A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire

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A masterful account of the Hapsburg Empire's bumbling entrance into World War I, and its rapid collapse on the Eastern Front
The Austro-Hungarian army that attacked Russia and Serbia in August 1914 had a glorious past but a pitiful present. Speaking a mystifying array of languages and lugging obsolete weapons, the Habsburg troops were hopelessly unprepared for the industrialized warfare that would shortly consume Europe. As prizewinning historian Geoffrey Wawro explains in A Mad Catastrophe, the disorganization of these doomed conscripts perfectly mirrored Austria-Hungary itself. For years, the Empire had been rotting from within, hollowed out by complacency and corruption at the highest levels. When Germany goaded Austria into starting the world war, the Empire's profound political and military weaknesses were exposed. By the end of 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army lay in ruins and the course of the war seemed all but decided. Reconstructing the climax of the Austrian campaign in gripping detail, A Mad Catastrophe is a riveting account of how Austria-Hungary plunged the West into a tragic and unnecessary war.
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About the author

Geoffrey Wawro is professor of history and director of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas, and the author of six books, including Sons of Freedom: The Forgotten American Soldiers Who Defeated German y in World War I and The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871. Wawro lives in Dallas, Texas.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Basic Books
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Published on
Apr 29, 2014
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Pages
472
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ISBN
9780465080816
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Austria & Hungary
History / Europe / Eastern
History / Europe / France
History / Europe / Germany
History / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century
History / Europe / Western
History / Military / World War I
History / Modern / 20th Century
History / Russia & the Former Soviet Union
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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An unprecedented history of our involvement in the Middle East that traces our current quandaries there-in Iraq, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere-back to their roots almost a century ago.

Geoffrey Wawro approaches America's role in the Middle East in a fundamentally new way-by encompassing the last century of the entire region, rather than focusing narrowly on a particular country or era. The result is a definitive and revelatory history whose drama, tragedy, and rich irony he relates with unprecedented verve. Wawro combed archives in the United States and Europe and traveled the Middle East to unearth new insights into the hidden motivations, backroom dealing, and outright espionage that shaped some of the most tumultuous events of the last one hundred years. Wawro offers piercing analysis of iconic events from the birth of Israel to the death of Sadat, from the Suez crisis to the energy crisis, from the Six-Day War to Desert One, from Iran-contra to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rise of al- Qaeda. Throughout, he draws telling parallels between America's past mistakes and its current quandaries, proving that we're in today's muddle not just because of our old errors, but because we keep repeating those errors.

America has juggled multiple commitments and conflicting priorities in the Middle East for nearly a century. Strands of idealism and ruthless practicality have alternated- and sometimes run together-in our policy. Quicksand untangles these strands as no history has done before by showing how our strategies unfolded over the entire century and across the entire region. We've persistently misread the intentions and motivations of every major player in the region because we've insisted on viewing them through the lens of our own culture, hopes, and fears. Most administrations since Eisenhower's have adopted their own "doctrine" for the Middle East, and almost every doctrine has failed precisely because it's a doctrine-a template into which events on the ground refuse to fit. Geoffrey Wawro's peerless and remarkably lively history is key to understanding our errors and the Middle East-at last- on its own terms.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times Book Review • The Economist • The Christian Science Monitor • Bloomberg Businessweek • The Globe and Mail

From the bestselling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, a fascinating portrait of Europe from 1900 up to the outbreak of World War I.
 
The century since the end of the Napoleonic wars had been the most peaceful era Europe had known since the fall of the Roman Empire. In the first years of the twentieth century, Europe believed it was marching to a golden, happy, and prosperous future. But instead, complex personalities and rivalries, colonialism and ethnic nationalisms, and shifting alliances helped to bring about the failure of the long peace and the outbreak of a war that transformed Europe and the world.
 
The War That Ended Peace brings vividly to life the military leaders, politicians, diplomats, bankers, and the extended, interrelated family of crowned heads across Europe who failed to stop the descent into war: in Germany, the mercurial Kaiser Wilhelm II and the chief of the German general staff, Von Moltke the Younger; in Austria-Hungary, Emperor Franz Joseph, a man who tried, through sheer hard work, to stave off the coming chaos in his empire; in Russia, Tsar Nicholas II and his wife; in Britain, King Edward VII, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, and British admiral Jacky Fisher, the fierce advocate of naval reform who entered into the arms race with Germany that pushed the continent toward confrontation on land and sea.
 
There are the would-be peacemakers as well, among them prophets of the horrors of future wars whose warnings went unheeded: Alfred Nobel, who donated his fortune to the cause of international understanding, and Bertha von Suttner, a writer and activist who was the first woman awarded Nobel’s new Peace Prize. Here too we meet the urbane and cosmopolitan Count Harry Kessler, who noticed many of the early signs that something was stirring in Europe; the young Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty and a rising figure in British politics; Madame Caillaux, who shot a man who might have been a force for peace; and more. With indelible portraits, MacMillan shows how the fateful decisions of a few powerful people changed the course of history.
 
Taut, suspenseful, and impossible to put down, The War That Ended Peace is also a wise cautionary reminder of how wars happen in spite of the near-universal desire to keep the peace. Destined to become a classic in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, The War That Ended Peace enriches our understanding of one of the defining periods and events of the twentieth century.
 
Praise for The War That Ended Peace
 
“Magnificent . . . The War That Ended Peace will certainly rank among the best books of the centennial crop.”—The Economist
 
“Superb.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Masterly . . . marvelous . . . Those looking to understand why World War I happened will have a hard time finding a better place to start.”—The Christian Science Monitor
 
“The debate over the war’s origins has raged for years. Ms. MacMillan’s explanation goes straight to the heart of political fallibility. . . . Elegantly written, with wonderful character sketches of the key players, this is a book to be treasured.”—The Wall Street Journal

“A magisterial 600-page panorama.”—Christopher Clark, London Review of Books
Although the myriad of alliances and suspicions that existed between the Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian empires in the early 20th century proved to be one of the primary triggers for the outbreak of the First World War, much of the actual fighting between these three nations has been largely forgotten in the West. Whilst battles such as Ypres, the Somme, and Passchendaele have been inscribed deeply on the public consciousness, with the exception of perhaps Tannenberg, the conflicts in the East do not hold the same recognition. In his new book, Prit Buttar seeks to correct this imbalance with a magisterial account of the chaos and destruction that reigned when three powerful empires collided. His harrowing narrative is driven by first-hand accounts and new, detailed archival research to create a dynamic retelling of the tumultuous events of the first year of the war, examining the battles of the Masurian Lakes and Tannenberg in East Prussia, followed by the Russo-Austrian clashes in Galicia, the failed German advance towards Warsaw, and the vicious fighting in the Carpathian mountains. Buttar reveals how delays in adapting to a modern war and inadequacies in supply and support arrangements, combined with a failure to plan for a long war, left the Central Powers struggling to keep up with events, and having to come to terms with the dreaded reality of a war on two fronts while Russia was driven towards revolution. A war that was initially seen by all three powers as a welcome opportunity to address both internal and external issues would ultimately bring about the downfall of them all.
Poland suffered an exceedingly brutal Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Close to five million Polish citizens lost their lives as a result. More than half the casualties were Polish Jews. Thus, the second largest Jewish community in the world–only American Jewry numbered more than the three and a half million Polish Jews at the time–was wiped out. Over 90 percent of its members were killed in the Holocaust. And yet, despite this unprecedented calamity that affected both Jews and non-Jews, Jewish Holocaust survivors returning to their hometowns in Poland after the war experienced widespread hostility, including murder, at the hands of their neighbors. The bloodiest peacetime pogrom in twentieth-century Europe took place in the Polish town of Kielce one year after the war ended, on July 4, 1946.

Jan Gross’s Fear attempts to answer a perplexing question: How was anti-Semitism possible in Poland after the war? At the center of his investigation is a detailed reconstruction of the Kielce pogrom and the reactions it evoked in various milieus of Polish society. How did the Polish Catholic Church, Communist party workers, and intellectuals respond to the spectacle of Jews being murdered by their fellow citizens in a country that had just been liberated from a five-year Nazi occupation?

Gross argues that the anti-Semitism displayed in Poland in the war’s aftermath cannot be understood simply as a continuation of prewar attitudes. Rather, it developed in the context of the Holocaust and the Communist takeover: Anti-Semitism eventually became a common currency between the Communist regime and a society in which many had joined in the Nazi campaign of plunder and murder–and for whom the Jewish survivors were a standing reproach.

Jews did not bring communism to Poland as some believe; in fact, they were finally driven out of Poland under the Communist regime as a matter of political expediency. In the words of the Nobel Prize—winning poet Czeslaw Milosz, Poland’s Communist rulers fulfilled the dream of Polish nationalists by bringing into existence an ethnically pure state.

For more than half a century, what happened to the Jewish Holocaust survivors in Poland has been cloaked in guilt and shame. Writing with passion, brilliance, and fierce clarity, Jan T. Gross at last brings the truth to light.
One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town's Jews. Neighbors tells their story.

This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.


Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne's Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed cordial relations. After the war, the nearby family who saved Jedwabne's surviving Jews was derided and driven from the area. The single Jew offered mercy by the town declined it.


Most arresting is the sinking realization that Jedwabne's Jews were clubbed, drowned, gutted, and burned not by faceless Nazis, but by people whose features and names they knew well: their former schoolmates and those who sold them food, bought their milk, and chatted with them in the street. As much as such a question can ever be answered, Neighbors tells us why.


In many ways, this is a simple book. It is easy to read in a single sitting, and hard not to. But its simplicity is deceptive. Gross's new and persuasive answers to vexed questions rewrite the history of twentieth-century Poland. This book proves, finally, that the fates of Poles and Jews during World War II can be comprehended only together.

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