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Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  919 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
When war broke out in Europe in 1914, it surprised a European population enjoying the most beautiful summer in memory. For nearly a century since, historians have debated the causes of the war. Some have cited the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand; others have concluded it was unavoidable.

In Europe’s Last Summer, David Fromkin provides a different answer: hostiliti
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2004)
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Will Byrnes
Jagow [Germany’s foreign minister] noted that Molke [Germany’s chief of staff] told him that in two or three years the “military superiority of our enemies would…be so great that he did not know how he could overcome them. Today we would still be a match for them. In his opinion there was no alternative to making preventive war in order to defeat the enemy while there was still a chance of victory.
This book disabuses one of the notion that WWI, The Great War, arrived unexpectedly. There were m
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: europe, ww1
As we appoach the 100 year mark from the start of this war, a lot of Great War literature has appeared. I started Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War which is current and popular but got lost in the details and found this on a library shelf. I liked its layout. Simple short chapters taking items one issue at a time.

While I don't know if historian, David Fromkin's theory of two wars is mainstream or not, the book has what you need to understand the causes.

Fromkin starts by showing Europe at the
Jill Hutchinson
A well written book about the years leading up to the Great War. It is well researched and the author builds a good case that the war was not necessarily a result of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo but instead, an accumulation of factors that had been building over several years.....economics, social unrest, colonialism, and militarism. Very well done and required reading for the scholar of turn of the 20th century European history.
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
As the 100th anniversary of the Great War approaches, I thought I would test the waters and see what some recent historians had to say. In his highly informative, historical tome on the lead-up to the Great War, Fromkin not only dispels the simplistic view that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand began a series of events that led to military action, but also seeks to propose that its start was anything but a total surprise to the European powers. Simplistic world history texts still present ...more
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took a class in college titled Europe: 1914-1945. The final exam was, "Choose one cause for World War I and defend your choice." I chose Russia's early mobilization. I got an A-. That was in 1995. Since that time, apparently, a veritable treasure trove of information has been discovered that really seems to clearly point to Germany wanted this war, created a scenario to have this war, and manipulated other nations into falling into it. I never think that anyone is pure evil, with the notable a ...more
Lewis Weinstein
One of the main props of Hitler's vitriolic propaganda was to condemn the Allies' position at Versailles that Germany should be the only nation to pay reparations since it was solely responsible for starting the First World War. Putting aside the problems caused by the reparations, which were substantial and in hindsight bad policy, there remains the issue of who started the war.

Fromkin puts that responsibility squarely on Germany, which encouraged and manipulated the Austrian declaration of war
Oct 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Great War is the seminal event of our modern times and even though it's major reverberations damped down with the fall of Communism in the early 1990's, there is still the current Middle East that was partially made by the Great War

This is the best book I've read o0n the origins and causes of the war since for once it takes into account new documents and on the other it is written very well and clearly explained

The clear evidence that the elites in Germany wanted to defeat Russia "before it'
Brad Madsen
In David Fromkin’s most recent book he takes on the heavily written but still asked question of who started World War I. Fromkin attempts to redistribute the blame for the war, while Germany still receives some, a large amount is also placed on Austria-Hungary. Fromkin also claims that while the people of Europe believed that war was no longer a possibility, Europe’s political and military leaders could see the war coming.
Much of Fromkin’s work focuses on the geopolitical machinations of Germa
David Nichols
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Ever since reading Solzhenitsyn's "August 1914" I've been utterly fascinated by the lead-up to World War I. In this book Fromkin sets the stage for the war by showing how the Great Powers and the Central Powers began a then unprecedented arms race. The recently unified Germany became a threat to the other nations, and began expanding their empire abroad by gaining colonies. As the rivalry heated up, the move toward war became inevitable. The political and military elites knew war was coming.

Timothy James
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
If you are looking for a book that explains why and how the First World War started, this is the one. The author introduces the situation in the preceding years and then focuses on the events during the "last summer" before the war started. The chapters are very short, which I found helpful for taking in the information in manageable chunks. With each new development the author explained the context of the event, which did mean quite a lot of repetition of information covered earlier, but this t ...more
So Josh Marshall of was going off a bit on twitter a while back about how discredited the whole The Guns of August "European war that nobody wanted" idea was. Feeling stupid, I asked him what book I should read if I'd only ever read Tuchman on WW1. He responded and recommended this book.

I don't know Josh Marshall. He is a celebrity as far as I am concerned. So I had to read the book.

The book is structured roughly as follows: first, it lays out the existing general view of t
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rather exceptional book that tries and mostly succeeds at disproving the long running theory that the first world war was caused by an inevitable cascade of events and that the cause was that started the domino effect was the death of the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne. It theorized that in fact what we consider as WWI was in fact two wars that eventually combined after the failure of the Austrians. With this insight it allows the reasoning behind the cascade effect to dissolve and show ...more
Shyam Sundar
Fromkin makes an excellent attempt to understand how the Great War appeared out of the blue. He argues that Europe at that time was very tense and was not at all peaceful as public perception currently is. The military officers of all countries were busy preparing for a war on a massive scale - the question was not if, but when.
According to the author, World War I consists of two wars - Austro-Serbian War, and the German War against France and Russia. The latter grew out of the former and swall
Sara G
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I picked this book up because as the centennial of the Great War approaches, I realized I knew little to nothing about what the war was about. It's embarrassing, as much as I love history, to not know the answer to a history question asked by one of my kids. (the little geniuses will likely keep me on my toes forever!) So, I grabbed this one in a moment of fancy at the library, because it was the thinnest book about the war that I could find, and appeared to focus on its origins rather than just ...more
M Yeazel
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi
Excellent reading for the lay historian. I'm listening to it on Audible while I'm reading it and Alan Sklar has a voice that makes you forget it's non-fiction! Since I'm studying the Great War this year, this is a pretty good book to play in.

Fromkin takes you step by step, detail by detail through the days between the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne (Archduke Franz Ferdinand) and the declarations of war by the European powers. From relatively new research, Fromkin explai
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fromkin has a straightforward and easy-to-read style. This book is no exception. At the same time all the main characters are well developed, and what used to be total confusion in other books of WWI I've read, is crystal clear in his exposition. The main thesis is interesting and believable--two wars instead of one--although not at all definitive in my opinion. There is so much evidence that's still missing, that even filling the blanks (as Fromkin does) doesn't no provide a completely convinci ...more
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a comprehensive and methodical inquiry into the wide-ranging factors that led to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. The author starts by reviewing what seems to be a random collection of events and personalities, and methodically demonstrates how these desperate threads slowly weave into a coherent whole. Most interesting is Fromkin's analysis of the interplay between erstwhile allies, who were often working at cross-purposes. Fromkin also makes clear that the drift to war was delibe ...more
Nov 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll be looking for this author's name again. I'm about half way through at this point but am really impressed. He makes history very readable. He mentions previous research and either backs it up with new information or explains how the new information contradicts the conclusions previously drawn. He goes into a bit more of the personal history of the historical figures mentioned, fleshes them out a bit, which makes them seem more like real people and makes it easier, for me at least, to relate ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The capsule summary for this book is spot on....I would just add that I have read at least 4 books about the Great War and this is the first one which I feel has given me a clear picture of how it really began, and why. Highly recommended (if you are interested in the topic).
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.
Isaiah 2:4 NLT
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Comments to come.
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Author David Fromkin's approach to the origins of WWI eschews multifacted explanations of the war's genesis and endeavors to place the blame on specific individuals—primarily on German Chief of the General Staff Helmuth Moltke but to lesser extent Austrian CGS Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf. In Fromikn's telling, WWI was in reality two wars conflated together: Austria's war on Serbia and Germany's war on Russia (& France). In his telling, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand gave t ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book got worse with more post-reading reflection.

I wanted to give this a fourth star, but just couldn't do it.

Per some other reviewers, Fromkin's conclusions, other than the two-war idea, that Austria wanted war with just Serbia and Germany was willing to use the Austrian casus belli as a pre-emptive war igniter, are too pat.

And, even that is not as proven as he claims. The Kaiser was not the only German, at least on the civilian side, who wanted Berchtold and Hötzendorf to attack Serbia AS
Bob Croft
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating revisionist history, based on archival sources mostly not available to historians of a generation earlier; it largely overturns the thesis of an accidental war, of statesmen and military leaders "blundering into war", constrained by mobilization schedules.
Germany and Austria both wanted war, though each wanted a different war, and each lied to its ally about what war it wanted, and how it wanted to involve the other. The German general staff knew that war would destroy European civil
Todd Stockslager
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Finally, a clear explanation of how the Great War started and who did it. Late 20th century history as relayed in public education survey courses relied on vague statements of wonderment about how millions could fight and die in a world-wide struggle triggered by the assassination of an inconsequential Archduke of some type in some country in Eastern Europe.

In fact, the murder of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife was a pretext to trigger the war that Austria-Hungary wanted with Serbia. In the mean
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, politics

I read David Fromkin's Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914? which was an impulse buy in a Washington DC used bookstore some months ago.

World War I is mindblowing. You can draw causal lines to such disparate things as women's suffrage, Adolf Hitler, the Cold War, class consciousness, the Soviet Union, and more. Yet it started in such a small way, a minor aristocrat--not even widely known--murdered by a young radical. It was a seemin
David Mccracken
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty fast read. Goes over the events of 1914 and then adds some (quite good) commentary at the end. The basic thesis is that there were two wars started in 1914, an Austrian war to defeat Serbia and a German war to defeat Russia. Both were wanted by the aggressors independent of the events of 1914 and both took advantage of the events as they unfolded to advance their plans for war.

One of the amazing things you get from the book is the idea that effectively everybody was fighting for the st
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was going to give this book 3 stars originally, because a lot of the information was repetitive. But I guess it would be hardly fair to blame Fromkin simply because I have read many other books on World War 1 before coming to his. So 4 stars it is!

Fromkin leaves the issue of the actual fighting aside, for the most part, choosing to focus on all of the causes of the war. The history of the soon-to-be-assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and his wife is particularly fascinating. I also appreciate hi
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exceptional look at the events that led to the start of World War I, "Europe's Last Summer" is a pleasure to read. David Fromkin's work reads almost like a mystery thriller, and even though the eventual conclusion here is already known (i.e., Europe goes to war), it does have a certain page-turning element that makes the book hard to put down. He offers a clear, concise argument for his belief on who started the war, and why. Centered around a day-by-day look at how events unfolded in the sum ...more
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History book or Mystery book? 1 12 Oct 12, 2008 12:59PM  
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David Fromkin is a noted author, lawyer, and historian, best known for his historical account on the Middle East, A Peace to End All Peace (1989), in which he recounts the role European powers played between 1914 and 1922 in creating the modern Middle East. The book was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Fromkin has written seven books in total, with ...more
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