The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

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9780713999426: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
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In The Sleepwalkers acclaimed historian and author of Iron Kingdom, Christopher Clark, examines
the causes of the First World War.

SUNDAY TIMES and INDEPENDENT BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2012

The 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.

Drawing on many fresh new sources, this account reveals a Europe very different from the familiar picture, putting Serbia and the Balkans at the centre of the story. Starting with the brutal assassination of Alexander I of Serbia in 1903, Clark shows how, far from being the place of enviable stability it appears to us, Europe was racked by chronic problems: a multipolar, fractured, multicultural world of clashing ideals, terrorism, militancy and instability, which was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. He shows how the rulers of Europe, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, behaved like sleepwalkers, stumbling through crisis after crisis and finally convincing themselves that war was the only answer.

Reviews:

'Formidable ... one of the most impressive and stimulating studies of the period ever published' Max Hastings, Sunday Times

'The arguments [Clark] sets out in this quite superb account of the causes of the First World War are so compelling that they effectively consign the old historical consensus to the bin ... a masterpiece. It's not often that one has the privilege of reading a book that reforges our understanding of one of the seminal events of world history' Mail Online

'Impeccably researched, provocatively argued and elegantly written, his book is a model of scholarship' Sunday Times, Books of the Year 2012

'A lovingly researched work of the highest scholarship. It is hard to believe we will ever see a better narrative of what was perhaps the biggest collective blunder in the history of international relations' Niall Ferguson

'A brilliant contribution' Times Higher Education

'Clark is fully alive to the challenges of the subject. Planting himself at the contingent end of the spectrum, he prefers to establish how the war happened rather than to explain why by means of hindsight ... It is a refreshing approach. He provides vivid portraits of leading figures ... [He] also gives a rich sense of what contemporaries believed was at stake in the crises leading up to the war' Irish Times

About the author:

Christopher Clark is Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St Catharine's College. He is the author of The Politics of Conversion, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Iron Kingdom. Widely praised around the world, Iron Kingdom became a major bestseller. He has been awarded the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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Review:

Formidable ... one of the most impressive and stimulating studies of the period ever published (Max Hastings Sunday Times)

The arguments [Clark] sets out in this quite superb account of the causes of the First World War are so compelling that they effectively consign the old historical consensus to the bin ... Clark's history of Prussia, Iron Kingdom, was a masterpiece. The Sleepwalkers surpasses it. It's not often that one has the privilege of reading a book that reforges our understanding of one of the seminal events of world history (Mail Online)

Christopher Clark has written the most readable account of the origins of the First World War since Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August. The difference is that The Sleepwalkers is a lovingly researched work of the highest scholarship. It is hard to believe we will ever see a better narrative of what was perhaps the biggest collective blunder in the history of international relations (Niall Ferguson)

Clark is fully alive to the challenges of the subject. Planting himself at the contingent end of the spectrum, he prefers to establish how the war happened rather than to explain why by means of hindsight ... It is a refreshing approach. He provides vivid portraits of leading figures ... [He] also gives a rich sense of what contemporaries believed was at stake in the crises leading up to the war (Irish Times)

A brilliant contribution (Times Higher Education)

For decades, historians have argued about the origins of the first world war. For Cambridge professor Clark, however, the answer lies in a metaphor: far from consciously planning the war, the statesmen of 1914 were "sleepwalkers, watchful but unseeing, haunted by dreams, yet blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world ... Impeccably researched, provocatively argued and elegantly written, his book is a model of scholarship (Sunday Times Books of the Year)

In recent decades, many analysts had tended to put most blame for the disaster [of the First World War] on Germany. Clark strongly renews an older interpretation which sees the statesmen of many countries as blundering blindly together into war (Stephen Howe Independent BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

From the Back Cover:

On the morning of June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, arrived at Sarajevo railway station, Europe was at peace. Thirty-seven days later, it was at war. The conflict that resulted would kill more than fifteen million people, destroy three empires, and permanently alter world history.

The Sleepwalkers reveals in gripping detail how the crisis leading to World War I unfolded. Drawing on fresh sources, it traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts among the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade. Distinguished historian Christopher Clark examines the decades of history that informed the events of 1914 and details the mutual misunderstandings and unintended signals that drove the crisis forward in a few short weeks.

How did the Balkans--a peripheral region far from Europe's centers of power and wealth--come to be the center of a drama of such magnitude? How had European nations organized themselves into opposing alliances, and how did these nations manage to carry out foreign policy as a result? Clark reveals a Europe racked by chronic problems--a fractured world of instability and militancy that was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. These rulers, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, stumbled through crisis after crisis and finally convinced themselves that war was the only answer.

Meticulously researched and masterfully written, The Sleepwalkers is a magisterial account of one of the most compelling dramas of modern times.

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Christopher Clark,Christopher M. Clark
Published by Allen Lane (2012)
ISBN 10: 071399942X ISBN 13: 9780713999426
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