The outbreak of the First World War was `a drama never surpassed'.
One hundred years later, the characters still seem larger than life: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, brooding heir to the Habsburg throne; the fanatical Bosnian Serb assassins who plot to murder him; Conrad and Berchtold, the Austrians who exploit the outrage; Kaiser Wilhelm and Bethmann Hollweg, backing up the Austrians; Sazonov, Russian Foreign Minister, trying to live down a reputation for cowardice; Poincare and Paleologue, two French statesmen who urge on the Russians; and not least Winston Churchill, who, alone among Cabinet officials in London, perceives the seriousness of the situation in time to take action.
July 1914 tells the story of Europe's countdown to war through the eyes of these men, between the bloody opening act on 28 June 1914 and Britain's final plunge on 4 August, which turned a European conflict into a world war. The outbreak of war was no accident of fate. Individual statesmen, pursuing real objectives, conjured up the conflict - in some cases by conscious intention. While some sought honourably to defuse tensions, others all but oozed with malice as they rigged the decks for war.
Dramatic, inevitably tense and almost forensically observed, Sean McMeekin's unique book retells the story of that cataclysmic month, making clear as never before who was responsible for the catastrophe. You will never think the same way again about the origins of the First World War.
Sean McMeekin's books include The Berlin-Baghdad Express, The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power (Penguin/Allen Lane) and The Russian Origins of the First World War (Harvard University Press). He lives in Istanbul with his wife, Nesrin, and their daughter, Ayla.
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