The First World War followed a period of sustained peace in Europe during which people talked with confidence of prosperity, progress and hope. But in 1914, Europe walked into a catastrophic conflict which killed millions of its men, bled its economies dry, shook empires and societies to pieces, and fatally undermined Europe's dominance of the world. It was a war which could have been avoided up to the last moment - so why did it happen?
Beginning in the early nineteenth century, and ending with the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand, award-winning historian Margaret MacMillan uncovers the huge political and technological changes, national decisions and - just as important - the small moments of human muddle and weakness that led Europe from peace to disaster. This masterful exploration of how Europe chose its path towards war will change and enrich how we see this defining moment in our history.
Margaret Macmillan is an acclaimed historian and has won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize and the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919. She is the author of numerous books, and she is the warden of St Anthony's College, Oxford.
“Margaret MacMillan is that wonderful combination – An Academic and scholar who writes well, with a marvelous clarity of thought. Her pen portraits of the chief players are both enjoyable and illuminating. Among the cascade of books arriving for the anniversary, this work stands out.” (The Times)
“MacMillan is a perceptive guide to the thought processes of the key players”. (The Mail on Sunday)
“MacMillan provides some beautifully nuanced pen-portraits of the leading players in the story, and much compelling evidence to point the finger of blame. It is hard not to agree.” (Evening Standard)
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Magisterial Book Read Brilliantly
Absolutely. First of all, it's a great book. I took a deep breath earlier this year and plunged headlong into the great coursing centenary stream. Have read five or six books – Hastings', Hochschild's, Paxman's, etc. – all of them good. But this is the best. It's unfailingly intelligent. It's wonderfully clear. It's brimming with marvelous, telling details. (The best sort of details - illustrative nuggets.) And, yes, it's gripping. And part and parcel of the whole package, so to speak (so to speak indeed), it's beautifully read, performed, not quite sure what the word is. Richard Burnip is a joy to listen to. His voice is clear. He's got great range. He's got authority. And best of all, perhaps, there was nothing show offy about the read. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be: thoughtful, intelligent, clear, nuanced, assured. I thought it was perfectly judged. He does Margaret Macmillan's words justice. What more could you ask? For the record, I didn't find his reading slow. I thought it was timed to perfection. It peered into the book's depths, it brought out nuance. Writing of this calibre has its own cadence.That needs to be respected. Honoured even. This did. This isn't a canter-through book. Everything about it - from subject matter to phrasing - commands one's deepest admiration. And needs to be savoured. The "performance" was absolutely right for the book.
Any of the one's I've already mentioned. All of them were, well, worthwhile. But this one takes the laurel. Why? Because it was more thoughtful, more measured, more perceptive - ultimately more intelligent. World War I is a huge subject and the book opened up more of it than the others. Last but not least, it was a relief that for once here was a war book where one never felt the tug of that god awful force field: "boys and their toys."
I haven't. But I'll certainly be looking for him in the future.
Ridiculous question. This isn't Michael Herr's Dispatches. Or Crane's Red Badge of Courage. Or a short story. It's a big demanding book. A cathedral of a book. As opposed to a bungalow. I was very glad it was what it was. It was several "one sittings". And all the better for being so.
An Excellent Insight
Yes. Though easy to follow and well read by Richard Burnip there is so much to take in that I will definitely listen again. I know I will get new detail from a second "reading".
Not from my reading so far. Most of my earlier reading about WW1 has been about the war itself. This is much more about what happened which led to the war. It covers many historical events of which I was aware but which I hadn't previously linked together in the way the author does. The interconnections all make sense and it helped me put clarity and context to late 19th and early 20th century history.
There were many but mostly the realisation that most of the statesmen genuinely thought that, as in previous crises, something would happen at the last minute to stop the war form happening. Also the naivety of those who really believed "it would be over by Christmas".
It is a long book at 24 chapters and over 31 hours on Audible. Well worth the time for anyone interested in European history and in particular the events surrounding The Great War.
- Hudds Man