Ann Mcelligott's Reviews > The Guns of August

The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
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May 18, 12

bookshelves: history, non-fiction
Read in May, 2012

When I began my quest to learn more about World War I, I knew I wanted to read Guns of August. I am very glad I pursued this book and have read it. Tuchman begins by examining the militarization of Europe that began even before the turn of the 20th century. The Schlieffen plan for the German attack of France through Belgium was developed before the General retired in 1905. Some of the festering anger on the part of the French had emerged from their defeat in the French-Prussian war ending in 1872 with the German annexation of Alscace and Lorraine. Military spending skyrocketed beginning at the end of the 19th century as all the European nations invested in the rapidly developing technology of war. Europe was perched on the edge of a yawning abyss when a fire cracker exploded with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, by Serbian nationalists on 28 June 1914. The spark smoldered for a month until Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28 June. By 4 August the conflagration had spread to Germany, Russia, France, and Great Britain, and Germany had invaded 2 neutral countries, Luxembourg and Belgium. By the end of 1914 the carefully crafted German and French war plans had failed catastrophically, and the combatants had settled into a protracted war played out in trenches across the continent. Tuchman ends her story at the end of 1914 leaving four more years of death and destruction yet to be played out. Her purpose was to set the stage for the inevitability of this war in the militarized culture of Europe and to chronicle the terrible strategic mistakes that led to its lengthy story of destruction and carnage. She achieves her goal masterfully. Anyone seeking to understand this opening chapter of the 20th century would be enriched by reading Guns of August.
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