When a Serbian-backed assassin gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in late June 1914, the world seemed unmoved. Even Ferdinand's own uncle, Franz Josef I, was notably ambivalent about the death of the Hapsburg heir, saying simply, "It is God's will." Certainly, there was nothing to suggest that the episode would lead to conflictmuch less a world war of such massive and horrific proportions that it would fundamentally reshape the course of human events.
As acclaimed historian Sean McMeekin reveals in July 1914, World War I might have been avoided entirely had it not been for a small group of statesmen who, in the month after the assassination, plotted to use Ferdinand's murder as the trigger for a long-awaited showdown in Europe. The primary culprits, moreover, have long escaped blame. While most accounts of the war's outbreak place the bulk of responsibility on German and Austro-Hungarian militarism, McMeekin draws on surprising new evidence from archives across Europe to show that the worst offenders were actually to be found in Russia and France, whose belligerence and duplicity ensured that war was inevitable. Whether they plotted for war or rode the whirlwind nearly blind, each of the men involvedfrom Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold von Berchtold and German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov and French president Raymond Poincarsought to capitalize on the fallout from Ferdinand's murder, unwittingly leading Europe toward the greatest cataclysm it had ever seen.
A revolutionary account of the genesis of World War I, July 1914 tells the gripping story of Europe's countdown to war from the bloody opening act on June 28th to Britain's final plunge on August 4th, showing how a single monthand a handful of menchanged the course of the twentieth century.
©2013 Sean McMeekin (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
How could anyone think it was a good idea to pick a sonorous American narrator and fail to coach him in how to pronounce any European language? (Or even British English - Lord Salisbury is pronounced as "sal-iss-bury")
A well written telling of how the world stumbled to war. Well written but not inspiring
"Great Book, Narrator Isn't the Best though"
Yes, most likely in July 2014 for the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI.
This book goes into more detail than the Guns of August about the actual start of the war, specifically, the 34 days between Franz Ferdinand's assassination and the attack by Austria-Hungary on Serbia.
A major problem with the narrator is that he isn't pronouncing the German names right. He pronounces von Moltke's name wrong. When he first said "Molt," I actually stopped listening and thought "Who the Hell is 'Molt?'" It's pronounced mɔltkə, two syllables.
Audible Inc. needs to make sure that their narrators have cheat sheets to pronounce names right. It can really throw you off when you hear a name pronounced wrong like Moltke.
"An exciting story, indifferently read"
Yes, there are many details in the story that are worth rehearing.
The Guns of August. They are both good narratives, but this is more current
He needs to research the correct pronunciation of names. For example, "Choristers Bridge," the shorthand name for the Russian foreign office, is pronounced with a silent "h." Many other names are mispronounced, but that one grates.
It is a very valuable corrective to the standard interpretation, which places the heaviest portion of the blame for the start of WWI on the Central Powers, especially Germany. It is clear that blame must be more widely apportioned, and that the Dual Monarchy must be given a heavier portion.
"A different view of the origins of WWI"
Probably not. In theory the structure of the book should be really well suited for an audiobook. The events of July of 1914 make for such a dramatic and gripping story. With many non-fiction books it's easy to phase out while listening, and then realize you've have no recollection of the last 15 minutes of the book. There's no danger of that here. But the constant mispronunciation of names is grating, and a real problem.
The most interesting bits to me were the handling of the crisis in France and Russia. The pre-planned French Balkan Inception scenario, the aggressive stance of Poincare during the StP meeting, and the prepared plans and execution of the Russian mobilization (based on a hidden early mobilization while trying to prevent German mobilization for as long as possible via diplomacy). McMeekin's telling of these parts ends up painting a very different picture than the "standard" explanation where the German war council of 1912 is treated as the smoking gun.
But this isn't a one-sided book by any means. In the final analysis McMeekin seems happy to heap blame of the war on everyone involved. (Even the British, who if this book is to believed must have had one of the most gullible diplomatic corps and least effective foreign ministry of the era.)
Maybe one that doesn't have difficult foreign words for him to mangle. It wasn't a bad narration otherwise.
Illuminating, convincing, important
Istvan Tisza, the Hunagrian prime minister. He was one of the very few clear-sighted players, and an admirable man (he resigned in 1917 and joined the army to experience what it is like on the front lines; assassinated by Soviet collaborators in 1918, none of whom came to a good end — one, József Pogány, aka John Pepper, ended up tortured and executed by Stalin after agitating in the U.S.). Unfortunately, his efforts to stave off aggression toward Serbia only stalled it and made impossible a contained war against Serbia, which might not have led to a world war.
His reading is not nearly as bad as some reviewers pretend. I found it good in general. It is true that he mispronounces some foreign words, e.g. Caillaux should sound like Ka yo (as in yoyo), not Kay yo, because the 'i' forms a phonic unit with 'll' that follows and not with the preceding 'ca'; the German word Kriegsgefahrzustand should have the accent on Krieg with a secondary accent on "zu" (pronounced 'tzoo'), and not on -fahr). But such instances, though annoying, are few enough not to bo overly distracting, and I have alas come across few audiobooks where foreign names are pronounced well or even correctly. Here most names come out correctly, and I can think of none that is unrecognizable (contrary to one reviewer's objection, the name Moltke is properly pronounced).
A Tragedy of Errors
I have long thought that Germany deserved the punishment the Versailles treaty imposed (which however does not justify the treaty's lack of insight and foresight). This book, by providing a precise blow by blow account of the days leading up to the outbreak of war, shows clearly that Germany did not plan or intend this war but ended up appearing to have started it through Russian (and to some extent French) trickery together with its own minister Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg's ineptitude. McMeekin's account elucidates (by being sufficiently detailed, and by incorporating evidence that has come to light in recent years) how such a monstrous war came about and the responsibility each player bore.However, if I can no longer think of Germany as responsible for starting the war, I do think Germany bears the blame for the atrocities in Belgium, and above all, for continuing the war after the slaughter took on monstrous proportions (9 million soldiers killed with as many civilians): the Germany army was in France after all, which means Germany could have decided to pull out (as the French could not). Russia pulling out in 1917 could have ended the war if Germany had been willing to use the opportunity. But there the 'logic' of war prevailed, not concern for humanity or even the good of the country and its people. From the French point of view, it was certainly just (though not exactly smart) to make Germany pay for the monumental damage France suffered. Of course it looked different from the viewpoint of Germans, especially those who knew how Germany had been drawn into war. The tricky and/or obtuse players who brought about the war did more than bring ruin and death to their countries and citizens; their short-sighted gamesmanship and ineptitude were ultimately responsible for Hitler, possibly the Bolshevik revolution, and the subsequent hell whose flames flared terrifyingly twenty years later and are still singeing us today.
"Must read to understand WWI"
My favorite book on WWI
One has to read this to even attempt at getting their heads around WWI
"Polemic masquerading as scholarship"
The July Crisis makes for an exciting story and this is a well written account. Unfortunately it is also an essentially false account. McMeekin makes a number of assertions to support his Russian guilt thesis that are flat out wrong. Just to give one example, the story about the Kaiser's greeting of Bethmann Holweg on July 27 is based on Bulow's memoirs but has been shown to be an invention by Albertini and others. The sad fact is that readers unfamiliar with the intricate details of the July Crisis will be seriously mislead by this book.
Disappointed that such a seriously flawed book is taken as an accurate account of the July Crisis by so many people.
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