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The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  4,638 Ratings  ·  598 Reviews
On the morning of 6/28/1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand & his wife, Sophie Chotek, arrived at Sarajevo railway station, Europe was at peace. 37 days later, it was at war. The conflict that resulted would kill more than 15,000,000, destroy three empires & permanently alter world history. The Sleepwalkers details how the crisis leading to WWI unfolded. Drawing on ...more
Hardcover, 1st USA, 736 pages
Published March 19th 2013 by HarperCollins (NYC) (first published January 1st 2012)
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Ernst It is definitely the most comprehensive historic overview of the events that led to the first Word War. It explains the geopolitical arguments for…moreIt is definitely the most comprehensive historic overview of the events that led to the first Word War. It explains the geopolitical arguments for each of the players (of which some like the close links between Russia and Servie to keep access to the Mediterranean See are still very relevant today); the background and personal carreers of the key players (and far beyond the Kaiser or the King of England); and vividly explains how personal relationships, both positive and negative ones led to the War that nobody really wanted. (less)
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In a dugout in northern France, sometime in 1916, three British soldiers try to make sense of one of the most complicated questions of modern history:

PVT. BALDRICK: The way I see it, these days there's a war on, right? and, ages ago, there wasn't a war on, right? So, there must have been a moment when there not being a war on went away, right? and there being a war on came along. So, what I want to know is: how did we get from the one case of affairs to the other case of affairs?

May 11, 2013 Kalliope rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kalliope by: MoonButterfly

In commemoration of the Centennial of WW1, we have also set up a reading group here in GR. Sleepwalkers is one of the suggested books. It deals with the period before the war and is consequently centered on the causes that led to, or I should say brought about, the disaster. But because it is my first book on the political aspects, I felt overwhelmed with the amount of information and baffled by the complexity of the considerations. My judgment has to be taken therefore with more than a pinch of
May 04, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-i
For the longest time, I avoided reading about World War I because it seemed too complicated. It was fought for convoluted reasons among now-dead empires in a Europe – and a world – that is now vastly reshaped. I figured my time would be better spent reading another book about Gettysburg.

When I finally made a concerted effort to learn about the Great War (since the Centennial is fast approaching), I discovered its beginnings were actually deceptively simple. The heir to the Austro-Hungarian thro
Jul 19, 2013 Dimitri rated it it was amazing
Simply one of the best books on the origins of the Great War. Take it from someone who wrote his master thesis on the pre-war military strategies of Belgium and along the way devoted too much time to the European dimension. Christopher Clark’s summary of the transformation of Europe between 1879 and 1907 from non-committed alliances into two military ‘blocs’ in two pages plus maps is a thing of beauty. The author clearly belongs to the revisionist camp. His identification of the hawks within the ...more
Tens of thousands of pages on the Great War have already been written. It has been almost one hundred years now since it started, and in other parts of the world it still rages onward. The current ethnic/religious conflicts in Iraq and Syria, for example, are directly influenced by the boundaries scribbled on the map by colonial powers after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The standard narrative of the cause of the conflict is based upon Tuchman's The Guns of August. This was a world of mona
Nikos Tsentemeidis
Mar 27, 2015 Nikos Tsentemeidis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Εξαιρετικό. Δε θυμίζει κλασικό βιβλίο ιστορίας. Δεν εξιστορεί γεγονότα, εξετάζει όλους τους λόγους που οδηγήθηκε η Ευρώπη στον "μεγάλο πόλεμο". Πολύ χρήσιμο για όλους. Μεγάλο μέρος του βιβλίου αποτελεί η κατάσταση στα Βαλκάνια από το 1870 μέχρι την έναρξη του πολέμου και κυρίως οι διαφορές μεταξύ των λαών,που εξηγούν πολλά, ακόμα και για την πρόσφατη ιστορία της περιοχής. Έμφαση δίνεται στους διπλωματικούς ελιγμούς μεταξύ των μεγάλων δυνάμεων της εποχής. Λέγεται ότι είναι το καλύτερο ιστορικό βι ...more
While the dead are gone, they're not gone. While the dead don't speak, they speak.
St Paul

Which begs the question, what do they say to us? Last week saw extensive media coverage of the various commemorations of Britain's declaration of war against Germany on August 4, 1914. Naturally, understandably, inevitably, those dignitaries invited to hold speeches on this occasion turned most of their attention to the human cost. The sheer numbers are obscene, beyond anyone's understanding or imagination.
howl of minerva
Aug 22, 2015 howl of minerva rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, ww1-ww2
"‘I shall never be able to understand how it happened,’ the novelist Rebecca West remarked to her husband as they stood on the balcony of Sarajevo Town Hall in 1936. It was not, she reflected, that there were too few facts available, but that there were too many."

I have a masochistic, puritan streak that tells me a serious book should be long, dry, dense and exhaustively referenced to flagellate learning into my ignorant body and soul. Barbara Tuchman's sinfully enjoyable The Guns of August left
Jun 20, 2014 Bettie☯ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Mal Warwick
Jun 06, 2013 Mal Warwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Does history repeat itself? A Cambridge University historian’s study of the causes of World War I

Six little boys tussle in a sandbox, pushing and shoving, sometimes openly, sometimes when none of the others are looking. One of them, a runt, is getting the worst of it, but he’s a vicious little guy and manages to hold his own within his own tiny corner of the sandbox. The biggest boys exert the least effort but command the most space. They all look confident, but secretly they’re terrified of one
Jun 07, 2013 Ms.pegasus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in serious history
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: GR review by Mal Warwick
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Bosnia, Herzegovina, Dalmatia, Macedonia, Transylvania – the names float like ghosts over a map of early 20th century Europe. It was a map in flux. The Ottoman Empire was disintegrating. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was suddenly threatened by the unrest of it's numerous ethnic minorities: Croats, Slavs, Bosnian Muslims, Slovenes, Serbs, Romanians.... Major European powers were jockeying for colonial dominance: England in Egypt and India; France in North Africa and Southeast Asia. Russia sought co ...more
Apr 19, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As Clark points out in his Introduction, historians started debating the cause of the First World War even before it began! For it did seem inevitable to many at the time, although the eventual scope – resulting eventually in the mobilization of 65 million troops and ending with the destruction of three empires, 20 million military and civilian deaths, and 21 million more wounded, was unanticipated. Clark notes that while a few leaders warned of “Armageddon” and a “war of extermination” and “the ...more
Tim Evanson
Theoretically, the book is about how the various governments of continental Europe got enmeshed in World War I. In fact, the book is an endless (and ad nauseaum) series of chapter-long mini-studies of a host of pre-WWI crises that convulsed Europe. Clark really doesn't get to the actual decision-making about WWI until the very end of the book, and then treats it as little different from the other crises.

Clark's theory is that foreign policy decision-making in the governments of Europe was diffus
Brian Warren
Mar 06, 2013 Brian Warren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
July - August 2014 will mark the Centennial anniversary of the start of World War I. In commemoration, there will no doubt be a lot written and said about the Great War and how the world was changed in its wake. Professor Christopher Clark of the University of Cambridge has written a book entitled "The Sleepwalkers - How Europe Went to War in 1914." In it, Clark scrupulously details the decisions of major and minor actors leading up to the outbreak of war and does something generally ignored by ...more
Nov 14, 2012 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"What were the causes of World War One?" is perhaps the most common question in both A level and first year undergraduate history exam papers. As with most questions of this type, there is no simple answer. There are, though, themes and hard facts and, in this book, the distinguished historian Christopher Clark unpicks the complex, often obscure and contradictory, events leading up to August 1914.

This is not an easy read, nor should it be. His thesis, including the enticing thought that German
Dec 11, 2012 Jerome rated it it was amazing
No review could do this work justice, so this will have to suffice. Clark's book is an exhaustive and intriguing history of the war’s origins and outbreak. Clark’s story is meticulously detailed and quite dense, but still readable. Still, this is not for the casual reader: the narrative requires some concentration. You’ll get bogged down in a lot of parts, but I think it’s worth it.

Clark’s coverage of the European alliance system is particularly good. He gives us a readable account of all their
Jul 24, 2013 Rayrumtum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was a fabulous history of the run-up to World War I. I must admit that I am a sucker for reading books about this period. It is like watching a slow developing train wreck over and over. Each time you think this time it will end differently but it never does.

The ideal thing about this book is that it places all of the figures in their bureaucratic process so that what looks like a really dumb decision seems logical in context. He cites ample evidence to support these points. Other authors w
Jonathan Kranz
Jun 10, 2013 Jonathan Kranz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This exceptionally well-researched and scrupulously thoughtful book is not for the casual reader curious about the Great War. While the events described are certainly dramatic, Clark aims for the rigorous examination of causes, communications (and miscommunications) and diplomatic juggling rather than at drama or pulse-pounding narrative.

Even after reading this book, I cannot begin to summarize the war's causes within a brief review; in fact, that's part of Clark's point: he demonstrates time an
Πολύ καλό θεματικό βιβλίο. Παρά τον όγκο του δεν πρέπει να φοβίζει διότι προσεγγίζει διάφορες πτυχές περί των ζητημάτων του Α' Παγκοσμίου πολέμου με κατανοητό, αν και εξαιρετικά αναλυτικό τρόπο. Διαβάζοντας το, θα εντυπωσιαστείτε από την πολυπλοκότητα της κρίσης που οδήγησε στον Μεγάλο πόλεμο. Σε μερικές περιπτώσεις θα διαπιστώσετε ομοιότητες με την εποχή μας, που αν μη τι άλλο θα σας προκαλέσουν ένα αίσθημα δυσανεξίας. Το βιβλίο του Christopher Clark συμβάλλει στην διεύρυνση της οπτικής του ανα ...more
Jun 17, 2014 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the ironies of the First World War—the Great War, the War to End All War—is that if the major belligerent powers could agree on one thing it was that no one intended to fight a continental war over Serbia. Yet, in the event, they all did, with catastrophic consequences. A conflict that should have been limited to a dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia wasn’t because Serbia had an agreement with Russia and Austria-Hungary had one with Germany. And Russia had one with France and Franc ...more
Bruce Cochrane
Jun 10, 2013 Bruce Cochrane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A year from now, it will be August, 2014, 100 years after the beginning of World War I. How that war started and what was at stake was always somewhat of a mystery to me. I knew that it was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, and that somehow "the Balkans" were at the root of things, but beyond that all seemed remote. And of course the fact that the US did not become involved until 1917 made the war seem all the more remote.

Christopher Clark has done a remarkable job
Simply fantastic book about the run-up to World War I.

Things I learned include:
1. The Triple Entente, especially from the British angle, was not exclusively an anti-German grouping, and was "unstable" at times up close to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
2. Even more than I knew before, the governmental organization of the Dual Monarchy was rickety. (I knew that many ministries were dual, but until reading this book, did not realize it had dual prime ministers, which was part of the delay of
Jun 28, 2014 Mosca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Some tried to prevent this war.

Some aggressively pushed along the steps that were needed to made it happen.

Some watched, seemingly helpless, as the dominoes tumbled around them.

How that happened, this book lays out in detailed, compelling prose.

Why that happened is gingerly evaded. But the questions will not go away.

I will rethink this book often, I am sure. And I will probably re-read it in time.

Well done and well written.

Aug 30, 2013 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What is the cause of World War I...Germany invaded Belgium. If it were that simple, Christopher Clark wouldn't spend over 600 pages describing the events that led to the war.

It's complicated...and that's an understatement. Each of the leaders were indeed sleepwalkers, working in a vacuum where their point of view was perfect and other countries wouldn't intervene. The war itself was going to last just a few months in their minds and somehow life would continue.

As Clark states, World War I starte
Jan 18, 2014 Keith rated it it was amazing
Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is a magnificent analysis of the years and eventually weeks and days before Europe tore itself apart. Clark opens with the observation that for various political and cultural reasons the world of 1914 has become remote and foreign to our postmodern consciousness.

"The changes in our own world have altered our perspective on the events of 1914. In the 1960s–80s, a kind of period charm accumulated in popular awareness around the e
May 01, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, society
“The causes of WW1” were so obvious when I was at school; everybody could recite them ... “shot that rang around the world” > ”impossible demands” > Austria x Serbia > Russia x Austria > Germany x Britain, France & Belgium > Britain x Germany. But they were events that appeared to spring from nowhere, all framed as offensive by the losers and defensive by the victors.

And as Clark shows, all specious. In the Sleepwalkers he brings a new (new to me, anyway) level of understandin
Neil Fox
Aug 24, 2014 Neil Fox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
World War 1 was "The first calamity of the 20th Century, the calamity from which all other calamities sprang". The sheer complexity of the Wars' origins have produced an endless debate which is still raging today more than 100 years on, with over 25,000 books and articles written on the subject. The Centenary of the Wars' outbreak 2 years ago produced a fresh and stimulating crop, including superb offerings from Margaret MacMillan, Max Hastings and Sean MacMeekin, but Christopher Clark's " Sleep ...more
Tom Ewing
Jul 22, 2016 Tom Ewing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Around a decade ago, during a game of Civilisation III, I realised that the alliances I and the various AI players had been forming had locked the world into two large, networked power blocs. If any player were to trigger even the mildest of border skirmishes, global conflagration would ensue. A chill went down my spine, and I checked the date: 1912. Near enough, I thought, and attacked.

The real First World War is, notoriously, far harder to account for. Both the causes suggested by my virtual r
Donald Luther
May 17, 2013 Donald Luther rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book I wish I had read before I had covered the background of World War I in my courses. There is so much food for thought here that it has caused a re-evaluation of my approach to the material as well as a re-thinking about the significance of events in my understanding of what I called (with no originality) 'the Long Fuse to Sarajevo'.

Clark makes some outstanding contributions to the examination of the origins of the war. He broadens the approach: he discounts the search for blame--w
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
This book at times reads like a crime novel, and a really good one at that. We follow the sequence of events that led to the Great War at very close distance and from every angle of the story; we follow the main characters in the story, the emperors, the prime ministers and their cabinets, the ambassadors... quite a feat of investigative work and literary skill combined. The best part is right at the beginning: the story of Serbia and how the assassination in Sarajevo came to happen, the plannng ...more
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Christopher Munro "Chris" Clark is an Australian historian working in England.
He was educated at Sydney Grammar School between 1972 and 1978, the University of Sydney where he studied History, and between 1985 and 1987 the Freie Universität Berlin.

He received his PhD at the University of Cambridge, having been a member of Pembroke College, Cambridge from 1987 to 1991. He is Professor in Modern Eur
More about Christopher Clark...

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“For a time, the word Weltpolitik seemed to capture the mood of the German middle classes and the national-minded quality press. The word resonated because it bundled together so many contemporary aspirations. Weltpolitik meant the quest to expand foreign markets (at a time of declining export growth); it meant escaping from the constraints of the continental alliance system to operate on a broader world arena. It expressed the appetite for genuinely national projects that would help knit together the disparate regions of the German Empire and reflected the almost universal conviction that Germany, a late arrival at the imperial feast, would have to play catch-up if it wished to earn the respect of the other great powers. Yet, while it connoted all these things, Weltpolitik never acquired a stable or precise meaning. Even Bernhard von Bulow, widely credited with establishing Weltpolitik as the guiding principle of German foreign policy, never produced a definitive account of what it was. His contradictory utterances on the subject suggest that it was little more than the old policy of the "free hand" with a larger navy and more menacing mood music. "We are supposed to be pursuing Weltpolitik," the former chief of the General Staff General Alfred von Waldersee noted grumpily in his diary in January 1900. "If only I knew what that was supposed to be.” 7 likes
“The war of 1914–18 was the absolute negation of everything that Clausewitz had stood” 3 likes
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