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This is a magisterial new account of Europe's tragic descent into a largely inadvertent war in the summer of 1914. Thomas Otte reveals why a century-old system of Great Power politics collapsed so disastrously in the weeks from the 'shot heard around the world' on June 28th to Germany's declaration of war on Russia on August 1st. He shows definitively that the key to under This is a magisterial new account of Europe's tragic descent into a largely inadvertent war in the summer of 1914. Thomas Otte reveals why a century-old system of Great Power politics collapsed so disastrously in the weeks from the 'shot heard around the world' on June 28th to Germany's declaration of war on Russia on August 1st. He shows definitively that the key to understanding how and why Europe descended into world war is to be found in the near-collective failure of statecraft by the rulers of Europe and not in abstract concepts such as the 'balance of power' or the 'alliance system'. In this unprecedented panorama of Europe on the brink, from the ministerial palaces of Berlin and Vienna to Belgrade, London, Paris and St Petersburg, Thomas Otte reveals the hawks and doves whose decision-making led to a war that would define a century and which still reverberates today.


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This is a magisterial new account of Europe's tragic descent into a largely inadvertent war in the summer of 1914. Thomas Otte reveals why a century-old system of Great Power politics collapsed so disastrously in the weeks from the 'shot heard around the world' on June 28th to Germany's declaration of war on Russia on August 1st. He shows definitively that the key to under This is a magisterial new account of Europe's tragic descent into a largely inadvertent war in the summer of 1914. Thomas Otte reveals why a century-old system of Great Power politics collapsed so disastrously in the weeks from the 'shot heard around the world' on June 28th to Germany's declaration of war on Russia on August 1st. He shows definitively that the key to understanding how and why Europe descended into world war is to be found in the near-collective failure of statecraft by the rulers of Europe and not in abstract concepts such as the 'balance of power' or the 'alliance system'. In this unprecedented panorama of Europe on the brink, from the ministerial palaces of Berlin and Vienna to Belgrade, London, Paris and St Petersburg, Thomas Otte reveals the hawks and doves whose decision-making led to a war that would define a century and which still reverberates today.

30 review for July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    It was just over three years ago that I decided to get interested in the First World War. I remember the time period because my wife was pregnant with our first child and I was freaking out that my life would be totally upended and I’d never read or see or learn anything new at all, except what came on Sesame Street. I say “decided” because I chose World War I as the “last” topic I’d read about as a free, childless man. I began systematically enough, with general histories on the whole of the wa It was just over three years ago that I decided to get interested in the First World War. I remember the time period because my wife was pregnant with our first child and I was freaking out that my life would be totally upended and I’d never read or see or learn anything new at all, except what came on Sesame Street. I say “decided” because I chose World War I as the “last” topic I’d read about as a free, childless man. I began systematically enough, with general histories on the whole of the war. I did this to familiarize myself with the basic chronology, characters, and events. Then I reread The Guns of August because – well, because you just have to. At some point, that baby was born and all systems went down. My systematic study became hodgepodge. I read a book on the Somme, on the Marne, on Verdun. I was all over the place. And then a second child arrived. I was all over the place, plus my brain stopped functioning. (As you can obviously tell, having a child – now two – did not leave me to give up reading. It did leave me to give up traveling, television, movies, a clean house, and vital parts of my sanity). This summer, the centennial of the war came and went. The momentous date helped clarify my intent and focus my efforts. I began to pick books that focused on the beginning of the war. As I tend to do when left alone on Amazon with big ideas, I purchased a cluster of World War I titles on this narrowed subject. When I began T.G. Otte’s July Crisis, I felt pretty good about my WWI knowledge. Certainly I’m not as comfortable with the topic as my other historic passions (which I’ve been living with as long as I can remember), but I’d undertaken a decent crash course. Partway through July Crisis, however, I began to feel like Bart Simpson on his visit to New York City (in Season 9, Episode 1, The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson). In that episode, Bart is on the subway, pretending to be blind and legless as he panhandles. He licks a pole, notices that no one is noticing him, and mutters “I’m in over my head.” As the title promises, Otte’s book covers the tumultuous period from June 28 to August 4, 1914. In other words, it takes you from the assassination in Sarajevo to the beginning of all out war (the battles that followed in August are not covered at all). At 524 pages, it is a lengthy, rather dense, intensely focused look at the international response to the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the hands of pan-Serbian assassins. If you step back – way, way back – it is possible to understand the overall mechanics of how Europe went to war. Austria-Hungary schemed to use the death of their unloved heir to strengthen their position vis-à-vis Serbia, their troublesome neighbor to the south. It wasn’t entirely illogical for Austria-Hungary to do so, since the Serbs had been an agitating and disruptive presence in the region for the previous decade, precipitating regional wars with nationalist aims. The trouble came in a series of interlocking alliances. Russia had tied itself to Serbia. France had agreed to fight with Russia if Russia were attacked by Germany. The Germans were drawn into this web because they were connected to Austria-Hungary. Though the Austrians were a dying empire, they also represented Germany’s most important ally. The mechanical view of the war’s start – how various treaties snapped into place, obligating the participants to go to war – is a helpful scheme for a basic understanding. It is not, however, why – or even how – the war actually began. The treaties were only words on paper. It was the leadership of each individual country involved – the sovereigns, the ministers, the diplomats – who actually made the decisions that led to war. Decisions that were the product of assumptions, misconceptions, and gambles. The endlessly fascinating aspect of this most inhumane and mechanized war is how human and humbly it faltered to a start. The difficulty in reading this book comes not come from Otte’s inability to express himself using complete sentences. It doesn’t come from poor prose or twisted grammatical syntax. And it doesn’t come from any issues of structure or organization. To the contrary, Otte is a clear (though academically inclined) writer takes a methodical, chronological approach to his subject. Rather, the difficulty – the sense that I’d gotten in over my head – is the absolute ground-level approach he has taken in relating this story. July Crisis is an excellent example of the difficulty of seeing the forest through the trees. Time and again, I had to reread sections, or consult other sources, because the sheer level of detail blocked my understanding. (A simple timeline would have been an immeasurable help). This isn’t a popular history for general interest readers. Otte is a professor of diplomatic history, and it shows. This is a diplomatic history more than anything else. All the familiar names are there – Bethmann Hollweg, Conrad von Hotzendorf, Raymond Poincare – but the story is really told through the ambassadors on the ground. Guys like Szápáry von Szápár, Maurice Paleologue, and Aleksandr Izvolsky. There are a lot of names, and no matter how many times I consulted the dramatis personae that Otte includes, I still had a hard time keeping them straight. (And I thought A Song of Ice and Fire was challenging!). In part, this can’t be helped. This is an enormous canvas, with a lot of actors; someone with more background in WWI will probably not have the same issues I did. On the other hand, Otte’s decision to strip these men of most of their personality (and boy, did they have personalities!), tends to make everyone harder to keep straight. History books love to place blame, especially books about WWI, which is one of the great nothing-fights of all time. Otte does an admirable job remaining equable. He would talk about the Austrians and I’d be like They’re too blame! Then he’d talk about the Serbs and I’d change my mind and say It’s their fault! But in the next section about Russia, or Germany, or France, I’d switch my allegiances again. This is not a matter of indecisiveness, but rather an acceptance of the fact that there’s more than enough culpability to go around. (It has always been fashionable to lay WWI at the doorstop of the Germans or Austro-Hungarians. Certainly, Austria could have acted with less belligerence, and Germany could’ve put an absolute stop to them at any moment. But the same could be said of every other nation involved in the July Crisis. Russia could have said they weren’t going to tie their fortunes to the unstable hotbed of terrorism that was Serbia; France likewise could have refused to honor commitments to Russia stemming from Russia’s tango with the Serbs. To start the war, it took a whole lot of countries making a whole lot of mistakes. To keep the war from starting, only one party needed back down somewhere along the line. That never happened). July Crisis is not the most vivid or exciting read. Other recent titles, such as Margaret MacMillan’s The War that Ended Peace, do a better job of injecting personality into the storytelling and are better suited to WWI newcomers. This book is more graduate-level, written for people with a special interest in WWI. It is accessible enough, but definitely written with the expectation that the reader brings a lot of foreknowledge on the topic. If anything, it certainly helped to clarify all the things I have not yet learned.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Philliber

    When arriving a bit late for a dinner party, there is that awkward and embarrassed feeling the diner quickly gets as he steps into a group heavy with discussion. If he has any savoir faire, he would recognize that he has just entered an already raging conversation and would be clearly foolish to speak too authoritatively on the present topic. It is almost the same sensation with regard to Thomas Otte’s new 555 page hardback, “July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914.” Otte, Profess When arriving a bit late for a dinner party, there is that awkward and embarrassed feeling the diner quickly gets as he steps into a group heavy with discussion. If he has any savoir faire, he would recognize that he has just entered an already raging conversation and would be clearly foolish to speak too authoritatively on the present topic. It is almost the same sensation with regard to Thomas Otte’s new 555 page hardback, “July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914.” Otte, Professor of Diplomatic History at the University of East Anglia, has crafted a fine, scholarly, heavily footnoted retelling of the immediate events that preceded the conflagration of the First World War. It doesn’t take too many minutes of reading to swiftly grasp one has stepped into a long, impassioned discussion and that the author is now making his case. In “July Crisis” Otte walks the reader, slowly, thoroughly and thoughtfully, through the days of 28 June to 4 August 2014. The prosecutors, players, participants, and politicians are all paraded before the reader, unveiling motivations, schemes, plots, blunders and faux pas that turned the assassination of Franz Ferdinand into a world war. The author reads and retells the events through the lens that what happened then might help us now; for “in many ways, the concerns and events of that year and the years preceding it are more immediate to us today ( . . . ). At the beginning of the twenty-first century, as multiple power centres compete for economic, military and political influence and when suicide bombers have become a feature of modern life, the contours of the international landscape of 1914 look more familiar now than those of the era of Nixon, Brezhnev, and Carter” (524). Otte is very careful to keep his re-examination of the events from slipping into mere schoolyard playground blame-shifting. As he notes repeatedly, there were many dynamics involved that accelerated the emergency: “By moving the actions of individual monarchs, politicians and generals into the foreground, by examining the ethos of the ruling elite with its emphasis on ‘honour’ and prestige, and by examining the accelerating dynamic of the unfolding crisis, this book has offered a comprehensive and original reassessment of the July Crisis” (522). The absence of coherent strategies, regional and self-interested narrow-mindedness, intentional miscommunications from ambassadors – both to their home and to their host countries, almost every Power being driven by a self-perceived sense of weakness, and virtually complete failure of state-craft, were many of the ingredients that concocted a cataclysmic cocktail. As Otte summarizes, “War had come as a result of individual decisions and a rapid series of moves and countermoves by the chancelleries of Europe, and set against the backdrop of recent shifts in the international landscape and anticipated further changes in the years to come” (506). In the end, “July Crisis” gives a clear and impressive re-telling of the events that led up to the First World War. Two themes that reverberated through the book seem to me to be significant. First, “[p]ersonality mattered” (133). Whether it was the indecisiveness of Bethmann Hollweg, the highly emotional inflammations of Wilhelm II, the conflictions of Sazanov, or the intentional miscommunications of Tschirschky or Paléologue, personality mattered. The other theme was how clear-eyed so many players were that these actions would bring about “a war which will destroy for decades to come the culture of all Europe” (380), and yet they blazed on to that end. As a non-specialist in this area, my reading “July Crisis” was like stepping late into that dinner discussion that was already in full swing. Nevertheless, Otte is neither demeaning nor scolding, but slowly and helpfully brings both the specialist deeper into his reassessment and the non-specialist into the discussion. As the centenary of the First World War is now upon us, Otte has given us a great resource to appreciate the events that exploded onto our world, and a way to untangle and gain from those events. I gladly encourage each one reading this review to race out and purchase a copy of “July Crisis” as quickly as possible! Thanks to the fine folks of Cambridge University Press who provided an e-copy of the book for this review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    A straightforward, readable history of the July Crisis, mostly concerned with questions of “how” and “why” as well as the importance of timing. Otte remains focused on the decisionmakers of the crisis and clearly describes the chain of motives, plots, and blunders leading up to the assassination of Ferdinand and the subsequent diplomatic fallout. While no one wanted a general war, from reading this book you get the impression that no one really wanted to stop a war either. Otte does not cover muc A straightforward, readable history of the July Crisis, mostly concerned with questions of “how” and “why” as well as the importance of timing. Otte remains focused on the decisionmakers of the crisis and clearly describes the chain of motives, plots, and blunders leading up to the assassination of Ferdinand and the subsequent diplomatic fallout. While no one wanted a general war, from reading this book you get the impression that no one really wanted to stop a war either. Otte does not cover much of the historical context or long-term causes in much detail; instead he focuses on the players and their decisions. He also argues that Edward Grey was an engaged and dynamic player rather than an aloof, out-of-touch birdwatcher, and that he remained non-committal in order to retain influence over both sides. He also argues that the Kaiser and the Tsar were not very important to the course of events, although he does assert the Kaiser was also rather restrained and responsible, if bombastic (he notes that the Kaiser’s Stop-in-Belgrade proposal was issued after Vienna’s declaration of war, rather than before, and basically portrays Wilhelm as a bystander), and Otte portrays Russia’s mobilization as the decisive turning point (while Germany has often been criticized for giving Austria a “blank check,” Otte notes that France did the same for Russia, in the form of an ambassador overstepping his authority) At one point Otte writes that Dragutin Dimitrijevic (“Apis”) was the chief architect behind the assassination of Ferdinand and that the assassins were just “useful idiots.” While it is true that Apis supplied the weapons, the assassins actually disregarded orders from the Serb government to call off the plot. A careful, witty, and well-written history.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susanna - Censored by GoodReads

    My ARC courtesy of Cambridge University Press and NetGalley - much thanks! Fascinating if you like diplomatic history or are seriously interested in the origins of World War I (I am both). A tale of assassination-as-farce followed by diplomacy-as-farce. For a further review: http://susannag.booklikes.com/post/92... . My ARC courtesy of Cambridge University Press and NetGalley - much thanks! Fascinating if you like diplomatic history or are seriously interested in the origins of World War I (I am both). A tale of assassination-as-farce followed by diplomacy-as-farce. For a further review: http://susannag.booklikes.com/post/92... .

  6. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    A gripping account of the march to WWI, yet not quite perfect A very, very good overview of the July Crisis. Not a tremendous amount of new information about any one individual, but enough new here, and a good dovetailing of all the intersecting story lines, to make this a worthy five-star book. Key new points for me were above all the "second blank check" from Jagow to Vienna. After that, playing up Tschirschky's having cone native, looking at Lichnowsky's efforts to sincerely prevent war, while A gripping account of the march to WWI, yet not quite perfect A very, very good overview of the July Crisis. Not a tremendous amount of new information about any one individual, but enough new here, and a good dovetailing of all the intersecting story lines, to make this a worthy five-star book. Key new points for me were above all the "second blank check" from Jagow to Vienna. After that, playing up Tschirschky's having cone native, looking at Lichnowsky's efforts to sincerely prevent war, while Germany and Prussia in particular claimed HE had gone native, and, at a lesser level, how "accepting" Franz Joseph was of a push to war were all important. Per a couple of commenters, could ha have delved more into Serbia, and its knowledge of the Black Hand, specifically what Pasic might have known and what warning he might have given Vienna? Yes. He probably could have played up Hartwig's responsibility more, too. Ideally, I'd 4.5 star this book. Unfortunately, Goodreads still won't give us half stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Spuckler

    “The spring and summer of 1914 were marked in Europe by an exceptional tranquility.” Winston Churchill The July Crisis: The World’s descent into War, Summer 1914 by Thomas Otte is the history of the events leading to the First World War. Otte is a professor of diplomatic and international history of the 19th and 20th century at the University of East Anglia. He has written books on diplomatic history and China, as well as publishing numerous essays in academic journals. Earlier this year, I was f “The spring and summer of 1914 were marked in Europe by an exceptional tranquility.” Winston Churchill The July Crisis: The World’s descent into War, Summer 1914 by Thomas Otte is the history of the events leading to the First World War. Otte is a professor of diplomatic and international history of the 19th and 20th century at the University of East Anglia. He has written books on diplomatic history and China, as well as publishing numerous essays in academic journals. Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to read and review Cambridge University Press’ Cambridge Honors the Centennial of World War I which featured an excerpt from this book. Otte takes a very detailed look at the events leading to the First World War. It starts with an unprecedented period of peace in Europe interrupted with an assassination in Serbia of the Archduke of a toothless Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The Emperor Franz Josef cut short his vacation on the news, only to continue it from his palace. He had little love for the archduke and his wife. The funeral was attended by immediate family, the officer corps was forbidden to salute the funeral train, and neither were buried in the imperial vault. The Emperor was not interested in war and was joined by the Prime Minister Tisza, however, Foreign Minister Berchtold and Chief of the Army Staff Conrad wanted an immediate and punitive war. No one in Europe wanted war except Austria-Hungary foreign minister and chief of staff. Although no one wanted war, there was a sense of paranoia between the nations’ militaries. Although no one want to go to war, I received the strong impression that no one really wanted to stop the war either. With each power in each alliance looking at its interests and security there was no consensus. The alliances were different from the alliances of the cold war. The Warsaw Pact and NATO were entangling alliances. The difference was that individual members did not act out on their own. East Germany would not have invaded West Germany on its own initiative or even mobilized its forces on its own initiative. Alliances were controlled (at least in theory) by the will of all member nations. The alliances of World War I acted to drag an ally nation into war rather than prevent it. No nation wanted to appear weak even though two were very weak at the time: Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. Russia was beginning to modernize and war was not what it needed. France had come to accept the loss of Alsace Lorraine. Germany was a growing industrial power with no need of a war. England sat outside the alliances and examined its own interests. War would be detrimental. If Germany won, England would have a new neighbor across the channel challenging its supremacy at sea. If Germany lost, France and Russia would be suspicious England’s motives. Although relations with Germany were growing, perhaps England made its decision earlier. The invasion of neutral Belgium is cited as England’s reason to enter the war. Although bound by treaty to protect Belgium, there was no requirement for military action. Diplomatic condemnation would have been sufficient under the treaty. Germany although in an alliance to defend Austria-Hungary in the event of a Russian or French invasion was under no obligation to make war against France or Russia if Austria-Hungary decided to start a regional war. It seems like history set up roadblocks to this war at every turn. Rather than stopping countries ran through these roadblocks, not dead set on going to war, but almost a laziness to stop the war even with all the opportunities. World War I was a war that should not have been fought. There was opposition at every turn, yet despite the opposition, war came and change the world forever. Otte does an outstanding job of detailing the diplomatic and political road to war. Extensive use of footnotes and a wide selection of source, including primary source material make this the definitive study of the origins of World War I. The war was much more than an assassination and alliances. Otte takes the reader deep into the process that lead to war. A must read for diplomatic and political historians.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Edgar Raines

    This is a great book. It involves a reading of both the documents but also of what is equally important---the character and personality of the authors of those documents. It is at times almost a minute by minute examination in the capitals of all the powers of the crisis caused by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The book is dense. Among the ambassadors, I had trouble remembering who represented whom and where. That said, the author obviously never forgets. He also This is a great book. It involves a reading of both the documents but also of what is equally important---the character and personality of the authors of those documents. It is at times almost a minute by minute examination in the capitals of all the powers of the crisis caused by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. The book is dense. Among the ambassadors, I had trouble remembering who represented whom and where. That said, the author obviously never forgets. He also knows who is strong and who merely wants to appear strong; who is insightful; who is simply reckless. Historical forces may set the parameters for these events, but a great deal of human bungling and lack of imagination set the wheels in motion. The ramshackle constitutional and political structures in Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Germany contributed greatly to the lack of responsible decision making. The military did not really become involved until after the decision was made to mobilize. The crisis was made by politicians. By Austro-Hungarians who had tunnel vision and saw only the crisis in the Balkans, not the ramifications of that crisis on great power relations, by the Russians where Sazonov, the Foreign Minister, sought to deter the Austro-Hungarians but pursued such an erratic policy that no one ever received that signal---he would tell the German ambassador one thing and the Austro-Hungarian another apparently never realizing that they would compare notes; by the Germans where the Kaiser gave the Austro-Hungarians a blank check, Jagow, the Foreign Minister, gave them a second one, and the chancellor Bethmann Hollweg proved unable to master events and allowed events to master him; and France where President Poincare and Ambassador to Russia Paleologue prioritized maintaining a strong alliance with Russia above all other considerations. A few clear sighted individuals emerge with reputations enhanced from Otte's narrative. Baron Schoen, the German ambassador in Paris, delivered the German declaration of war and left his card at the French foreign Ministry. On the back he wrote in French: "Europe is committing suicide." The German ambassador in London, Lichnowsky, accurately reported events there and attempted to convince Berlin as to how seriously the British regarded the preservation of Belgium neutrality to no avail. And finally, Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, the one high ranking diplomat who consistently strove for a peaceful solution throughout the crisis rather than attempting to game the system in his own nation's interest. Otte finds recent attempts by British historians to hold Grey responsible for not making clear earlier Britain's commitment to Belgium traceable to a critique that Lloyd George made long after the fact. Otte concludes given the political situation in England, particularly within the Liberal Party, if Grey had made such a public commitment he would have split the Cabinet---and Lloyd George would have led the revolt. Otte gives a very even handed analysis. I don't totally agree with all of his conclusions, but I recognize that _July Crisis_ represents the pinnacle of historical scholarship. I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is a book to read and ponder. As he says, our world of 2016 is much closer in terms of international relations to the world of 1914 than to the world of 1980 or the world of 1995.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    This book is a diplomatic history of the long month from June 28, 1914 the start of the First World War in the first wee" by Sean Mcmeekin. I owuld have passed this book up but for Lawrence Freedman's review essay on recent WW! books in the Nov-Dec 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs. Freedman suggested that Otte's book would be worth the effort and I heartily agree. So what is so good about the nth history of the most studied month ever? What is there new to say? Otte finds quite a lot to say and has This book is a diplomatic history of the long month from June 28, 1914 the start of the First World War in the first wee" by Sean Mcmeekin. I owuld have passed this book up but for Lawrence Freedman's review essay on recent WW! books in the Nov-Dec 2014 issue of Foreign Affairs. Freedman suggested that Otte's book would be worth the effort and I heartily agree. So what is so good about the nth history of the most studied month ever? What is there new to say? Otte finds quite a lot to say and has produced a well written and interesting book. The book is structured almost entirely around the sets of diplomats and decision makers in Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia (and a few more) whose collective efforts escalated into world war. Otte does this not to avoid the role of context and prior history but to focus on the quality of actions of decision makers during the July crisis. This makes the book similar to the book length cases that are common in political science, a famous example being "Essence of Decision" by Graham Allison. The book is structured this way to permit more evaluation of how the decision makers involved in the crisis performed or failed to perform. This makes all sorts of questions relevant. How well did the politicians and diplomats think through what they were trying to do? What types of biases did they suffer from? How did groups of decision makers function in different countries (Germany vs Austria-Hungary vs Britain)? How did poor or delayed communications influence what went on during the crisis? To what extent were the awful results of this crisis due to miscommunications, conflicting goals, bad decision making, or just plain poor judgment? This way of framing the book permits the reader to draw more conclusions from Otte's research than one would usually expect from a time-bound diplomatic history. Part of what makes this book so good is that Otte provides a wonderful concluding chapter that helps draw together the different part of this very complex time line. While the book is well written, it is also long and dense. That is to be expected here. Otte is very thorough and has made use of a huge range of sources. It is an extraordinarily thoughtful book, however, and well worth the trouble. I won't call it a "page turner" -- it is a diplomatic history after all. If you pay attention, however, it has the richness of a good spy novel. I am persuaded by the arguments in the book and think that this rich analysis ends up at the right places. Otte is also not shy in drawing conclusions from his work. For example, he is harsher on Germany than McMeekin is, although he leaves plenty of blame to pass around. While stopping short of arguing that Germany was out to start a world war, he sees German behavior as reckless - and not far from being criminally reckless. There are lots of other "takeaways" from that book and will reward the effort of reading the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ronnie

    Once again....A VERY LOUD HUZZAH AND THANKS to the Leominster Public Library for be able to locate this book.We recently went to Montreal....and at one of the museums we were at..besides seeing the original picture by Gaughin's " The Swineherd" and the original self portrait of Van Gogh along with one of Napoleon's hat and the painted picture of Napoleon and Waterloo...we found two books at their library. I thought it would be cheaper to by it at Indigo or Barnes & Nobles....but egads neither ha Once again....A VERY LOUD HUZZAH AND THANKS to the Leominster Public Library for be able to locate this book.We recently went to Montreal....and at one of the museums we were at..besides seeing the original picture by Gaughin's " The Swineherd" and the original self portrait of Van Gogh along with one of Napoleon's hat and the painted picture of Napoleon and Waterloo...we found two books at their library. I thought it would be cheaper to by it at Indigo or Barnes & Nobles....but egads neither had them.. When we got home I checkec out at Leominster..and voila !. Anyone who is interested in how WW1 developed...along with all the sideshows that occured to make it happened ...its all there. The author does a good job tying the past...present and future together. Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his dearly beloved Sophie are shown to be mere death pawns in the events of that summer...That and showing how radicalization of marginalized and disaffectec people which has happened today with ISIS is not new as it happened also then. What is unfathomable is the level of deceit and mendacity by the practioners of the statecraft. None of the countries are or were the innocents that was attempted to be conveyed..They all had a hand in it. The only way that Ferdi and Soph could not have been killed would have been that they had not been born....But then somebody would write that someone else would have died somewhere..See....its the inevitability of things....? Determinism? vs Chaos vs revolutionary occurences...a la Jefferson??.....It is a disturbing book that sheds a needed light on how it all came to be.....After awhile you want to warn Ferdi and Sophi that these bitches and bastards who are your alleged friends or family are nothing but self-important adders in the grass who secretly are only too happy to have you dead. Your being dead is more valuable than being alive for the purposes of the mission of the various stagecraft...It is voluminous and detailed....It'll put you to sleep.....with nightmares of how all our present governments home and abroad.Read it...I dare you.....Ronnie

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan Johnston

    On the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, there are many books covering the period from assorted points of view. This book focuses on the month between the assassination of the Arch Duke and his wife to the declaration of war. No one can doubt that WWI put into motion circumstances that would have far-reaching impact not just on those involved but the entire world in the future. Despite the chest thumping of the victors and the vilification of the losers, the causes for war were not black On the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, there are many books covering the period from assorted points of view. This book focuses on the month between the assassination of the Arch Duke and his wife to the declaration of war. No one can doubt that WWI put into motion circumstances that would have far-reaching impact not just on those involved but the entire world in the future. Despite the chest thumping of the victors and the vilification of the losers, the causes for war were not black and white. In fact, as the book points out, it was not merely the spiderweb of alliances, the massive armament programs in various countries or the belligerence of one country or another that led to conflict. Dr. Otte contends, with great footnotes, that much of the crisis was due to poor statesmanship. It is a frightening contention but sadly one that often is repeated. Prior to the assassination, the prime mover for conciliation and reform in the Balkans was the Archduke himself. The Balkans were a powder keg that required very little effort to ignite. The Great Powers, as the jostled for supremacy, had created a quagmire of intrigue. Despite the best efforts early on for saner minds to prevail from Germany and Britain, the machinations of the various powers in the Hapsburg Empire and Russia and the jockeying for advantage of many of the lesser powers that created the spiral to chaos and war. History has the advantage of being able to look back and see the inevitable turning points. At the time, all concerned probably thought they were doing what was best. It is still a cautionary tale for today.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Vandike

    Most of the other reviews remind us of the centenary of the events in this book. Not surprisingly, if you are new to the era or have focused mostly on the military history of the war you may find this history a bit dry. The cast of characters are largely forgotten by modern readers being mostly foreign ministers and bureaucrats with their well-known comtemporaries like Kaiser Wilhelm, Moltke, Czar Nicolas, and others occasionally walking on the stage to remind the reader of the overarching story Most of the other reviews remind us of the centenary of the events in this book. Not surprisingly, if you are new to the era or have focused mostly on the military history of the war you may find this history a bit dry. The cast of characters are largely forgotten by modern readers being mostly foreign ministers and bureaucrats with their well-known comtemporaries like Kaiser Wilhelm, Moltke, Czar Nicolas, and others occasionally walking on the stage to remind the reader of the overarching story. However, that is not to say the persistent reader will not be rewarded with a deeper understanding of how the interlocking, but frequently secret, alliances alongside the rigid mobilization schedules led almost inevitably to war once the first power began mobilizing. Though I had read a great deal about the war and it's politics, the author does as excellent job of illustrating how many of the diplomats sabotaged their own government's peace maneuvers due to personal motivations. So, look elsewhere for a fast-paced, novel-like history of the beginning of the Great War. But, read on for an intricate history of the people at all levels that started the first major conflagration of the twentieth century and remade the map of Europe.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Lacy

    There are so many exciting new books out about WWI. Each address a different angle of the war or the month preceding it. Otte's is an engrossing account of the diplomatic efforts in July 1914, to avert, as Otte's subtitle states, the world's descent into world war. Otte is Professor of Diplomatic History, and his knowledge and expertise adds to the excitement and clarity of this intriguing month of statecraft or the lack thereof, from the ministerial offices of Berlin to St. Petersburg, Vienna t There are so many exciting new books out about WWI. Each address a different angle of the war or the month preceding it. Otte's is an engrossing account of the diplomatic efforts in July 1914, to avert, as Otte's subtitle states, the world's descent into world war. Otte is Professor of Diplomatic History, and his knowledge and expertise adds to the excitement and clarity of this intriguing month of statecraft or the lack thereof, from the ministerial offices of Berlin to St. Petersburg, Vienna to Belgrade, London and Paris, foreign officials working conscientiously to avert war, and other lone wolfs working on their own agenda contrary to their own governments, such as France's Ambassador to St. Petersburg, Paleologue. I have found this book the most rewarding about WWI. Based on original documents, JULY CRISIS is worth reading because of the emphasis on the diplomatic measures to avert war, instead of the military measure or preparations leading to war. Otte's book reads like a thriller. Although one knows the outcome, one hopes the four powers resolve their differences diplomatically before descending into war.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lockett

    Thomas Otte's JULY CRISIS is a truly fascinating totally in depth history of the political and diplomatic start of WWI. Otte makes this potentially dry history into a page turning heart-stopping all consuming read - you know what is going to happen - you have probably read and know bits and pieces - but with a finger in the list of characters, it became compelling reading - could these supposedly world leaders be so....inept, underhanded, stubborn. He talks about tunnel vision for empires, monar Thomas Otte's JULY CRISIS is a truly fascinating totally in depth history of the political and diplomatic start of WWI. Otte makes this potentially dry history into a page turning heart-stopping all consuming read - you know what is going to happen - you have probably read and know bits and pieces - but with a finger in the list of characters, it became compelling reading - could these supposedly world leaders be so....inept, underhanded, stubborn. He talks about tunnel vision for empires, monarchs, prime ministers, war ministers, diplomats, etc. Sometimes I had to read and reread a section to get the full impact but it turned into a nail biter of a read - I couldn't put it down. I am heading into retirement in 527 days and want to read so much more history, but this is going to stand the test of time as one of the great landmarks of how WWI started. Now have to get it back to the library TODAY!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Reading Reindeer Cobwebbed

    We are right at the precipice of the Centennial of the Great War--the "war to end all wars"--the First World War. Cambridge University Press has provided several new works further delineating this most horrid and blood-drenched of eras. Among them is Professor T. G. OTTE'S wonderfully readable "July Crisis," a fresh look at a century-old subject. June 28 marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Serbian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the catalytic event which spiraled Britain and Europe (an We are right at the precipice of the Centennial of the Great War--the "war to end all wars"--the First World War. Cambridge University Press has provided several new works further delineating this most horrid and blood-drenched of eras. Among them is Professor T. G. OTTE'S wonderfully readable "July Crisis," a fresh look at a century-old subject. June 28 marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Serbian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the catalytic event which spiraled Britain and Europe (and America) into tragic turmoil. Every student of recent history needs to.study this volume, and lay readers do too. Historian George Santayana spoke truth: "Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it." With texts like JULY CRISIS, we need not fall into that pit.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brock

    Hollywood serves as history instructor for many Americans, and some wars are grander than others to these historians and filmmakers. The box office seems to indicate that World War I isn’t all that exciting to produce, perhaps even a bit confusing, and really only serves as the first part of a two-part series in which the second installment is much more provocatively suited to the screen. But for those who recognize that before the cinematic war with the mustached man there was The Great War, Tho Hollywood serves as history instructor for many Americans, and some wars are grander than others to these historians and filmmakers. The box office seems to indicate that World War I isn’t all that exciting to produce, perhaps even a bit confusing, and really only serves as the first part of a two-part series in which the second installment is much more provocatively suited to the screen. But for those who recognize that before the cinematic war with the mustached man there was The Great War, Thomas Otte’s book serves as insight into how it all came to be, despite efforts to avoid it. More >> July Crisis: The World’s Descent into War, Summer 1914

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kges1901

    July Crisis is a review of the diplomacy of the Great Powers between the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the German declaration of war with Britain. Otte claims that World War I was not caused by alliances but instead by miscommunications and failures of diplomacy. He alleges that Austria-Hungary suffered from "tunnel vision" in declaring war on Serbia because the war party in Austria-Hungary did not consider the international consequences of their actions. In this narrative, Germany enable July Crisis is a review of the diplomacy of the Great Powers between the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the German declaration of war with Britain. Otte claims that World War I was not caused by alliances but instead by miscommunications and failures of diplomacy. He alleges that Austria-Hungary suffered from "tunnel vision" in declaring war on Serbia because the war party in Austria-Hungary did not consider the international consequences of their actions. In this narrative, Germany enables Austria-Hungary's actions, giving them a "blank check" and fails to be a restraining influence on Austria-Hungary.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gerald Friedman

    Excellent and well balanced study or origins of WW I Puts the blame where it belongs: on bad management of German foreign relations and narrow thinking in Vienna. Had Berlin been reasonable, or Vienna not behaved recklessly, there would have been no war. Does this not mean they were guilty?

  19. 5 out of 5

    Noel Hourican

    Very detailed and, I would suggest, not for the casual reader. Those with some prior knowledge of the events should find it fascinating.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dan G

    Another fine analysis of the decisions that led Europe into war in the summer of 1914.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Great insight on the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the heir of the throne of Austria-Hungary and the events that led up to the first world war in Europe.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    A thorough and intellectually rigorous re-examination of the events and diplomatic scurryings leading up to the outbreak of the First World War. A major achievement.

  23. 4 out of 5

    F. X.

    Outstanding. Very detailed, yet well-written.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laurence

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sheikh Tajamul

  26. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cain Doerper

  28. 4 out of 5

    Roma Dyrhauge

  29. 5 out of 5

    Louise Douardmorin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Doug Dery

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