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The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914

por Margaret MacMillan

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1,2233515,941 (4.22)112
Presents a narrative portrait of Europe in the years leading up to World War I that illuminates the political, cultural, and economic factors and contributing personalities that shaped major events.
Adicionado recentemente porbiblioteca privada, Lynchmc, Rochelle7, Kaz_the_Honkler, vsestate, Rodysseus, saraLucilleIngram, Nikoz, samo, coxcabinbooks
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So there’s that humorous moment out there: someone asking about how World War I started, and how the explanation would take many hours or days.

It’s funny because it’s true, and it’s true because of the sheer futility of the whole enterprise. World War I started because of diplomatic failures and fears about dishonor, weakness, and good old-fashioned prejudice juiced by the newer phenomenon of nationalism.

And so it takes a book of over 800 pages to describe what brought Europe to war in 1914, well described by Margaret MacMillan in the well titled The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914.

The author began by describing Europe’s situation in the late nineteenth century. She then considers each major participant and their experience of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the relationships among them. She describes a world in which the various powers are all run by a small elite coterie who know each other well, are often related to each other, and could present a picture of a broadly cosmopolitan continent. She focuses on certain characters who reflect the cosmopolitan attitudes of the day, people who maintain friendships and good times with people throughout Europe. She is able to speak of how many were vacationing in areas which would soon become enemy territory within weeks in the summer of 1914.

She then describes the various crises which arose in the late 19th and early 20th century which, in retrospect, set up the conditions for war in 1914: twice about Morocco, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Balkan wars. In each of these situations some felt they were dishonored or shown as weak. Over time Germany convinced itself it was being encircled for nefarious reasons; France and Russia likewise looked warily on Germany and its belligerence; Austria-Hungary is always on the precipice of breaking apart.

The assassination of Franz Ferdinand in late June 1914 is described as well as its immediate aftereffects. Almost no one, at the time, expected this to be the catalyst for war. And yet, with decision after decision, war became inevitable. When it came it did so more suddenly than anyone had imagined. And it would prove more horrible than anyone could have ever feared.

World War I was truly the war that ended peace. Cosmopolitan Europe was shattered; the age of progress was irretrievably reversed. The German, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian Empires would not survive the war. World War II, in many respects, was a continuation of World War I, the German attempt at retrieving the honor they lost in the first conflict. Even in victory Britain and France would be exhausted twice and would ultimately lose their empires. Europe remains industrialized and among the advanced nations but destroyed their power and influence in these conflicts. The difference between Europe in 1913 and 1919 is stark; all the more so by 1953.

So what caused the war? Yes, Germany declared war on Russia since Russia was mobilizing since Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. Austria-Hungary went for broke to either absorb the South Slavs or collapse in a blaze of glory, fueled by the conservative aristocracy fearing dishonor and weakness more than anything else. Germany proved overly confident in their war plans and believed their own rhetoric about themselves, the French, the British, and ultimately the Americans (and would do so again twenty-five years later). Everyone was convinced they could go on the offensive and overpower their enemies quickly even though all available evidence demonstrated the defensive advantage thanks to advanced armament technology. They were too proud to learn from the experience of the “savages” in the American Civil War or the Boer War.

Untold millions suffered because of the hubris of that elite coterie of the fin de siècle. Modern democratic Europe arose from its ashes.

Such things could happen again. And it always starts with an aggrieved elite concerned about prospective irrelevance perceived as dishonor and weakness. Economic ties are not sufficient to avoid it. And, apparently, we never learn. ( )
2 vote deusvitae | Sep 16, 2023 |
La Primera Guerra Mundial puso fin a un largo periodo de paz sostenida en Europa: una época en la que se hablaba confiadamente de prosperidad, de progreso y de esperanza. Y, sin embargo, en 1914 el continente se lanzó de cabeza a un conflicto catastrófico, que mató a millones de personas, desangró las economías nacionales, derrumbó imperios y puso fin para siempre a la hegemonía mundial europea. Fue una guerra que hubiera podido evitarse hasta el último momento. La pregunta es: ¿por qué se produjo?
  Natt90 | Dec 7, 2022 |
I read this book following Robert Massie's Dreadnought as I wanted a book which covered the other countries involved in WWI and the lead up to their decisions to go to war. I got what I wanted here, with a chapter per major country roughly, but I wish the book had been more detailed. I suppose I'm spoiled after Dreadnought for how detailed it was for Britain and Germany, but there were times where I knew the history was more complex than stated, but for sake of space MacMillan had to summarize the matter. Still, this book makes a great overview of the road to 1914 for anyone who only knows of the assassination at Sarajevo. That was only the final straw on the proverbial camel's back. ( )
  driscoll42 | Feb 28, 2022 |
The book starts out by saying that the causes of the great war, which we now call World War one have been and will continue to be debated by historians. Some of us view it in a much simpler light. To us the cause of the war is easily stated in more general terms. Pride, and greed stood out clearly as I read the book as causes of this war.

It is an amazing portrait of the bluffing, misreading of character, disagreements, deception and misunderstanding of events that led to the start of the war. I was also amazed at the number of European squabbles in the decade (and a half) that this book covers.

Margaret MacMillan continually emphasized that so called ‘defensive alliances’ are perceived by others as threats, and thus increased the likelihood of war. The cross-linked alliances made it so that when any went to war others would be dragged in.

In the summer of 1914, by design or accident, or hubris, many of the principal parties were out as the Serbia vs Austria-Hungarian crisis escalated. Germany jammed radio communications between Paris and the yacht.

This is a very Euro-centric history. The Otoman empire was often mentioned, but there was nothing about them expect for European desires to snatch their lands as the Otoman empire had become weak. All of the history in this book comes from the perspective of the European states, mostly England, Germany, France, and Russia.

I kept calling this book “Prelude to War”, because it covered from the Paris exposition of 1900 to 1914, when mobilization started. I will strive to remember the correct name of the book. ( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
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Presents a narrative portrait of Europe in the years leading up to World War I that illuminates the political, cultural, and economic factors and contributing personalities that shaped major events.

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