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.
In 1914 the world changed. Europe’s great powers were dragged, one by one, into a war by Serbian conflict which affected very few of them directly. At least it would resemble the short sharp battles of the previous century, many thought – fought with military bands, horsemen, and swift victories. But 1914 proved to be different, a watershed, as old notions of war were trampled in the mud.
‘1914: History in an Hour’ is the indispensable overview of the year that marked the end of the Belle Époque and the shocking birth of modern mechanised warfare. It became a war of unimaginable horror, fought with terrifying new weapons that produced death on an industrial scale, a war that involved so many nations and reached into the fabric of their societies. 1914 shaped the First World War, and the years beyond.
Chronicling largely forgotten events faced by each of the belligerent countries in the months before the war started in August, Beatty shows how any one of them-a possible military coup in Germany; an imminent civil war in Britain; the murder trial of the wife of the likely next premier of France, who sought détente with Germany-might have derailed the war or brought it to a different end. In Beatty's hands, these stories open into epiphanies of national character, and offer dramatic portraits of the year's major actors-Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas II , Woodrow Wilson, along with forgotten or overlooked characters such as Pancho Villa, Rasputin, and Herbert Hoover. Europe's ruling classes, Beatty shows, were so haunted by fear of those below that they mistook democratization for revolution, and were tempted to "escape forward" into war to head it off. Beatty's powerful rendering of the combat between August 1914 and January 1915 which killed more than one million men, restores lost history, revealing how trench warfare, long depicted as death's victory, was actually a life-saving strategy.
Beatty's deeply insightful book-as elegantly written as it is thought-provoking and probing-lights a lost world about to blow itself up in what George Kennan called "the seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century." It also arms readers against narratives of historical inevitability in today's world.