At the end of World War I, Germany was demonized. The Treaty of Versailles contained a "war guilt" clause pinning the blame on the aggression of Germany and accusing her of "supreme offence against international morality". Here, Ponting rejects this thesis, having made a thorough study of the incredibly complex international diplomatic documents. His interpretation rejects also the thesis that Europe in 1914 had reached such a boiling point it was bound to erupt or that the origins of the war lay in a mighty arms race. Instead, he argues that the war occurred becauase of the situation in the Balkans, while he gives full weight to Austria-Hungary's desire to cripple Serbia instead of negotiating and to Russia's militaristic programme of expansion. Ponting begins with a dramatic recreation of the assassination in Sarajevo (he agrees that this was the starting point). He then examines what happened in the 13 days that led to war. His story criss-crosses Europe city-by-city - Belgrade, Paris, London, Budapest, St Petersburg, Vienna, Rome etc - and describes developments day by day, latterly indeed hour by hour, as the tension builds.
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Clive Ponting is a Reader in Politics at the University of Wales, Swansea. He has written numerous books including the world-wide bestseller A Green History of the World. His most recent books have been The Pimlico History of the Twentieth Century and the widely acclaimed World History: A New Perspective, also available in Pimlico paperback.
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