The Guns of August
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The Guns of August

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  18,456 ratings  ·  910 reviews
Historian & Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people & events that led up to WWI. With attention to fascinating detail, & an intense knowledge of her subject & its characters, she reveals just how the war started, why, & why it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time & a peo...more
Paperback, 575 pages
Published 1962 by Macmillan
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Well, how d'you do, Private Willie McBride, First Class - do you mind if I sit down down here by your graveside? It's so nice to rest for awhile in the warm summer sun... I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done in. Well. So, Willie - I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen when you joined the glorious fallen. 1916 - a long time ago now. Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean. But Private Willie McBride, it could have been slow and obscene. Let's not think of that. And...more

On the night of the 13th of August 1961 the Government of East Germany began to build the Wall that divided Berlin isolating its Western part within the Communist Eastern block.

In 1962, Barbara Tuchman published her Guns of August and the following year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

As many years separate Tuchman’s book from the events of her book as years separate us from the time its publication: about half a century.

Those two lots of five decades each may explain two different reactions....more
May 06, 2009 Trevor rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trevor by: richard wood
Shelves: history
You could almost be excused for thinking that the highest praise one could give a work of non-fiction would be that it reads like a work of fiction. I haven’t looked at any of the other reviews for this book yet, but I would be prepared to bet that many of them say this read like a novel. And it is an incredibly dramatic story and some of the characters are larger than life – but this is no novel.

I say that because in a novel you expect at least some of the characters to develop during it – and...more
Jul 28, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Rafalca
Shelves: european-history, own
This is an excellent but somewhat odd book; odd because the emphasis is so much more on the military than the political that you're left wondering why, how, precisely, this war was so inevitable. Granted, the political leaders are discussed in the first few chapters, the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar more so than the French and the British. But the stress is on the generals, and the war planners, on Schlieffen, whose plan had been prepared in 1905-06 and seemed to be restlessly waiting for...more
6.0 stars. WOW!! This book was AMAZING!! I have always been very interested in World War II and have read quite a few books on the subject. However, until reading THIS book I had never endeavored to learn anything more than the basics of World War I. With the reading of this incredible book, I have taken a tremendous step towards correcting that deficit.

Focusing on the first 30 days of World War I (hence the title), this beautifully written book addresses in great detail the causes for the conf...more
Phew, this was a difficult book to digest in the audiobook format. Neither is it easy to digest in a paper book format. It is dense. It is detailed. Names and places and battles are thrown at you in rapid succession. You have to remember who is who, which corps is fighting where and its number, the title of each commander and more. You do not have time to stop and think and recall what was told to you minutes/pages or even hours/chapters before. You need more than a detailed map because you don’...more
I don't like technical books about military maneuvers--all that blather about Colonel Blimp, General von Bomb-them-all, and Prince Icantmakeupmymind, and the 5th Army Group attacks the XVI Corps on the right salient---yawn...
Welcome to a book that makes all this nearly understandable.

Tuchman gives a great picture of the men who made the fatal errors of judgement which led to the four years of hell known as WW I and then resulted in, twenty years later, the even worse agony known as WW II. She i...more
Evan Leach
"Dead battles, like dead generals, hold the military mind in their dead grip, and Germans no less than other peoples prepare for the last war."
Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August.

img: German Cavalry

In her Pulitzer-Prize winning classic The Guns of August, the story of the first month of World War I, Barbara Tuchman argues convincingly that August 1914 was when the Gilded Age died and the modern era really began. The book opens with a famous depiction of Edward VII’s funeral in 1910, attended by all the kings a...more
Clark Zlotchew
As always, Barbara W. Tuchman delves deeply into the historical subject matter. This book is about the First World War, its causes, the conduct of it, and the results. I see that what I've just written in the preceding sentence doesn't sound inviting; it comes off as dry and uninteresting. But this book is anything but that. It is actually exciting in its description of the progress of the war, and the various armies. It is also fascinating to burrow into the causes and the intrigue involved. It...more
I let go at around page 280 (out of 440 in my edition), when I started realizing that every paragraph is so chunked up with minute details about this general moving these troops out of this place and into this wing on this day because of these emotions and this miscommunication and this people's overconfidence that it just all became so trivial and so unbelievably lifeless--which in a weird way completely contradicts all of the GR reviews I've read about how this book brings life to the first mo...more
Barbara Tuchman did not have a PHD, “It’s what saved me, I think” she said, believing that academic life can stultify imagination, stifle enthusiasm and deaden prose style. After all, Herodotus, Thucydides, Gibbon, Mac Cauley and Parkman did not have PhD’s.” Her dealings with the press and critics were cautious and in their reviews of this book described her as a fifty-year-old housewife, a mother of three daughters and the spouse of a prominent New York physician. More succinctly, how could she...more
Jan 22, 2008 Charissa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: peaceniks, warmongers, history buffs, and everyone in between
Recommended to Charissa by: my ex-husband
This was the first non-fiction history book that read so much like a good novel that I screamed through it almost without pausing for breath. I knew bits and pieces about World War I before this... but the persistent idiocy of so many involved simply held me riveted to the pages. One of my favorite bits is how the French kept insisting on wearing their red uniforms as they charged through field and forest toward machine gun fire. They just couldn't wrap their heads around the idea that "elan" ju...more
The narration is excellent. And, of course, the book is a classic, with vivid, gorgeous writing. The opening paragraph is justifiably famous:

So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sa
The Guns of August is the best researched book I’ve ever read so far with such poised and skillful narrative style. Tuchman managed to entertain her readers with vivid, incredible details about the prelude to the first thirty days of World War I. She never cease in captivating our minds with epic tales of bravery, cowardice and indecisiveness.

Did I say “entertain”? Ah indeed, this book is indubitably a remarkable form of entertainment. Battles, maneuvers, and actions in the field plus debates (...more
Feb 13, 2014 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans and seekers of history
Recommended to Mark by: history buffs
My knowledge up to this year about WOI could be condensed in: my country was "neutral" in this conflict, it was trenchwarfare and in a sense the first act in the social change coming in the 20th century. When it came to content I really never learned anything about this period. While reading this book I did watch several documentaries by the BBC, the Great War & Royal cousins, and an earier documantary by the BBC about the Great War that won three emmy's.

Barbara Tuchman does have a very nice...more
I had a lot of fun reading this book. I appreciated the detail around the troop movements, the Generals' actions, and the politics going on in the back rooms and out in the open, on both sides of the war. I listened to the audiobook so getting maps to accompany it was essential but poring over the maps I found turned out to be half the fun ! The narration was excellent, couldn't have asked for better on my 1st attempt at an audiobook.
I've read some books on WW II recently, and realized I don't know much about WW I - so decided to remedy that with this Pulitzer Prize winner, considered by many to be one of the best histories ever written. It's a broad and comprehensive treatment of the month preceding the start of the conflict, and the first month of the war itself. Listening to the audiobook made everything seem a bit sterile and unimaginative and complicated at first, but it picked up as I got more into it. I think this is...more
Jeppe Engell Engell
Jeg købte denne bog fordi jeg fandt på en liste over bøger man bare skal læse. Jeg har aldrig interesseret mig særligt meget for 1 verdenskrig, men tænkte at jeg måtte prøve at give denne bog en chance.
Jeg købte bogen til min Kindle og tænkte derfor ikke over hvor mange sider bogen er på, derfor blev jeg noget nervøs da introduktion til bog, bare blev ved og ved. Men bogen er udgivet for mange år siden og den udgave jeg købte var en nyere udgave, derfor var det nødvendigt med en lang introdukti...more
5 Stars for The Guns of August. I won't take the time to do a review because there are so many good reviews already here. is a good place to start. As we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, I suggest reading this one. It is exciting, instructive and scholarly all at the same time. This is the way to write history! I am fired up to read more of Tuchman's work. She deserved the praise and awards she received for this book.
Excellent narrative.

Still listening, but much, much better than I had expected -- The comparison (in her foreword to the new edition) with Thucydides is ridiculous, of course. And this is not an academic history based on archival research. But her instincts are good, imo -- and it is a clear, and well-paced narrative. Perfect for an audible.
Undoubtedly the best book on the Great War, showing an extensive research work made by the author.

Robert Glustrom
This is the classic WWI book that I so enjoyed when it came out a long time ago and I considered myself an historian. However, upon re-reading it with a stronger and deeper understanding of how the war started and its early weeks, I was a little disappointed with the intense detail that surrounded the golden nuggets of insight that Tuchman tosses out. It was a bit of a slog this time around but still qualifies as one of the best books I have read on the origins of the war. The conditions in Euro...more
A story of August 1914 – the beginning of the First World War. This was a unique month for the war. It was still a war of movement, unlike the static trench warfare of most of the conflict, and it was noteworthy because Germany came very close to winning during the first few weeks.

Germany had a well thought out plan – the Schlieffen plan – for victory over France. Military historians seem to think that if Germany had followed this plan exactly she would have won, but at a crucial time the German...more
First off, any book whose content is 18% sources automatically impresses my inner history geek. Ms. Tuchman did a phenomenal job of researching this book. She has been given a lot of flack in the past for not having a doctorate in History. Frankly, I think the Ph.Ds were jealous because she wrote something well researched as well as readable, which is not always an easy task.

I was also taken in not only by her well-turned phrases, but her wonderful sense of humor. I often found myself laughing...more
Jan 02, 2008 Gene rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Written by consummate historian Barbara Tuchman in 1962, the Guns of August is, without exaggeration, one of the most significant works of history ever written. It focuses entirely on the run up to mankind’s greatest disaster, the First World War, and describes in elegant, often humorous, and always painstaking detail how exactly Europe, at the height of its power at the turn of the century, slid so quickly into a debacle that would fundamentally define its history for the next century.

While the...more
The beginning of WWI from the perspective of all of the major countries involved. The author has done amazing research to bring all of the different characters and events to life-everything from a general's mustache to the petty arguments between politicians. However, the detail was too much for me in comparison with the acutal action described. It seemed liked there were simply too many tangents to keep my mind engaged with the story. War buffs would absolutely eat this up, though, so that's ju...more
Great read, but you need a couple of good maps and a collection of pins to follow the armies. I understand the complaints about the difficulty to follow who is going where and when, but some knowledge of the area between France and Belgium helps a lot. Besides, most of the book is about ideas and ideals, decisions and mistakes, and doesn't need the detail about Roman-numeraled corps that Tuchman herself found so tiring.
Update: you really end reading the book as a novel, expecting the outcome of...more
Brandon Sawyer
Only on here to prove to my as-yet-nonexistent Goodreads friends that I read non-fiction. But it really is a great book. Focuses on the leadup and first month of World War I, establishing the trench warfare deadlock that stretched out over the following years. Dense, but readable, with that gnawing build that good historical nonfiction books can give you (which I assume, having read only one). You know what's coming, but every new development still makes you feel like letting loose a 90-year ret...more
War, at times raging with intense action,while at other times silence falls across the battle field. In Barbara Tuchman's book the Guns of August she describes the action, drama and intensity within the first month of world war one. She at times seemed to enthrall me and almost transport me onto the battle field with her wondrous words. Strangely, at other times I found her book to be a bit dry and hard to get through. At times I could not put the book down while at other times I could hardly ge...more
Colleen Clark
A famously brilliant description of the run-up to WW I and the battles during August 1914, the first month. It was on my mental "to read" list for years.

The narrative starts in May 1910 on the occasion of the funeral of Edward VII of England. "Everyone" was there. The book begins with this, "So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admira...more
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Bright Young Things: "The Guns of August" by Barbara W. Tuchman 47 45 Jul 23, 2014 07:39AM  
history 13 67 Feb 14, 2014 12:46PM  
  • The First World War
  • The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916
  • A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
  • The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World
  • Dreadnought
  • The Great War and Modern Memory
  • Gallipoli
  • The First World War
  • The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919
  • Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World
  • The Somme: The Darkest Hour on the Western Front
  • The Pity of War: Explaining World War I
  • The First Day on the Somme
  • The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War
  • Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
  • Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age
  • A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam
  • Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?
Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author. She became best known for The Guns of August, a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.

As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.
More about Barbara W. Tuchman...
A Distant Mirror:  The Calamitous 14th Century The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam The Zimmermann Telegram Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45

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“The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.” 13 likes
“Human beings, like plans, prove fallible in the presence of those ingredients that are missing in maneuvers - danger, death, and live ammunition.” 8 likes
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