Catastrophe 1914 Europe goes to war

Max Hastings

Book - 2013

"From the acclaimed military historian, a new history of the outbreak of World War I: from the breakdown of diplomacy to the dramatic battles that occurred before the war bogged down in the trenches. World War I immediately evokes images of the trenches: grinding, halting battles that sacrificed millions of lives for no territory or visible gain. Yet the first months of the war, from the German invasion of Belgium to the Marne to Ypres, were utterly different, full of advances and retreats,... tactical maneuvering, and significant gains and losses. In Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings re-creates this dramatic year, from the diplomatic crisis to the fighting in Belgium and France on the Western front, and Serbia and Galicia to the east. He gives vivid accounts of the battles and frank assessments of generals and political leaders, and shows why it was inevitable that this first war among modern industrial nations could not produce a decisive victory, making a war of attrition inevitable. Throughout we encounter high officials and average soldiers, as well as civilians on the homefront, giving us a vivid portrait of how a continent became embroiled in a war that would change everything"--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2013.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xxxvii, 628 pages : ill., photos, maps ; 25 cm
ISBN
9780307743831
9780307597052
0307597059
0307743837
Main Author
Max Hastings (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

After writing almost exclusively about WWII, eminent historian Hastings (Inferno) turns his attention to the outbreak of WWI. Chronicling both the prelude to the war and its initial battles, he concentrates on events occurring between June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, and December 31, 1914, when soldiers on both sides of the conflict languished in trenches. Drawing on accounts generated from rarified diplomatic circles, seasoned military leaders, and ordinary citizens helplessly caught up in the international catastrophe, he examines the origins and the onset of the Great War in minute and vivid detail. Hastings, unlike many contemporary historians, refuses to indulge in any retrospective hand-wringing, concluding rather firmly that Germany and Austria must accept principal blame for the war and that it is an analytical and an ethical mistake to believe that it did not matter which side won. This compelling reexamination of the commencement of the conflict represents an important contribution to the scholarship of the "war to end all wars." Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Hastings, British historian of numerous books about world war and conflict, has contributed a significant volume to the debate about the entry of Europe into WW I in 1914. He effectively combines three chapters on the development of nations' responsibility arguments with further detail on military battles, civilian suffering, trench warfare, and the status of the eastern and western fronts by the end of 1914. Regarding war responsibility, Hastings differs from Christopher Clark by coming down hard on German and Austro-Hungarian diplomacy and planning post-Sarajevo. He seems more likely to agree with Fritz Fischer that German planning for western front glory via the Schlieffen Plan was more significant than the Russian mobilization that eventually drew France and Britain into the war. Hastings goes further than most historians with his inclusion of letters and diaries of common soldiers and government officials. Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Moltke, and Falkenhayn are shown to be short of the mark in terms of plans versus actions. French, Asquith, Churchill, and others in the British camp suffer. Joffre, with the exception of the Battle of the Marne, is not spared complaint. For diplomatic and military historians of the period. 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. A. M. Mayer College of Staten Island Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Hastings (Inferno: The World at War,1939–1945) turns his hand to the run-up to and first battles of World War I. A theme throughout is the German and Austro-Hungarian brutality and moral culpability for many of the war's hor-rors while the Allies' political and military leadership was incompetent. Acknowledging that his-tory has never come to a consensus about blame for the catastrophe, Hastings clearly sympathizes with the Allies and the soldiers and civilians who suffered the terrible decisions of their leaders. The Austrians, in their war against Serbia and Russia, combined the brutality of the Germans with the incompetence of the Allies. Hastings clearly describes the political background to hostil-ities without getting bogged down in the minutiae of Balkan politics. While he spends a good while describing the Eastern political situation, his battlefield focus lies on the western front. His descriptions of the battles that led to three years of trench warfare emphasize how military exper-tise did not keep pace with military technology at the turn of the century. VERDICT Hastings makes a very complicated story understandable in a way that few serious history books manage. An ideal entry into World War I history for general readers.—Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Hastings (Inferno: The World at War, 1939–1945) turns his hand to the run-up to and first battles of World War I. A theme throughout is the German and Austro-Hungarian brutality and moral culpability for many of the war's horrors while the Allies' political and military leadership was incompetent. Acknowledging that history has never come to a consensus about blame for the catastrophe, Hastings clearly sympathizes with the Allies and the soldiers and civilians who suffered the terrible decisions of their leaders. The Austrians, in their war against Serbia and Russia, combined the brutality of the Germans with the incompetence of the Allies. Hastings clearly describes the political background to hostilities without getting bogged down in the minutiae of Balkan politics. While he spends a good while describing the Eastern political situation, his battlefield focus lies on the western front. His descriptions of the battles that led to three years of trench warfare emphasize how military expertise did not keep pace with military technology at the turn of the century. VERDICT Hastings makes a very complicated story understandable in a way that few serious history books manage. An ideal entry into World War I history for general readers.—Michael Farrell, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL [Page 110]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Given the personalities and circumstances (economic, social, intellectual, political, technological) that contributed to the explosion of battle, was war really a surprise? (LJ 10/15/13) [Page 53]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Winner of the 2012 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award, British author/journalist Hastings here focuses on the opening months of World War I, a time of intense military and political maneuvering as Germany overran Belgium, Britain protested by sending forces to the Continent, and Austria-Hungary squared off against Serbia as the Russian army mobilized. Essential reading as the centenary approaches. [Page 54]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Hastings's latest invites consideration as the best in his distinguished career, combining a perceptive analysis of the Great War's beginnings with a vivid account of the period from August to September of the titular year. Those were the months when illusions died alongside hundreds of thousands of people. Hastings (Inferno) considers Germany principally responsible for starting the war, asserting that German victory would have meant that "freedom, justice and democracy would have paid a dreadful forfeit." Hastings notes, "Every society experienced successive waves of jubilation and dejection," a condition shared by the generals and the politicians who found war easier to initiate than to resolve. He is particularly successful at reconstructing war-zone fiascoes from the perspectives of those who bore their brunt—the soldiers on the frontlines. On the front lines, "foolish excess of personal bravery" was juxtaposed with questions like, "Won't the murdering soon stop?" While "rape, pillage, and arson" were commonplace, "new technologies created many opportunities and difficulties"—but far more of the latter. The fighting around Ypres, Belgium, in October and November epitomized both the combatants' determination and their "unbounded power to inflict loss and grief upon each other." "There was never a credible shortcut" to the suicide of a civilization. Agent: Peter Matson, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept. 25) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Hastings's latest invites consideration as the best in his distinguished career, combining a perceptive analysis of the Great War's beginnings with a vivid account of the period from August to September of the titular year. Those were the months when illusions died alongside hundreds of thousands of people. Hastings (Inferno) considers Germany principally responsible for starting the war, asserting that German victory would have meant that "freedom, justice and democracy would have paid a dreadful forfeit." Hastings notes, "Every society experienced successive waves of jubilation and dejection," a condition shared by the generals and the politicians who found war easier to initiate than to resolve. He is particularly successful at reconstructing war-zone fiascoes from the perspectives of those who bore their brunt—the soldiers on the frontlines. On the front lines, "foolish excess of personal bravery" was juxtaposed with questions like, "Won't the murdering soon stop?" While "rape, pillage, and arson" were commonplace, "new technologies created many opportunities and difficulties"—but far more of the latter. The fighting around Ypres, Belgium, in October and November epitomized both the combatants' determination and their "unbounded power to inflict loss and grief upon each other." "There was never a credible shortcut" to the suicide of a civilization. Agent: Peter Matson, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Sept. 25) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"From the acclaimed military historian, a new history of the outbreak of World War I: from the breakdown of diplomacy to the dramatic battles that occurred before the war bogged down in the trenches. World War I immediately evokes images of the trenches:grinding, halting battles that sacrificed millions of lives for no territory or visible gain. Yet the first months of the war, from the German invasion of Belgium to the Marne to Ypres, were utterly different, full of advances and retreats, tactical maneuvering, and significant gains and losses. In Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings re-creates this dramatic year, from the diplomatic crisis to the fighting in Belgium and France on the Western front, and Serbia and Galicia to the east. He gives vivid accounts of the battles and frank assessments of generals and political leaders, and shows why it was inevitable that this first war among modern industrial nations could not produce a decisive victory, making a war of attrition inevitable. Throughout we encounterhigh officials and average soldiers, as well as civilians on the homefront, giving us a vivid portrait of how a continent became embroiled in a war that would change everything"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

From the acclaimed military historian, a history of the outbreak of World War I: the dramatic stretch from the breakdown of diplomacy to the battles—the Marne, Ypres, Tannenberg—that marked the frenzied first year before the war bogged down in the trenches.In Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings gives us a conflict different from the familiar one of barbed wire, mud and futility. He traces the path to war, making clear why Germany and Austria-Hungary were primarily to blame, and describes the gripping first clashes in the West, where the French army marched into action in uniforms of red and blue with flags flying and bands playing. In August, four days after the French suffered 27,000 men dead in a single day, the British fought an extraordinary holding action against oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history. In October, at terrible cost the British held the allied line against massive German assaults in the first battle of Ypres. Hastings also re-creates the lesser-known battles on the Eastern Front, brutal struggles in Serbia, East Prussia and Galicia, where the Germans, Austrians, Russians and Serbs inflicted three million casualties upon one another by Christmas. As he has done in his celebrated, award-winning works on World War II, Hastings gives us frank assessments of generals and political leaders and masterly analyses of the political currents that led the continent to war. He argues passionately against the contention that the war was not worth the cost, maintaining that Germany’s defeat was vital to the freedom of Europe. Throughout we encounter statesmen, generals, peasants, housewives and private soldiers of seven nations in Hastings’s accustomed blend of top-down and bottom-up accounts: generals dismounting to lead troops in bayonet charges over 1,500 feet of open ground; farmers who at first decried the requisition of their horses; infantry men engaged in a haggard retreat, sleeping four hours a night in their haste. This is a vivid new portrait of how a continent became embroiled in war and what befell millions of men and women in a conflict that would change everything.