Book Review: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

Archives

by Christopher Clark

Harper Collins, New York, 2013. Pp. xxxii, 698. Illus., maps, notes, index. $29.99. ISBN: 0061146657

A most excellent review of the origins of World War  I

In revisiting the causes of the Great War, Christopher Clark, author of Iron Kingdom: the Rise and Downfall of Prussia, rejecting the “Fisher thesis”, that it was all Germany’s fault, and also what might be called the “Tuchman thesis”  of clockwork mobilization plans gone awry.  Clark sees the war as growing from Balkan roots, the initial crisis in many ways being the onset of a Third Balkan War, and certainly the events of that summer make sense only in the context of the earlier two war.  He further argues that it was the fragility of the two alliance blocs that facilitated the disaster.  He is especially critical of the Entente, which was an attempt to form a new European power bloc (France-Russia-Britain) out of the complex set of the Franco-Russian alliance and the Anglo-French and the Anglo-Russian power sharing agreements on divisive colonial issues. 

Well researched, the book must be read carefully as the author’s argument goes beyond the actual evidence presented when ‘connecting the dots’.  Clark is clear where he is making speculative assertion, but the book flows so well a casual reading may confuse which is which.  Clark also is perhaps too focused on the Balkans; while the outbreak of war in 1914 was sparked by events in the Balkans, there had been earlier crises, many now forgotten, that had come close to war, and absent the assassinations in Sarajevo some other incident might well have set things off later.

Overall The Sleepwalkers is a must read for those fascinated by WW I, given that the centenary is upon us, but Clark’s conclusions may be as overstated against the Entente as Fisher’s thesis was against Germany. 

 

Our Reviewer:  Scott Palter graduated from Dartmouth and Stanford Law.  A veteran war gamer, one of the old SPI play testers, he is also a game developer and was founder and publisher of West End Games.  His most recent reviews for StrategyPageincludeForgotten Land: Journeys Among the Ghosts of East Prussia,Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War, Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II,and Normandy Crucible: The Decisive Battle that Shaped World War II in Europe .

---///---
Reviewer: Scott Palter   


Buy it at Amazon.com




X

ad
0
30

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 30 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close