The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
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One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (History)
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is historian Christopher Clark’s riveting account of the explosive beginnings of World War I.
Drawing on new scholarship, Clark offers a fresh look at World War I, focusing not on the battles and atrocities of the war itself, but on the complex events and relationships that led a group of well-meaning leaders into brutal conflict.
Clark traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts between the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade, and 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.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers is a dramatic and authoritative chronicle of Europe’s descent into a war that tore the world apart.
Britain’s military role in a future continental war and consistently pressed for a military confrontation. Like his continental colleagues, Wilson despised civilian politicians, believing them entirely incapable of understanding military affairs. Sir Edward Grey, he wrote in his diary, was an ‘ignorant, vain and weak man, quite unfit to be the foreign minister of any country larger than Portugal’. As for the rest of the Liberal cabinet, they were no more than ‘dirty, ignorant curs’. The whole
compromise good Anglo-Russian relations. Both men agreed that the source of the problem did not lie in London or St Petersburg, but with unspecified ‘local interests’ of no broader relevance. And the Tsar noted with some relief that Edward Grey had not allowed Berlin’s discovery of the naval talks to scupper the search for a convention. Some other issues were touched on – Albania, Graeco-Turkish tension over the Aegean islands and Italian policy – but the Tsar’s ‘most vivid preoccupation’,
pro-interventionists gathered around Grey and the prime minister, the ‘peace party’ failed to rally cross-party or extra-parliamentary support and proved unable to generate a leader capable of challenging the imperialists and their Conservative allies. How important were the arguments put forward by the liberal imperialists? Since Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 4 August did indeed follow upon the German invasion of Belgium and since the Entente swiftly hardened into a fully-fledged
Russian eyes), see also Jakobs, Das Werden des französisch-russischen Zweibundes, pp. 73–8. 20. Kennan, Fateful Alliance, passim. 21. Weitsman, Dangerous Alliances, p. 117. 22. On the alliance and popular culture, see I. S. Rybachenok, Rossiia i Frantsiia: soiuz interesov i soiuz serdets, 1891–1897: russko-frantsuzskyi soiuz v diplomaticheskikh dokumentakh, fotografiakh, risunkakh, karikaturakh, stikhakh, tostakh i meniu (Moscow, 2004). 23. Thomas M. Iiams, Dreyfus, Diplomatists and the Dual
the two western empires were still soured at this time by French outrage over the Boer War. The visit, which had been organized on Edward’s own initiative, was a public relations triumph and did much to clear the air.6 After the Entente had been signed, Edward continued to work towards an agreement with Russia, even though, like many of his countrymen, he detested the tsarist political system and remained suspicious of the designs that Russia had on Persia, Afghanistan and northern India. In