View Full Version : The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

11-30-2013, 12:08 AM
An amazing book review of 'The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914' by Christopher Clark, whose book is contrasted with Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August, which had an impact on JFK and didn't mention Serbia much.

Try this passage:
Christopher Clark’s breathtakingly good book is, much more self-consciously than Tuchman’s, also a history for its – that is, our – times. An act of terrorism in Sarajevo – the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife – led the Austrian government to make demands on Serbia. If not quite a terror state, Serbia had close links to terrorism and made no effort to hide its view that Austria had it coming. The boundaries between official state policy, the army and clandestine terrorist cells were blurred at best. The Serbian prime minister, Nikola Pašić, may not have planned the assassination but he clearly knew about it in some detail and failed to pass on any but the most vague – in today’s terms ‘not actionable’ – warnings to Austria. Serbia had something to answer for.

It's value today:
The Sleepwalkers is also a book for our time in its emphasis on contingency and the role of what Clark calls the multiple ‘mental maps’ in the decisions that were taken.

Might ask this book is for Xmas, even if it is 697 pgs.;)


02-15-2014, 09:30 PM
I read this book in E-format (Kobo) over Christmas flying to and back from the USA. Simply a great read.

Two weeks ago I heard Professor Clark give a lecture locally; not only was he erudite, he was entertaining and as it was not recorded the link is to a lecture he gave in Oslo (40 mins):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1yJo-g5cH8

Having last read about the 1914 crisis forty years ago, yes Barbara Tuchman's 'The Guns of August', it was refreshing to learn that today the passage of time has enabled him to see new perspectives. Plus 'war guilt' is not such a potent force. New or neglected sources have been found, two French and one Belgian in particular.

02-16-2014, 03:34 PM
My personal reading time has been eaten up by more important stuff but I will give it a go soon.

I really enjoyed the Oslo lecture. The introduction brought you right into back in time and space, moving at the size of the couple. He gave excellent arguments why he tried hard to focus first on 'how it happened?' instead of jumping too quickly to the 'why?'. The complexity of the conflicting internal politics meshed with the play of personalities and the changable foreign relationships was well presented. No much monolithic* there but a great deal of chance. The powerful influence of such a big terror event was justly linked to 9/11 with surprisingly close relationships between both types of terrorists/freedom fighters.

All in all he is able to map out a wide net of paths and relationships in which extremely easily something or a combination of different events could have caused history to walk down a different path. Tracking back such a historical path makes one highly susceptible to look at a chain of events as the only de-velopment.

*I read a bit about reader responses to the Swiss initiative and it is just amazing how easily many fall into the same trap. You get highly voted stuff like how the wise Swiss voter upheld the true Swiss ideas and rightly told the EU off, as if the big majority (not to say all) Swiss voted that way. In fact it was a extremely close call, with a higher turnout in the 'Yes' cantons. A small difference in weather, an important Olympic race, an EU interview less and so forth could have easily changed the result.

03-22-2014, 05:15 PM
I'll expect NASA to announce that they've spotted the Loc-Nar in orbit again, laughing at our species.

Why Ukraine Conflict Could Look Like World War I

03-26-2014, 09:22 PM
I really want to read this book. Keep waiting for a copy of it to show up in the local used book store.

03-26-2014, 10:51 PM
I really want to read this book. Keep waiting for a copy of it to show up in the local used book store.

If you're holding out on Amazon you're a better man than I.

I think there was another recent book that served as a counterpoint to Clark's, maybe Max Hastings'.

03-26-2014, 11:15 PM
I have not even opened the packaged which was delivered weeks ago. Too much work and my free reading time gets almost all spent on the Ukrainian crisis...

07-26-2014, 07:57 PM
A fascinating, if quirky piece of history has come to light, prompted by the centenary:
A note which has remained in private hands for a century details a previously undocumented meeting between George V and his Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, on the eve of the First World War.

The King, mindful of his position as a constitutional monarch, made no public declarations about the situation in Europe in the lead-up to the conflict.

But in the newly-disclosed meeting, the King informed Sir Edward it was "absolutely essential" Britain go to war in order to prevent Germany from achieving “complete domination of this country”


09-26-2014, 08:19 PM
A long article on a new(ish) book which starts with:
A new book throws startling new light on how Britain went to war in 1914, and how it published a deceptive document to try and explain the decision: what the author calls “a dodgy dossier”.

The day after Britain declared war on Germany on Tuesday, 4th August 1914, the Liberal government decided to issue a White Paper justifying its decision. In his new book, “The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush To War, 1914” (published by Verso), Australian historian Douglas Newton argues passionately that an interventionist minority in the Asquith cabinet—Prime Minister Asquith himself, Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, Lord Chancellor and former War Minister Lord Haldane, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Charles Masterman—manoeuvred the large neutralist majority into siding with Russia and France against Germany as the crisis in European diplomacy reached its climax, five weeks after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914.


For the book (USA):http://www.amazon.com/Darkest-Days-Truth-Behind-Britains/dp/1781683506/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411757606&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Darkest+Days%3A+The+Truth+Behind+Brit ain%E2%80%99s+Rush+To+War%2C+1914

For the book (UK):http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darkest-Days-Truth-Behind-Britains/dp/1781683506/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1411757712&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Darkest+Days%3A+The+Truth+Behind+Brit ain%E2%80%99s+Rush+To+War%2C+1914

09-26-2014, 08:28 PM
Professor Adam Roberts, of Oxford University, spoke at a conference in July 2014 @ Sarajevo and last week at a different conference @ St. Andrews, on terrorism, he referred to it. He draws uncanny parallels between the policy of Austria-Hungary towards Serbia, after the assassination and the demands made - which ended in an 'anti-terrorist operation'. And today the dangers of a repeat causing a wider war.

Link: http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20140627e/index.html#section-30589 (http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20140627e/index.html#section-30589)

Author's bio:http://www.politics.ox.ac.uk/index.php/profile/adam-roberts.html

06-28-2015, 02:18 PM
Professor John Schindler wrote this column a year ago:http://20committee.com/2014/06/27/28-june-1914-uncovering-the-sarajevo-assassination/

A poignant reminder even today:
Despite its infamy, the Sarajevo assassination remains shrouded in some mystery, and that’s what I seek to cut through today.

06-28-2015, 08:26 PM
The Economics of WWI (http://voxeu.org/WWI) is a great series of VOX with some fascinating and little known and yet important aspects. It's quite accessible, too.

08-19-2015, 07:50 PM
Professor John Schindler has a blog piece on the first allied victory in WW1 @ Cer, a mountainous plateau in Serbia, which I expect have heard of:http://20committee.com/2014/08/19/100-years-ago-the-first-allied-victory-of-world-war-i/

A taster:
The “brief autumn stroll” had ended in disaster. Vienna lost more than 23,000 soldiers killed, wounded, and missing in the brief campaign, winning nothing but an appreciation for Serbian tenacity and martial skill. Over four thousand Habsburg prisoners of war, forty-six artillery pieces, and thirty machine guns had been left in Serbian hands. Serbian casualties of 16,000 were considerable, but there was no mistaking that this had been an historic defeat for the House of Habsburg. The loss of prestige for the army and the monarchy was vast, and its diplomatic implications in the Balkans were frightening for Vienna.

A fascinating insight from an unexpected source:
Egon Erwin Kisch, a noted Prague journalist — he had broken the salacious story of the Redl spy scandal a year before — witnessed the retreat as a reserve NCO in a Czech regiment of VIII Corps, and he was shocked by how rapidly things had gone wrong: “a boisterous horde fleeing in thoughtless panic towards the border,” his shattered battalion led by a mere subaltern, its companies led by sergeants. “The army is defeated, on a lawless, wild, hasty retreat,” he lamented to his diary.