I, a book that supersedes, in my view, any previous study of that great topic.”
Harold Evans, New York Times Book Review
The historiography of World War I is immense, more than 25,000 volumes and articles even before next year's centenary. Still, ... Sean McMeekin, in July 1914, [offers a] new perspective.... McMeekin has chosen the zoom lens. He opens with a crisp but vivid reconstruction of the double murder in the sunshine of Sarajevo, then concentrates entirely on unraveling the choreography day by day.”
July 1914 is a carefully-researched diplomatic history of the month leading up to World War I. Well-written, it reconstructs the tensions and turmoil as well as the confusion and blundering of the diplomats who guided Europe into its most destructive war. It concludes with an excellent analysis of the responsibilities and failures of the major figures.”
Dallas Morning News
The conventional wisdom of the last 100 years holds that Germany's desire for empire and cultural hegemony turned Princip's deed into an excuse for war. Barbara Tuchman's famed history, The Guns of August, makes the most of this case. Sean McMeekin...argues that ambitions in Russia and France were at least as responsible and traces the foibles of Europe's major powers in a month that launched a disaster for them all.... McMeekin praises Tuchman's 1962 epic for inspiring him to write July 1914. What he's delivered is a strong challenge to The Guns of August.”
MHQ: Quarterly Journal of Military History
McMeekin is a wonderful storyteller, with a keen eye for the descriptive act, person, or scene.”
The Independent (London)
Lucid, convincing and full of rich detail, the book is a triumph for the narrative method and a vivid demonstration that chronology is the logic of history.”
McMeekin's account is particularly worth reading for the weight it puts on the French and Russian contribution in taking the continent to war, drawing on his excellent previous book The Russian Origins of the Frist World War.... [A] refreshingly original counterpoint to the traditional focus on Germany above all.”
Sunday Express (London)
Sean McMeekin's splendid July 1914 unravels all the shenanigans, bluffs and bunglings by which Europe's leaders and diplomats turned a minor murder in a Balkans backwater into total war.... McMeekin has rendered the complicated events of that fateful month as clearly and vividly as anyone could desire.”
[A] fascinating study of Austrian and German ham-handed diplomacy (bordering on cluelessness) combined with Russian and French duplicity, with a dose of British disengagement added for good measure.”
World War One Historical Association Magazine
[McMeekin's] recounting of the imbroglio of July 1914 reads like a crime novel with personality sketches of the primary actors such as the belligerent Austrian Chief Of Staff von Hötzendoff and the shifty Serbian Premier Nicola Pasic.”
Journal of Military History
McMeekin convincingly challenges, as others are now doing, the more usual view of Germany as the driving force behind the war.... [His] explication of the successive diplomatic steps to war makes it easy for any reader to see the missed chances for possible negotiation or a slowing of the momentum to war.”
San Antonio Express-News
In an intimate narrative, McMeekin...delves into the five weeks between the assassination and Britain's declaration of war, shedding new light on the conflict.... From a failed assassination attempt to a world war, McMeekin skillfully dissects the catastrophic events of July 1914.... July 1914 is an eye-opening elucidation on the beginning days of a war that was to end all wars.”
Sunday Times (London)
[A] work of meticulous scholarship.... It is McMeekin's description of the details of life in the European capitals comparatively small events which influenced great decisions which make July 1914 irresistible.... It is that sort of intimacy which makes the story come alive as well as confirming the assiduity with which it has been researched.”
New York Review of Books
Sean McMeekin's chronicle of these weeks in July 1914: Countdown to War is almost impossible to put down.... [McMeekin] delivers a punchy and riveting narrative of high politics and diplomacy over the five weeks after Sarajevo, more or less day by day, dwelling on small groups of decision-makers in and between the various capitals, and their interactions, by turns measured, perplexed, cordial, artful, angry, even tearful.”
Times Higher Education (UK)
In this detailed account of the events and decisions that marked the road to war, Sean McMeekin demonstrates how, during what seemed a peaceful summer month, something that might have ended (at worst) in just another bloody Balkan battle led instead to the outbreak of the greatest conflict since the Napoleonic Wars.... [A] startling exercise in revisionism.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
[A] superbly researched political history of the weeks between the assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of World War I.... McMeekin's work is a fine diplomatic history of the period, a must-read for serious students of WWI, and a fascinating story for anyone interested in modern history.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
[A] thoroughly rewarding account that spares no nation regarding the causes of World War I.... McMeekin delivers a gripping, almost day-by-day chronicle of the increasingly frantic maneuvers of European civilian leaders who mostly didn't want war and military leaders who had less objection.”
Alluding to historical controversies, McMeekin ably delivers what readers demand from a WWI-origins history: a taut rendition of the July 1914 crisis.”
Norman Stone, author of World War Two: A Short History
Sean McMeekin is establishing himself as aor even theleading young historian of modern Europe. Here he turns his gifts to the outbreak of war in July 1914 and has written another masterpiece.”
Stimulating and enjoyable.... Sean McMeekin's July 1914 is controversial, arguing that Russia and France were more bent than Germany on war in July 1914.... [A] well-written book.”
In July 1914, Sean McMeekin [...] provides a day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour, account of the crisis that began with the assassination in Sarajevo. By keeping his account close to the shifting contours of the crisis, he is able to capture its human dimensions.”
On Point Radio
McMeekin makes this old story new. His history reads like a novel. Better, it unfolds like a play.... McMeekin adds dollops of fresh savory fact on every page. More importantly, he sees the whole crisis unclouded by bias for or against his characters or their countries.... July 1914 is superb history and compelling reading.”
Blending scholarly research with a breezy and descriptive writing style, McMeekin makes a reader feel like a firsthand witness to the key events of that fateful summer.... McMeekin's work is also a primer for today's diplomats on how not to allow a small event to spiral out of control into a major war.”
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a brilliant, yet challenging book to digest. I say challenging because there are so many players that play a pivotal role in this drama. While some of them are well-recognized by most everyone, others are notable to WWI buffs, but not much beyond. Depending on your level of knowledge, it can be a bit of challenge to keep track of all of them, especially as you acclimate to the story unfolding. Once you do that, McMeekin's exhaustive research and utilization of primary diplomatic documents creates a vivid and detailed chronology of the month's events. It is fascinating to witness the decisions (or lack of decisiveness) of the major players and see all the various missteps, blunders, assumptions and perceptions that contributed to the eventual outbreak of war. History is written by the victors and as a result, the Germans and Austro-Hungarians have been assigned the bulk of blame for WWI's outbreak. They surely share accountability for how events transpire, but it is clear that the other major players, France, Russia and Britain also played more important roles than casual observers (and quite of few historians) have assigned. There certainly was a war hungry faction among the German military and political establishment, but the Kaiser had rebuffed them frequently from aggressive action well before the Archduke's assassination. Throughout the month of July 1914, one is able to see the conflict within the German leadership and attempts by the pro-war camp to manipulate the pro-diplomacy camp.
In addition to apportioning the fair share of "blame" across all players, the book leaves you shaking your head at either the blunders or outright bad decisions made across the board. One has a hard time looking at most of the facts and finding players who acting with the kind of statesmen like skill and foresight to resolve a crisis that they all evidently could see unfolding in front of them. WWI is certainly one of the greatest calamities and undoubtedly preventable despite the large tensions that existed before June 28th of that year and even after Ferdinand's assassination. McMeekin masterfully weaves together the story that should be rewarding for WWI buffs as well as anyone else casually interested in the topic.
McMeekin makes a good case that Russia's secret (and early) preparations for war against Germany carried much more responsibility for the "tumble" into war than has previously been acknowledged. All the diplomats, in greater or lesser measure, were lieing about their intentions, in particular, Sazunov in Russia, and Berchtold in Austria. Both were eager for war, and both were at various points lieing to their own sovereigns! Bethmann-Holweg of Germany comes off as a diplomatic bumbler who got his sovereign into a war the Kaiser didn't want (and Bethmann himself assumed Germany would lose!) Result: 8 million dead! Will this scene be repeated in the Middle East?