Synopses & Reviews
On June 28, 1914, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in the Balkans. Five fateful weeks later the Great Powers of Europe were at war.
Much time and ink has been spent ever since trying to identify the 'guilty' person or state responsible, or alternatively attempting to explain the underlying forces that 'inevitably' led to war in 1914. Unsatisfied with these explanations, Gordon Martel now goes back to the contemporary diplomatic, military, and political records to investigate the twists and turns of the crisis afresh, with the aim of establishing just how the catastrophe really unfurled.
What emerges is the story of a terrible, unnecessary tragedy -- one that can be understood only by retracing the steps taken by those who went down the road to war. With each passing day, we see how the personalities of leading figures such as Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Emperor Franz Joseph, Tsar Nicholas II, Sir Edward Grey, and Raymond Poincare were central to the unfolding crisis, how their hopes and fears intersected as events unfolded, and how each new decision produced a response that complicated or escalated matters to the point where they became almost impossible to contain.
Devoting a chapter to each day of the infamous "July Crisis," this gripping step-by-step account of the descent to war makes clear just how little the conflict was in fact premeditated, preordained, or even predictable. Almost every day it seemed possible that the crisis could be settled as so many had been over the previous decade; almost every day there was a new suggestion that gave statesmen hope that war could be avoided without abandoning vital interests.
And yet, as the last month of peace ebbed away, the actions and reactions of the Great Powers disastrously escalated the situation. So much so that, by the beginning of August, what might have remained a minor Balkan problem had turned into the cataclysm of the First World War.
"Few will accuse Martel of hyperbole the events leading up to WWI certainly changed world history dramatically and in this fascinating and accessible account, the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of War clearly details the day-by-day developments, from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo to England's declaration of war. Martel brings to life the rulers and diplomats whose personalities (including an Austrian leader who 'dreamed that a great success in war' would make it easier for him to marry his mistress) and choices led to the death of over nine million people and to the wounding of over 30 million more as well as 'the collapse of empires' and the unleashing of 'the revolutionary forces of communism and fascism.' In a brilliantly reasoned concluding section, Martel explores why the war happened, including the numerous theories that have been espoused. Factors such as 'alliances, mass conscript armies, huge navies, unprecedented armaments,' and national discontent had existed for the decades, including the almost half-century of peace that preceded the war. Martel's conclusion that no 'neat explanation' exists is hard to argue with. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"During the centenary year an avalanche of books on the First World War's origins will descend upon the public. Gordon Martel's will stand out among them for its authoritative judgements and for its no-nonsense focus on the decisions that caused the conflict's outbreak. It offers a detailed but compelling narrative of the July 1914 crisis, based overwhelmingly on first-hand and contemporary evidence." --David Stevenson, author of 1914-1918: the History of the First World War
"Few will accuse Martel of hyperbole-the events leading up to WWI certainly changed world history dramatically-and in this fascinating and accessible account, the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of War clearly details the day-by-day developments, from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo to England's declaration of war." -- Publishers Weekly
"Martel embraces the complexity of the historical moment and presents a thoroughly (and at times, bewilderingly) detailed blow-by-blow account of the flurry of diplomatic activity that, despite many opportunities to maintain peace, ultimately plunged the world into war."
"Mr. Martel's "The Month That Changed the World" relies on published primary sources (which are exploited very thoroughly) and secondary works, and the author makes very effective use of a day-by-day narrative approach. He has some acute insights."
--Wall St Journal
About the Author
is a leading authority on war, empire, and diplomacy in the modern age. His numerous publications include studies of the origins of the first and second world wars, modern imperialism, and the nature of diplomacy. A founding editor of The International History Review
, he has taught at a number of Canadian universities, and has been a visiting professor or fellow in England, Ireland and Australia. Editor-in-Chief of the five-volume Encyclopedia of Wa
r, he is also Joint Editor of the longstanding Seminar Studies in History
Table of Contents
Part I: The Making of a Crisis
1. The Killing
2. Assassination to Ultimatum
Part II: The Crisis
3. 24 July
4. 25 July
5. 26 July
6. 27 July
7. 28 July
8. 29 July
9. 30 July
10. 31 July
11. 1 August
12. 2-4 August