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Tuesday, 11 March 2014
This is a relatively brief book that looks at the causes of The First World War. It does not contain any new research and there is not much that is new in it.

The author's thesis is broadly that all of the world powers were preparing for war from the 1900s onwards. The military leaders of all the great powers were building plans for war, and that this lead to an environment in which was inevitable. Meanwhile many working class people were effected by nationalist, patriotism and social Darwinism which acted to encourage the belief that foreigners were an "other" to be feared or defeated.

The principle thesis is that leaders allowed the war to happen, or at least were too weak to stop it. There was little communication at the top and no attempt to defuse the situation, and the author argues this means that the leaders were guilty by omission of starting the war.

A key problem for me is this book feels to much like an essay rather than a book. It is very brief and contains little real insight. It is a nice primer, but I felt a bit disappointed. As we approach the 100 year anniversary there is going to be a lot of information around this period. Two key questions are whether the war was justified and who bears the blame for starting the war. The author clearly argues the leaders of all the Great Powers were responsible. But I don't think there is enough evidence presented to convince me.

I personally preferred The Pity of War by Niall Ferguson, which argues that Britain bears much of the responsibility for war The Forgotten Victory by  Gary Sheffield which lays the blame with German militarism. These books just feel more meaty to me.