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July 1914: Countdown to War

Sean McMeekin.
Publisher Basic Books  
Format paperback
ISBN 9780465060740
Pages/Publication Date 460/2014
Daedalus Item Code 49136
This item is not available.
Conventional wisdom holds that it was an ambitious and warlike German Empire that largely precipitated Europe's spiral into World War I, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on June 28, 1914. But in this superb timeline history, Istanbul-based historian and Tomlinson Prize winner Sean McMeekin looks at the weeks leading up to August 4—when German troops invaded Belgium—and finds that the seemingly inevitable war might have been avoided entirely if not for the actions of a small group of statesmen. Along with German chancellor Bethmann Hollweg, McMeekin finds men like Austrian foreign minister Leopold von Berchtold, Russian foreign minister Sergei Sazonov, and French president Raymond Poincaré just as willing to gamble on war in order to capitalize on the political fallout from Ferdinand's murder.

"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."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"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."—NYReview of Books

"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."—Dallas Morning News

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