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July 1914 Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin

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With so many contributing factors as a cause, it’s hard to make sense of what exactly happened in the summer of 1914. Viewing the approaching conflict from all sides, clarifying what happened and why the march to war became inevitable Sean McMeekin shows the world at a tipping point, on the brink of a brutal and all-out war.

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July 1914 Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin

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.


'A work of meticulous scholarship ... McMeekin's description of the details of life in the European capitals - small events that influenced great decisions - makes July 1914 irresistible.'
Roy Hattersley The Times

'A genuinely exciting, almost hour-by-hour account of the terrible month when Europe's diplomats danced their continent over the edge and into the abyss.'
Nigel Jones BBC History Magazine

'Sean McMeekin's splendid July 1914 unravels all the shenanigans, bluffs and bunglings by which Europe's leaders and diplomats turned a minor murder in a Balkans backwater into total war ... There are scenes in July 1914 that linger long after the cover is closed.'
John Lewis

-Stempel Sunday Express 'McMeekin shows us precisely why the conflict happened ... [he] tells these stories with clarity and skill, drawing expert portraits of all the characters involved.
Keith Lowe Mail on Sunday

'Learned, punchy and enjoyable ... the book reads like a crime drama.'
Christopher Clark London Review of Books

'A refreshingly original counterpoint to the traditional focus'
Bronwen Maddox Prospect

'A shocking history, told with edgy, angry authority.'
Iain Finlayson Saga Magazine

'Sean McMeekin, in July 1914, [offers a] new perspective ... McMeekin has chosen the zoom lens. He opens with a crisp but vivid reconstruction of the double murder in the sunshine of Sarajevo, then concentrates entirely on unraveling the choreography day by day.'
Harold Evans New York Times Book Review

'[A] detailed account of the events and decisions that marked the road to war'
Times Higher Education

'[McMeekin] has ... literary and historical skill to make this a page-turning read.'
Literary Review

'[A] superbly researched political history ... a must-read for serious students of WWI, and a fascinating story for anyone interested in modern history.'
Publishers Weekly

'[A] thoroughly rewarding account that spares no nation regarding the causes of World War I... McMeekin delivers a gripping, almost day-by-day chronicle of the increasingly frantic maneuvers of European civilian leaders who mostly didn't want war and military leaders who had less objection.'
Kirkus Reviews

'Sean McMeekin is establishing himself as a-or even the-leading young historian of modern Europe. Here he turns his gifts to the outbreak of war in July 1914 and has written another masterpiece.'
Norman Stone author of World War Two: A Short History

'Alluding to historical controversies, McMeekin ably delivers what readers demand from a WWI-origins history: a taut rendition of the July 1914 crisis.'

'Blending scholarly research with a breezy and descriptive writing style, McMeekin makes a reader feel like a firsthand witness to the key events of that fateful summer ... a primer for today's diplomats on how not to allow a small event to spiral out of control into a major war.'
Columbus Dispatch

'A fascinating account'
Giles MacDonogh author of Prussia

'[McMeekin's] research skills are obviously admirable and his sources are impressive ... this is an excellent account of the days between the Sarajevo assassination and the outbreak of the First World War.'
The European Royal History Journal

About the Author

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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Book Info

Publication date

6th February 2014


Sean McMeekin

More books by Sean McMeekin
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Icon Books Ltd


560 pages


Biography / Autobiography
World War One Literature

First World War
European history
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000
International relations



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