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This is a magisterial new account of Europe’s tragic descent into a largely inadvertent war in the summer of 1914. Thomas Otte reveals why a century-old system of Great Power politics collapsed so disastrously in the weeks from the ‘shot heard around the world’ on June 28th to Germany’s declaration of war on Russia on August 1st. He shows definitively that the key to understanding how and why Europe descended into world war is to be found in the near-collective failure of statecraft by the rulers of Europe and not in abstract concepts such as the ‘balance of power’ or the ‘alliance system’. In this unprecedented panorama of Europe on the brink, from the ministerial palaces of Berlin and Vienna to Belgrade, London, Paris and St Petersburg, Thomas Otte reveals the hawks and doves whose decision-making led to a war that would define a century and which still reverberates today.Read more
- Offers a definitive account of the July crisis of 1914, tracking the events that led Europe into an inadvertent war
- Evaluates the nature of international crises and crisis management
- Draws parallels with current international politics through its focus on enduring realities of political decision-making
- Honourable Mention, 2015 PROSE Award for European and World History
Reviews & endorsements
"Anyone planning to wade through the vast outpouring of literature on the First World War might do well to make July Crisis their first port of call."
Jules Stewart, Military HistorySee more reviews
"By returning meticulously to sources that many historians have ignored, one of Britain’s brightest new-generation historians, Thomas Otte, has come up with a startlingly original yet wholly believable new interpretation of the true causes of the Great War. This is historical scholarship at its best, with the bonus of being written with a gently ironic yet extremely funny wit, in a subject that isn’t naturally given to it."
Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War (2010)
"This account of the July crisis will become the gold standard for all future historians. Unlike almost all contemporary studies, Otte has gone back to the original sources and used both public and private collections, some never cited before, to trace the unfolding of these fateful days. His judgments are convincing and clearly presented. Otte catches the drama of these weeks and carries the reader with him to the very end."
Zara Steiner, author of The Lights That Failed (2005) and The Triumph of the Dark (2011)
"The first new analysis of the origins of the war based on original documents, July Crisis will become the classic account. Otte's scholarship is unsurpassed: his judgments are judicious and fair and based on a deep understanding of both the evidence and its context. It is unlikely to be superseded."
Keith Neilson, author of Britain, Soviet Russia and the Collapse of the Versailles Order, 1919–1939 (2005)
"Thomas Otte brings impeccable and painstaking research and a flair for story-telling to illuminate Europe’s last weeks of peace in 1914. From the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo to the outbreak of a general war five weeks later, he shows how a series of individual decisions led towards the catastrophe."
Margaret MacMillan, author of The War That Ended Peace: How Europe Abandoned Peace for the First World War (2013)
"Historians like Otte are painting a whole new picture of the origins of the Great War … But the best part of this virtuoso examination of the 38-day political and diplomatic crisis that stretched from the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand to Germany's declaration of war on Russia is the way Otte, a professor at the University of East Anglia, restores individual actors to where they should be: at the centre of historical events. Once it began, the First World War was so unpredictable in its course and so momentous in its outcomes - some of which, like the current Iraqi crisis, the world is still working through - that historians have increasingly tended to pin its outbreak on huge impersonal forces, a socio-economic-technological horror story whose time had come. By poring over archival records and postwar memoirs (the latter with a properly jaundiced eye), Otte brings to light the calculations (mostly bad) and motivations of the handful of men whose decisions brought Europe to catastrophe."
Brian Bethune, Maclean's
"I've rarely read a more sickeningly thrilling first chapter than the opener of July Crisis … Otte takes you step by fateful step to the moment that changed the world forever."
Katharine Whittemore, The Boston Globe
"If you want to understand how Europe stumbled into suicide in 1914, read this book."
"Otte’s account is refreshing, captivating and compelling in its description of the twists and turns of the crisis and, above all, humane in its analysis of the ambiguities and frailties of its protagonists. It dispels so successfully the usual teleological march to war, that this reviewer repeatedly found himself believing that an outcome other than the tragic one we all know would ensue."
J. F. V. Keiger, International Affairs
"2014 seemed a good year to read a bit more about 1914, and there were a lot of new books to choose from … But the best account is T. G. Otte's July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914, which unpacks the motives and muddles of the leaders of Europe with unmatched clarity. Read it slowly."
"July Crisis is an insightful and comprehensive analysis of the politics and diplomacy of every country involved in Europe’s descent into the madness that was the First World War. By placing the emphasis on individuals Thomas Otte has created a compelling portrait of the men at the center of causes of the First World War, and challenges readers to reassess the importance of the individual in the war’s history. Without a doubt July Crisis will become the standard by which all other work on this time period will be judged."
Justin Quinn Olmstead, Francia-Recensio
"Impeccable and meticulous research, a capacity to pose searching questions, and admirably clear prose."
The Times Literary Supplement
'2014 seemed a good year to read a bit more about 1914, and there were a lot of new books to choose from … But the best account is T. G. Otte's July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914, which unpacks the motives and muddles of the leaders of Europe with unmatched clarity. Read it slowly.' Lowy Institute
‘July Crisis is an insightful and comprehensive analysis of the politics and diplomacy of every country involved in Europe’s descent into the madness that was the First World War. By placing the emphasis on individuals Thomas Otte has created a compelling portrait of the men at the center of causes of the First World War, and challenges readers to reassess the importance of the individual in the war’s history. Without a doubt July Crisis will become the standard by which all other work on this time period will be judged.’ Justin Quinn Olmstead, Francia-Recensio
'Impeccable and meticulous research, a capacity to pose searching questions, and admirably clear prose.' The Times Literary Supplement
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- Date Published: June 2014
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781107064904
- length: 555 pages
- dimensions: 236 x 160 x 31 mm
- weight: 1.5kg
- contains: 32 b/w illus. 2 maps
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
1. Prelude: the road to Sarajevo
2. Sarajevo and its echoes:
28 June to 5 July
3. The triumph of tactics over strategy:
6 to 21 July
4. Localizing the crisis:
19 to 23 July
5. The ultimatum:
23 to 26 July
6. Localizing the war:
26 to 28 July
29 July to 4 August
Thomas Otte on The July Crisis
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