July 1914 Countdown to war

Sean McMeekin, 1974-

Book - 2013

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New York : Basic Books c2013.
Physical Description
xviii, 461 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references (p. 431-443) and index.
Main Author
Sean McMeekin, 1974- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

For over a generation, the study of the war plans of the Great Powers dominated the historiography on the origins of WW I, while human agency seemed to play only a secondary role. McMeekin (Koc Univ., Turkey) bases his narration on a close reading of the extant primary and secondary sources from the major players--Austria, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain--and returns human agency to the events that led to war. The result is 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. The author reorients understanding of the war's origins from an obsession with Germany's infamous Schlieffen Plan to an analysis that also considers the belligerent policies of France and Russia. While he does not exonerate German responsibility for the war, McMeekin details how Russia and France willfully lied to British diplomats about the timing of their mobilizations in order to ensure that Austria-Hungary and Germany were labeled the belligerents. Indeed, of all the continental great powers, Germany mobilized last, yet it was the first to violate Belgian neutrality. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. F. Krome University of Cincinnati--Clermont College Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

McMeekin's newest (after The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power) is a superbly researched political history of the weeks between the assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the beginning of World War I. Many historians believe that had Austria acted decisively in that interim, the "War to End All Wars" may have been averted. Instead, the Austrian government vacillated, finally taking decisive action after more than a month of convoluted and awkward diplomatic maneuvering. Relying on extensive research in numerous archives, as well as diaries and correspondence from key national leaders, McMeekin examines the intricacies of Austrian politics and diplomacy to explain the delay, carefully reconstructing the exploits of leading actors—particularly the Austrians and their crucial false assumption that Russia would not mobilize in defense of Serbia. Though the account is full of honest men making difficult decisions under extreme pressure, there are also numerous examples of intentional deceit, even among allies like Austria and Germany, and France and the United Kingdom. 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. 17 b&w images. Agent: Andrew Lownie, Andrew Lownie Literary Agency (U.K.). (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Focusing on the weeks preceding the beginning of World War I, traces the efforts of a group of statesmen who used the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand--which was largely ignored--to trigger the outbreak of war.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The award-winning author of The Russian Origins of the First World War traces the efforts of a small group of influential statesmen who used the largely ignored assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to trigger World War I, drawing on new archival evidence to reveal the roles of duplicitous figures in Russia and France in setting the stage for the conflict.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

McMeekin (history, Koc University, Turkey) takes a different approach to the question of who was responsible for starting WWI. Drawing on European archives, memoirs, and document collections, the author chronicles events from the June 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand through August 4, 1914, when Britain entered the war, revealing the machinations and motivations of Russian and French as well as German and Austrian monarchs and politicians who sought to benefit from the assassination. The book includes a bibliographic essay and chronology and is illustrated with b&w historical photos and maps. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 4

When a Serbian-backed assassin gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in late June 1914, the world seemed unmoved. Even Ferdinand’s own uncle, Franz Josef I, was notably ambivalent about the death of the Hapsburg heir, saying simply, ?It is God’s will.” Certainly, there was nothing to suggest that the episode would lead to conflict?much less a world war of such massive and horrific proportions that it would fundamentally reshape the course of human events.As acclaimed historian Sean McMeekin reveals in July 1914, World War I might have been avoided entirely had it not been for a small group of statesmen who, in the month after the assassination, plotted to use Ferdinand’s murder as the trigger for a long-awaited showdown in Europe. The primary culprits, moreover, have long escaped blame. While most accounts of the war’s outbreak place the bulk of responsibility on German and Austro-Hungarian militarism, McMeekin draws on surprising new evidence from archives across Europe to show that the worst offenders were actually to be found in Russia and France, whose belligerence and duplicity ensured that war was inevitable. Whether they plotted for war or rode the whirlwind nearly blind, each of the men involved?from Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold von Berchtold and German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov and French president Raymond Poincaré?sought to capitalize on the fallout from Ferdinand’s murder, unwittingly leading Europe toward the greatest cataclysm it had ever seen.A revolutionary account of the genesis of World War I, July 1914 tells the gripping story of Europe’s countdown to war from the bloody opening act on June 28th to Britain’s final plunge on August 4th, showing how a single month?and a handful of men?changed the course of the twentieth century.