The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914The Moments That It Took Gavrilo Princip To Step Forward To The Stalled Car And Shoot Dead Franz Ferdinand And His Wife Were Perhaps The Most Fateful Of The Modern Era An Act Of Terrorism Of Staggering Efficiency, It Fulfilled Its Every Aim It Would Liberate Bosnia From Habsburg Rule And It Created A Powerful New Serbia, But It Also Brought Down Four Great Empires, Killed Millions Of Men And Destroyed A Civilization What Made A Seemingly Prosperous And Complacent Europe So Vulnerable To The Impact Of This Assassination In The Sleepwalkers , Christopher Clark Retells The Story Of The Outbreak Of The First World War And Its Causes Above All, It Shows How The Failure To Understand The Seriousness Of The Chaotic, Near Genocidal Fighting In The Balkans Would Drag Europe Into Catastrophe

Christopher Munro Chris Clark is an Australian historian working in England.He was educated at Sydney Grammar School between 1972 and 1978, the University of Sydney where he studied History, and between 1985 and 1987 the Freie Universit t Berlin.He received his PhD at the University of Cambridge, having been a member of Pembroke College, Cambridge from 1987 to 1991 He is Professor in Modern Eur

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  • Paperback
  • 697 pages
  • The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
  • Christopher Clark
  • English
  • 07 October 2019
  • 9780141027821

10 thoughts on “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

  1. says:

    In a dugout in northern France, sometime in 1916, three British soldiers try to make sense of one of the most complicated questions of modern history PVT BALDRICK The way I see it, these days there s a war on, right and, ages ago, there wasn t a war on, right So, there must have been a moment when there not being a war on went away, right and there being a war on came along So, what I want to know is how did we get from the one case of affairs to the other case of affairs CPT BLACKADDER Do you mean, How did the war start PVT BALDRICK Yeah I heard that it started when a bloke called Archie Duke shot an ostrich cause he was hungry.CPT BLACKADDER I think you mean it started when the Archduke of Austro Hungary got shot.PVT BALDRICK Nah, there was definitely an ostrich involved, sir.CPT BLACKADDER Well, possibly But the real reason for the whole thing was that it was too much effort not to have a war You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent war in Europe, two superblocs developed us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro Hungary on the other The idea was to have two vast opposing armies, each acting as the other s deterrent That way there could never be a war.PVT BALDRICK But this is a sort of a war, isn t it, sir CPT BLACKADDER Yes, that s right You see, there was a tiny flaw in the plan.LT GEORGE What was that, sir CPT BLACKADDER It was bollocks pause PVT BALDRICK So the poor old ostrich died for nothing Richard Curtis Ben Elton, Blackadder Goes ForthSo this is the explanation to beat, so far, in my admittedly very limited understanding of the causes of the First World War The Sleepwalkers is the big modern book to examine the question, and it was greeted with adulatory reviews by a historical community that saw in it a long awaited replacement for Barbara Tuchman s The Guns of August from way back in 1962.It is often elegantly written, and very extensively researched it s not unusual to check the footnotes and find nearly a dozen different sources adduced to back up the thread of a single paragraph This is great Unfortunately, these feats of compression often result in rather dense, stodgy prose that examines events from a viewpoint that I found far too abstract Pages and pages of material describe the action on a disembodied state level, like this The French government focused from 1911 onwards on strengthening Russian offensive capacity and, in 1912 13 on ensuring that Russian deployment plans were directed against Germany rather than Austria, the ostensible opponent in the Balkans Increasingly, intimate military relations were reinforced by the application of powerful financial incentives This policy was purchased at a certain strategic cost, because betting so heavily on enabling Russia to seize the initiative against Germany inevitably involved a certain reduction in French autonomy That French policy makers were willing to accept the resulting constraints is demonstrated by their willingness to extend the terms of the Franco Russian Alliance specifically in order to cover the Balkan inception scenario, a concession that in effect placed the initiative in Russian hands The French were willing to accept this risk, because their primary concern was not that Russia would act precipitately, but rather that she would not act at all, would grow so preponderant as to lose interest in the security value of the alliance, or would focus her energies on defeating Austria rather than the principal adversary , Germany.A bit of this is good whole chapters worth quickly gets dull It was probably partly my fault I happened to read this at a time when I could only really read last thing at night or first thing in the morning, and I found myself constantly nodding off and having to reread paragraphs several times.Attempts to humanise things by sketching the major personalities involved have their own problems, mainly because the major personalities involved number in the hundreds I normally hate reviews that go on about all the confusing foreign names, but honestly in this one I was still struggling with the cast list by the end of the book Kokovtsov, now is he the Russian foreign minister Or is that Sazonov Or Sukhomlinov A reference to Hartwig he s the Austrian ambassador in Berlin, right No, the German ambassador in Vienna Oh wait, neither, he s the Russian ambassador in Belgrade and so on.This isn t just a stylistic issue, I think it points up a fundamental problem with the whole book there s no narrative thread to help you join it all together The reason it s so hard to follow some of these discussions is because their relevance to 1914 18 is often very unclear Most of the book is given over to examining various early twentieth century diplomatic crises like the Bosnian annexation crisis, the Agadir crisis, the two Balkan wars but there is an irritating lack of clarification over how these issues bear on 1914 As a result the book had, to me, a rather staccato feel.When, after 400 pages, you finally reach the assassinations in Sarajevo, the effect is like watching a boxed set of Open University lectures and finding Iron Man 3 on the last disc These chapters are fantastic but they re not really the point of the book.For what it s worth, I took three major lessons from it all The first is to do with the lumbering mechanism of the alliance system that was in force before the war, whereby countries were roped together like mountaineers for safety and when one fell, everyone else got dragged down into the crevasse Hence why England, France, Germany and Russia somehow ended up fighting to the death over a glorified border dispute in the Balkans Because the alliances had tied the defence policy of three of the world s greatest powers to the uncertain fortunes of Europe s most violent and unstable region.The second lesson is the sheer amateurishness of contemporary international relations not just the incompetence of some of the people involved, but the total lack of any trans national system or process for resolving inter state disputes These systemic problems were made even worse by the fact that there was really no clear governmental decision making process in many of the states involved as Clark puts it, the volatility inherent in such a constellation was heightened by the fluidity of power within each executive.And the third lesson a consequence of the other two is the utter pointlessness of the conflict No one had a good idea of what was being fought for, no one really had much to gain, and, in short, the poor old ostrich really did die for nothing.

  2. says:

    In commemoration of the Centennial of WW1, we have also set up a reading group here in GR Sleepwalkers is one of the suggested books It deals with the period before the war and is consequently centered on the causes that led to, or I should say brought about, the disaster But because it is my first book on the political aspects, I felt overwhelmed with the amount of information and baffled by the complexity of the considerations My judgment has to be taken therefore with than a pinch of salt But I learnt a fair amount and I managed to identify some key issues that I will have to explore further I may also have to come back to Sleepwalkers to understand Clark s opinions better as I become versed in the various controversies.There is a huge quantity of published material on the subject On the book category there are already thousands and thousands, and many will be published this year But even the printed matter has its own history of how the event was interpreted History is made and remade Understanding of they whys, the hows, and the whos, is shaped by its own circumstances and settings and zeitgeist And Clark is very aware of the tradition of WW1 writing that precedes his own He is consciously positing his argument therefore in reference to the past discourses Stemming from Article 231 of the Versailles Treaty, early scholarship concentrated on responsibilities and incriminations It was conceived that there had been a specific determination and an ability to carry out that determination Related to this it was also believed that the fateful succession of events had been inescapable Behind these views there is a particular understanding of human volition, human infallibility, and the relative power of the individual Together with these assumptions Clark reminds us that events seem to bring their own sense of inevitability and that their narrative fashions our way of comprehending We live with the conviction that happenings prove themselves They are carriers of their own internal causality.Clark s choice of a title already reveals what his own alternative narrative is He maps complex processes in decision making inside a fragmented network of multiple decision points or agents In his book he reviews the different power enacting mechanisms in the various countries depending on the degree of autocracy they endured the different functioning of the various offices of Foreign Affairs the varying domestic issues and difficulties the reshuffling and interrelation of social classes the relative growth in the role of the press and the power of public opinion the divergent military budgets the interplay between the political and the military arms of any country the relative agility of the governments depending on their political structures, etc Clark presents a splintered setting in which any isolated human act would have to deal with an unpredictable path for reaching its results.In earlier studies there had also been a trend in viewing the Sarajevo assassination not as the cause for the outbreak of the war but as the excuse for starting something that was to happen anyway Clark reverses that and puts Serbia back on the center stage from the very dramatic start of this book He shows that before and behind the murder a very militant and very destabilizing activity had already been going in this newly reborn Kingdom But Serbia had many problems Foremost were the money matters economic and financial , and these were coupled with a rabid and aggressive nationalism They engaged in direct confrontation with the bigger powers Austro Hungary, Russia and the Ottomans and sold their soul to the French financiers And they did all this with the purpose of establishing, aggressively, a pan Serbian state in the region of the Balkans Clark then sees WW1 really as the third Balkan war.He then proceeds with an account of how the balance of power that existed towards the turn of the century was redrawn with a complex dance of shifting allegiances until the outbreak of the war and there Clark lost me with the very many interlocking steps Reading this section felt like watching a magician play tricks with a hat In goes a set of allegiances with Britain as the perennial bachelor, and out come a peculiar couple of creatures that fly out differently Et voil , Europe is now polarized In this wizardry he discusses the Kruger telegram the naval race between Germany and Britain the complementing combination of capital and science of France with the highly populated Russia the partition of Africa in the vertical and horizontal axis between Britain and France the Moroccan crises the role of perceived masculinity, etc.What I found most interesting is that in tracking these developments, Clark pays a good deal attention to the weakening of the Ottoman Empire and its implications He identifies Italy s invasion of Libya in 1911 as the starting signal for a grabbing race Of course there were other such similar races in the Far and Middle East, but Clark concentrates on the European Continent and the Mediterranean coast Incidentally, he also sees this Libyan war, the first to see aerial bombardment, as the seed for modern Arab nationalism with which we live today.After having identified the demise of the Ottomans together with the pan Serbian goals as the detonators and the subsequent recalibration of allegiances, Clark proceeds to review the very rapid succession of events in the few months before the outbreak That means going back to the Balkans and witnessing, slow motion, the assassination on that fatal 28th of June in Sarajevo For the Serbian group were not jut shooting the unfortunate individuals, but hitting directly and with a fatal blow the very heart of the then European stabilizing center, the Austro Hungarian Empire.The book stops then as the curtain falls after he has projected how a whole band of decision makers proceeded blindly over a ground full of obstructions, hurdles, obstacles, and false indications, and all of them walking in an atmosphere of profound mistrust, heading towards a path in which all the possible ways out were being funneled into that single catastrophe.

  3. says:

    For the longest time, I avoided reading about World War I because it seemed too complicated It was fought for convoluted reasons among now dead empires in a Europe and a world that is now vastly reshaped I figured my time would be better spent reading another book about Gettysburg When I finally made a concerted effort to learn about the Great War since the Centennial is fast approaching , I discovered its beginnings were actually deceptively simple The heir to the Austro Hungarian throne was assassinated in Sarajevo The Austro Hungarians blame the Serbs and issue Serbia an ultimatum The Serbs thumb their noses Austria Hungary declares war on Serbia Due to various entangling alliances, a series of national duties and obligations are triggered Russia joins the war on the side of Serbia Germany comes in to help Austria Hungary France fulfills its obligations to Russia Germany attacks France through Belgium Great Britain decides to uphold Belgian neutrality Afterwards, there was trench warfare, poison gas, millions dead, a peace treaty that gutted Germany and reformed the Middle East, the rise of Hitler, and so on and so forth Christopher Clark s The Sleepwalkers How Europe Went to War in 1914 is not interested in the mechanistic and simplified description that I provided above Instead, he acknowledges at the outset that my previous instincts were correct that the causes of World War I are almost impossibly byzantine and complex Early on, Clark lays out his purpose This book strives to understand the July Crisis of 1914 as a modern event It is concerned less with why the war happened than with how it came about Questions of why and how are logically inseparable, but they lead us in different directions The question of how invites us to look closely at the sequences of interactions that produced certain outcomes By contrast, the question of why invites us to go in search of remote and categorical causes imperialism, nationalism, armaments, alliances, high finance, ideas of national honor, the mechanics of mobilization The why approach brings a certain analytical clarity, but it also has a distorting effect because it creates the illusion of a steadily building causal pressure the factors pile up on top of each other pushing down on the events political actors become mere executors of forces long established and beyond their control The story this book tells is, by contrast, saturated with agency The key decision makers walked towards danger in watchful, calculated steps The outbreak of war was the culmination of chains of decisions made by political actors with conscious objectives, who were capable of a degree of self reflection, acknowledged a range of options and formed the best judgments they could on the basis of the best information they had to hand The Sleepwalkers is divided into three parts The first part is focused firmly on the Balkans, and specifically Serbia It struck me as I was reading this that I didn t know anything about Serbia, Serbian history, or the pan Serbian movement in the years before World War I I knew that Gavrilo Princip was a Bosnian Serb and a member of a nationalist movement known as the Black Hand But that was about all The Sleepwalkers devotes over a hundred pages filling in the context behind the movement Frankly, it isn t the easiest thing to follow Especially if you are like me, and go cross eyed trying to figure out the Balkans The names are unfamiliar and hard to pronounce the historical figures are mostly new and the geography is hard to keep straight It s a testament to Clark that his writing kept me engaged and didn t allow me to become entirely lost Part two of the book covers recognizable territory It deals with a divided Europe sloughing off old antagonisms and forming new ones Over time, France and Russia became buddies, Germany got wary, and Great Britain tried to stay aloof while forming a wink wink nudge nudge pact with their old enemies the French During this period, Europe also became highly acclimated to ramping up to war In 1904 05, Kaiser Wilhelm touched off the First Moroccan Crisis with an ill advised speech in Tangiers In 1911, there was the Second Moroccan crisis, which saw Germany send a gunboat to Agadir after Britain sided with France, the Germans had to back down The years 1912 and 1913 saw the Balkan Wars, precipitated by the Young Turk Revolution and the resulting political instability of the Ottoman Empire Serbia came out the big winner of the Balkan Wars, which made her even of a threat to the Austro Hungarian Empire Following the Balkan Wars, Austria Hungary s regional security preparations were in tatters The last part of the book deals with the July Crisis itself Clark does a good job handling well furrowed ground His narrative of Franz Ferdinand s assassination, for instance, is fairly gripping At first it appeared the shooter had missed his mark, because Franz Ferdinand and his wife remained motionless and upright in their seats In reality, they were both already dying The first bullet had passed through the door of the car into the Duchess s abdomen, severing the stomach artery the second had hit the archduke in the neck, tearing the jugular vein As the car roared away across the river towards the Konak, Sophie teetered sideways until her face was between her husband s knees Potiorek initially thought she had fainted with shock only when he saw blood issuing from the archduke s mouth did he realize something serious was afoot Still straddling the running board and leaning into the passenger compartment, Count Harrach managed to hold the archduke upright by clutching his collar He heard Franz Ferdinand speaking in a soft voice words that would become famous throughout the monarch Sophie, Sophie, don t die, stay alive for our children The plumed helmet, with the green ostrich feathers, slipped from his head When Harrach asked him if he was in pain, the archduke repeated several times in a whisper It s nothing and then lost consciousness.For obvious reasons, the final third of the book is the most swiftly paced and engrossing With good storytelling ability, combined with keen analysis, Clark takes you through the arrest and trial of Gavrilo Princip and his accomplices the Austro Hungarian ultimatum and the Serbian response As Clark promised at the beginning, he shies away from a mechanical view of the war s outbreak There is not a lot of talk of mobilization timetables, which usually get a lot of play in books about the July Crisis Certainly, the time it took for a country to prepare its army was an important factor But Clark is interested in why the decision makers felt the need to mobilize at all The various alliances and treaties, after all, were not death pacts Even as events began to unfold, somebody could ve stepped up and said, Hey, should we maybe not go to war over this One thing I ve definitely learned in spending the last year and a half reading about World War I No matter how often you hear the story, it never fails to amaze How an assassination that engendered international sympathy for Austria Hungary could end within a month s time with most of the world save Germany at war with Austria Hungary How a murder of an unloved heir in a Balkan backwater could set the world on fire It is impossible not to try to pin the blame on this bloody mess on a single country Post World War II, it s almost reflexive to fault Germany, who launched an offensive through Belgium Indeed, it often seems like we view World War I era Germany with the Nazi regime of the 1930s and 40s Austria Hungary is also one of the usual suspects, since she handed Serbia an ultimatum that Serbia had to reject However, as Clark notes, there was plenty of blame to go around For instance, France and Russia, two of the world s great powers, oddly decided to bind their fates to that of a violent and turbulent Serbia In hindsight, that s maybe not a great idea In the end, it s hard not to reduce the complexities to a rather simple notion That after years of jockeying for position and forming alliances, the leaders and decision makers of the various countries wanted to go to war, to settle things for once and all.

  4. says:

    Simply one of the best books on the origins of the Great War Take it from someone who wrote his master thesis on the pre war military strategies of Belgium and along the way devoted too much time to the European dimension Christopher Clark s summary of the transformation of Europe between 1879 and 1907 from non committed alliances into two military blocs in two pages plus maps is a thing of beauty The author clearly belongs to the revisionist camp His identification of the hawks within the governments of the Great Powers correponds largely with the portraits in J.H.J Andriessen s The Other Truth Sir Edward Grey, Conrad von H tzendorf, Raymond Poincar etc.His treatment of the German Empire is the best example The dogmatic elevation of the Schlieffen plan goes hand in hand with a curiously passive attitude that is a far cry from the Teutonic bombast in the magistral writing of Barbara Tuchman Enkreisung is not a mere diplomatic cover for ambitions towards world domination in the controversial vein of Fritz Fischer Rather, Germany sincerely experienced events as dictated by Russia and its allies The balance of power slowly but irrevocably swung in their favour, fueled by the French construction of the Entente and the post 1905 Russian rearmament program Better war sooner than later was an attitude found among all Powers, but most prevalent in Berlin This is well shown in the discussion of the infamous military counsil of december 1912.The familiar story of the clash of interests on the Balkan is set within the long term Russian desire for domination of the Straits at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, dating back to the aftermath of the Crimean war Populist Pan slavism disguised a pragmatical support for whichever Balkan state gained prominence Bulgaria at first, Serbia later on It is interesting to note that a minority propagated a Far East policy in order to reverse the losses of the Russo Japanese war as soon as the rearmaments would be completed, but this view never gained prominence.On the Habsburg side, the political friction in the wake of the Compromise of 1867 adds complexity Hungary, in spite of agressive maygarisation, always read developments on the peninsula in the light of a possible revolt in Transsylvania Vienna itself most feared the ascent of a South Slav union, possibly resulting in numerous revolts by minorities within Austria Hungary In retrospect, this fear was overrated and the sympathy of future emperor Franz Ferdinand for a South Slav union as a third segment within the multiethnic empire politically quite astute Many familiar episodes on the road to Ypres situated on the Balkans get the royal treatment the Balkan Wars, the Baghdad Railway and the German mission to Istanbul, to name a few, are elevated from anecdote to sideshows which nonetheless serve as important precedents to 1914 In goes without saying that the story of Sarajevo is explored in depth, with some poignant paralels to the post 9 11 world thrown in for free.France appears in a traditional light, focused on the next clash with the German army, if less on the repossession of Alsace Lorraine Declas and Poincar remain the main characters, with the ambassador twins Carbon in support These men provided a much needed element of continuity for the foreign policy of a republic plagued by instable cabinets It is striking how relentlessly France pressured her Entente partners into military commitment The best example here is her distress at the Russian plan for a Napoleonic defense in depth, with a concentration in the interior while temporarily minimizing the mobilisation at the western frontiers Sometimes she overestimated her success, traditionally exemplified by the last minute reluctance of Great Britain to openly acknowledge joint operations against Germany.Great Britain, lastly, receives compartively little attention Three things stand out First, the civilian sphere, dominated by party politics, exerciced greater control over the military was greater than in any other European power, which explains to a great extent the lack of commitment in spite of assurances by proponents such as Henry Wilson Edward Grey and Winston Churchill had to overcome the majority of the cabinet at the last moment Second, German domination of the Atlantic coast was never a primary concern Rather, the Great Game and the defense of the Raj loomed largest in imperial policy The origins of the Entente with France must be understood in this context, regardless of their naval cooperation between the Channel and the Mediterranean The British Empire was willing to appease its Russian rival at the expense of alienating Germany This also brings me to the third point, which shocks my Belgian sensibilities It is commonly presumed that the Brave Little Belgium attitude during WWI was preceeded by a genuine commitment by Great Britain to the preservation of Belgian neutrality Less commonly known but still within the same attitude is the British preoccupation with the Channel ports and the estuary of the Scheldt, to convenience the assistance of the Royal Navy and an Expeditionary Force to Antwerp, last refuge of the Belgian Army In reality, Germany was quite right to dismiss the 1831 treaty as a scrap of paper Britain was happy to allow a limited intrusion of the German Army through Belgium, preferably south of the Meuse Ironically, many Belgian politicians likewise considered minimal armed resistance to said intrusion as a fullfillment of their neutrality obligations.The Balkan Wars, including the Winter Crisis of 1912 13, provided Austria with trustworthy precedents for july 1914 Serbia seemed to be in the habit of backing down in the face of a military threat and Russia was reluctant to back her up The other Great Powers univoquely helped difuse tensions rather than activating their military alliances In addition, the military shows of force strained the finances of an imperial economy in decline All together, an all out war with Serbia appeared increasingly the sole solution to the next Balkan crisis The July crisis highlights the common deficiencies of the Great Powers It is here that the main theme of Sleepwalkers reasserts itself Minor remarks by biased diplomats or officials were overinterpreted as expressions of official foreign policy, because each country viewed itself in some way as dominated, even overpowered, by its neighbours This attitude introduced long term errors in what appeared to be policies based on reason and precedents Further, most of the political elite was on holiday and few judged the present Balkan crisis to be in need of closer scrutiny than its predecessors In a Europe dominated by monarchies, the in actions of the sovereigns merrit examination De facto the book focuses on Wilhelm II and Nicolas II The Kaiser figures with far less prerogative as traditionally assumed the Tsar as his equal in indecisiveness This is pointingly illustrated by their informal mid river military talk, the implications of which horrified their cabinets back home George V and emperor Franz Joseph remain virtually invisible Unfortunately enough, the story remains equally silent on Italy and the neutral countries, save a brief forray during the July crisis about Swedish neutrality Irregardless of their limited weight within the international alliance system, the secondary points of view could ve attributed to the perceptions of Great Power policy Clark made it as far as occasionally citing Dutch Belgian ambassadors consuls the archives are touched upon but not to full use Paul Kennedy s The Rise of the Anglo German Antagonism, 1860 1914 appears underused in British naval matters such as the 1902 treaty with Japan and the ill fated Haldane mission As it is, the array of sources is impressive, with the inclusion of local studies from Serbia, Bulgaria etc Classics like Albertini s 3 volume diplomatic analysis The Origins of the War of 1914, 1941 are used on their own strengths, such as the use of living witnesses to the events of the Belle Epoque.Read James Joll The Origins of the First World War, 3 editions for the facts Read Barbara Tuchman The Guns of August for the atmosphere Read Christopher Clark for the understanding.

  5. says:

    Tens of thousands of pages on the Great War have already been written It has been almost one hundred years now since it started, and in other parts of the world it still rages onward The current ethnic religious conflicts in Iraq and Syria, for example, are directly influenced by the boundaries scribbled on the map by colonial powers after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire The standard narrative of the cause of the conflict is based upon Tuchman s The Guns of August This was a world of monarchy, dynastic ties, and needless aggression The book might have gained traction due to its apparent similarity to the Cold War drama of opposing sides, the rigidity of military planners, and the warnings of avoiding needless aggression would easily apply to leaders fearing the threat of nuclear war President Kennedy, who obsessed over the book during the Cuban Missile Crisis, said he had no desire to play a part in The Missiles of October If Tuchman s classic book is a history of the Cold War, then this is a book which is familiar to the contemporary political world This is a world of multiple competing nations carving up spheres of influence, multiple factions within these nations, shadowy espionage networks, ethno religious terrorist groups, and even moderate leaders who feel compelled to take hardline positions in order to please the population and hold onto power First, the political situation of Serbia and its relationship to Austria Hungary He takes the revisionist position that the Habsburg Empire was not a rotting corpse, and that it had tried to improve relations with its Balkan neighbors and possessions The Archduke who met his violent end in Sarajevo also had grand plans for a new federalization of the empire which would give its dispossessed minorities greater political sway That hope died as he bled out on that June day Second, Clark focuses on the political situation in Europe in the years before 1914 This necessarily includes the shifting alliance system and overlapping spheres of influence among all the major powers Clark here notes that each nation was not a monolithic entity which could only decide one thing Even though all the major powers but one France were monarchies, that did not mean that the monarch decided everything Clark makes subtle distinctions in the internal political organizations of these powers, and how their distinct relationships distorted their perceptions of events President Wilson s special advisor, a Colonel House of the Texan militia, was often seated with German military men due to his honorary rank, and thus received an aggressive version of German foreign policy Finally, the course of the July Crisis itself This is a long nightmarish sequence of miscalculations, overreactions, misinterpretations, and mistakes But even here he presents an alternative vision of history He claims the German ministers were among those most determined for peace The British were in favor of war, as they thought it would be a useful distraction from the Irish grumblings for independence Clark is hesitant to lay the blame at one nation, or one group, especially not one man Gavrilo Princip was only the spark on the powder keg However, he does apportion out various degrees of responsibility For example, The Serbian nationalists were irresponsible in their territorial claims and their methods Consequently, the French and Russians should not have staked their foreign policy to such a volatile group But even when the conflict started, these political leaders who could not foresee the horrid consequences of such a war now felt they could press on to victory.The Great War was not a crime, says Clark, it was a mistake And once the iron dice of destiny were tossed, the results were too vast to undo We now live in the world that this war has made.

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  8. says:

    List of IllustrationsList of MapsAcknowledgementsIntroduction The Sleepwalkers How Europe Went to War in 1914 ConclusionNotesIndex

  9. says:

    I shall never be able to understand how it happened, the novelist Rebecca West remarked to her husband as they stood on the balcony of Sarajevo Town Hall in 1936 It was not, she reflected, that there were too few facts available, but that there were too many I have a masochistic, puritan streak that tells me a serious book should be long, dry, dense and exhaustively referenced to flagellate learning into my ignorant body and soul Barbara Tuchman s sinfully enjoyable The Guns of August left me craving punishment Christopher Clark cheerfully provides a whipping The first 100 pages or 200, I may have blacked out contain everything you ever wanted to know about Serbian ethno nationalism The 100 pages of notes and references tell you where to go for I admit not much of this made it past the retina for further processing And it goes on God there must be some happy medium I d like to give the people who gave glittering reviews a multiple choice exam on the contents to see if anyone retained anything Or maybe that s not the point.In lieu of further review, a couple quotations The outbreak of war in 1914 is not an Agatha Christie drama at the end of which we will discover the culprit standing over a corpse in the conservatory with a smoking pistol There is no smoking gun in this story or, rather, there is one in the hands of every major character Viewed in this light, the outbreak of war was a tragedy, not a crime Acknowledging this does not mean that we should minimize the belligerence and imperialist paranoia of the Austrian and German policy makers that rightly absorbed the attention of Fritz Fischer and his historiographical allies But the Germans were not the only imperialists and not the only ones to succumb to paranoia The crisis that brought war in 1914 was the fruit of a shared political culture But it was also multipolar and genuinely interactive that is what makes it the most complex event of modern times and that is why the debate over the origins of the First World War continues, one century after Gavrilo Princip fired those two fatal shots on Franz Joseph Street There were isolated expressions of chauvinist enthusiasm for the coming fight, but these were the exception The myth that European men leapt at the opportunity to defeat a hated enemy has been comprehensively dispelled In most places and for most people, the news of mobilization came as a profound shock, a peal of thunder out of a cloudless sky And the further one moved away from the urban centres, the less sense the news of mobilization seemed to make to the people who were going to fight, die or be maimed or bereaved in the coming war In the villages of the Russian countryside a stunned silence reigned, broken only by the sound of men, women and children weeping In Vatilieu, a small commune in the Rh ne Alpes region of south eastern France, the ringing of the tocsin brought workers and peasants into the village square Some, who had run straight from the fields, were still carrying their pitchforks What can it mean What is going to happen to us asked the women Wives, children, husbands, all were overcome by emotion The wives clung to the arms of their husbands The children, seeing their mothers weeping, started to cry too All around us was alarm and consternation What a disturbing scene An English traveller recalled the reaction in an Altai Semipalatinsk Cossack settlement when the blue flag borne aloft by a rider and the noise of bugles playing the alarm brought news of mobilization The Tsar had spoken, and the Cossacks, with their unique military calling and tradition, burned to fight the enemy But who was that enemy Nobody knew The mobilization telegram provided no details Rumours abounded At first everyone imagined that the war must be with China Russia had pushed too far into Mongolia and China had declared war Then another rumour did the rounds It is with England, with England This view prevailed for some time Only after four days did something like the truth come to us, and then nobody believed it.

  10. says:

    While the dead are gone, they re not gone While the dead don t speak, they speak St PaulWhich begs the question, what do they say to us Last week saw extensive media coverage of the various commemorations of Britain s declaration of war against Germany on August 4, 1914 Naturally, understandably, inevitably, those dignitaries invited to hold speeches on this occasion turned most of their attention to the human cost The sheer numbers are obscene, beyond anyone s understanding or imagination The bare statistics are mere marks on a page it takes other means to allow us to build a picture of the carnage There is this magnificent and moving installation in the dry moat of the Tower of London, for example Entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red sic it plants a red ceramic poppy to represent each of the service personnel from the UK who died in the 14 18 888,264 poppies.And that is just servicemen and women No civilians.And that does not include the injured, maimed and traumatised Nor the missing in action.And that is just one country.It is natural, understandable, inevitable, that this sacrifice should be ennobled and dignified But how How to render the carnage manageable, assimilable into a noble narrative of high idealism The Duke of Cambridge, speaking at the Inter allied Memorial in Li ge, made a valiant effort We salute those who died to give us our freedom. Laughable really For if there is one thing I have taken from Christopher Clark s magisterial opus, it is the sense that this was never a war of ideas or ideology It was not Fascism against Liberalism, Oppression against Freedom The Prince references Stefan Zweig at the beginning of his speech In his memoir The World of Yesterday, Zweig pinpoints the difference between the two World Wars The war of 39 had a reason, it was about freedom and preserving the moral good That of 1914 served only an illusion, a dream, a mania.The idea of a dream is taken up by Clark in his title Sleepwalkers That is a fine image as long as it is not meant to convey that the key players were drifting totally unaware towards war They knew, oh they knew, indeed in some quarters there was a definite attitude that war was not only unavoidable, but maybe even desirable The necessary way to purify the muddy waters of diplomacy To temper the steel of national identity To re calibrate the balance of power in Europe No, what those leaders were blind to was the nature of the armed conflict they were groping their way towards No one could have envisaged industrial warfare The image that crossed my mind when reading this was less one of dreamers, one of a perverse game of Blind Man s Buff, in which not only are ALL of the players blindfold, but also shackled each to the other with a complex system of ropes of differing lengths that at some stage will yank them back ignominiously to a position they never wanted to hold Blindfold, because all those active in the diplomatic service, all those ambassadors and attach s, the correspondents and representatives, the spies and the message boys, all of them could only attempt to guess at the true motives and intents of those in power Indeed, a lot of the time it was hard to assess who was in power at all, and who was whispering in his ear Personal regiments as government, with little sense of making common cause often the military department was at loggerheads with the Foreign Secretary, the Emperor with his Chancellor, the man in charge of the money with everyone And shackled through the complex and constantly shifting system of alliances and power blocs.Clark is a thoroughly modern historian, one who scrupulously avoids the over arching grand narrative which would allot blame to one country or another He takes a multi national approach, with an informative emphasis on Serbia This wide scope of narratives does present a challenge to the reader in the form of the great panoply of names that need to be filed away for future reference I can only advise anyone embarking on this journey to keep a cheat sheet tucked into the back cover in order to be able to tell your Andr ssy from your Clausewitz, your Sazonov from your Aehrenthal and to try to sort out the Kaljevic, the K lnoky and the Karadzic.So, in the end, what do they say, the dead of 14 18 Thirty seven million altogether, who died, in the end, as a result of a diplomatic meltdown Surely all they can say is never again Never again Never again And then it all started again barely twenty years later I don t want to join the armyI don t want to go to warI d rather stay at homeAround the street to roamLiving on the earnings of a lady typist.I don t want a bayonet in my bellyI don t want my bollocks shot awayI d rather stay in EnglandMerry merry EnglandAnd fornicate my bleedin life awayI don t want to be a soldierI don t want to go to warI d rather hang aroundPiccadilly undergroundAnd live off the earningsOf a high born lady.I don t need no Froggy womenLondon s full of girls I ve never had.Dear Oh Gawd almightyI want to stay in BlightyAnd follow in the footsteps of me dad.Soldiers Songs of the Great Warhttp www.westernfrontassociation.co bloodswept makes far sense, surely

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