Synopses & Reviews
On the morning of June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, arrived at Sarajevo railway station, Europe was at peace. Thirty-seven days later, it was at war. The conflict that resulted would kill more than fifteen million people, destroy three empires, and permanently alter world history.
The Sleepwalkers reveals in gripping detail how the crisis leading to World War I unfolded. Drawing on fresh sources, it traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts among the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade. Distinguished historian Christopher Clark 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.
How did the Balkans — a peripheral region far from Europe's centers of power and wealth — come to be the center of a drama of such magnitude? How had European nations organized themselves into opposing alliances, and how did these nations manage to carry out foreign policy as a result? Clark reveals a Europe racked by chronic problems — a fractured world of instability and militancy that was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. These rulers, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, stumbled through crisis after crisis and finally convinced themselves that war was the only answer.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, The Sleepwalkers is a magisterial account of one of the most compelling dramas of modern times.
"WWI is frequently described as a long-fused inevitable conflict, yet this comprehensively researched, gracefully written account of the war's genesis convincingly posits a bad brew of diplomatic contingencies and individual agency as the cause. Clark, history professor at Cambridge University, begins by describing the interactions of Serbia and Austria-Hungary, which sparked the conflict. He presents the former as a 'raw and fragile democracy' whose 'turbulent' politics challenged a neighboring empire held together by habit. Indeed, the instability across Europe further polarized alliance networks foreign policies were shaped by 'ambiguous relationships... and adversarial competitions' that obfuscated intentions. Nevertheless, the European system demonstrated 'a surprising capacity for crisis management.' But even the détente years of 1912–1914 were characterized by 'persistent uncertainty in all quarters about the intentions of friends and potential foes alike.' Beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, that uncertainty informed the burgeoning crisis Austria-Hungary's hesitation allowed Russia to frame the event as a tyrant 'cut down by citizens of his own country'; Britain and France offered no challenge to the narrative; and Germany 'counted on the localization of the Austro-Serbian conflict.' Instead Russia escalated the crisis by mobilizing, Britain by hesitating, and Germany by panicking: Europe sleepwalked into 'a tragedy.' B&w illus., 7 maps. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“An important book....One of the most impressive and stimulating studies of the period ever published.” Max Hastings, The Sunday Times
“The most readable account of the origins of the First World War since Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August. The difference is that The Sleepwalkers is a lovingly researched work of the highest scholarship.” Niall Ferguson
“This compelling examination of the causes of World War I deserves to become the new standard one-volume account of that contentious subject.” Foreign Affairs
“Clark is a masterly historian....His account vividly reconstructs key decision points while deftly sketching the context driving them....A magisterial work.” The Wall Street Journal
“A monumental new volume....Revelatory, even revolutionary....Clark has done a masterful job explaining the inexplicable.” The Boston Globe
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.
About the Author
Christopher Clark is a professor of modern European history and a fellow of St. Catharine's College at the University of Cambridge, UK. He is the author of Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, among other books.