The Sleepwalkers is historian Christopher Clark's riveting account of the explosive beginnings of World War I. Drawing on new scholarship, Clark offers a fresh look at World War I, focusing not on the battles and atrocities of the war itself but on the complex events and relationships that led a group of well-meaning leaders into brutal conflict. Clark traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts between the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade, and he examines the decades of history that informed the events of 1914 and details the mutual misunderstandings and unintended signals that drove the crisis forward in a few short weeks.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, The Sleepwalkers is a dramatic and authoritative chronicle of Europe's descent into a war that tore the world apart.
"For those who enjoy excellent scholarship joined with logical composition and an easy style of writing, save a (wide) spot on your bookshelf for Clark's work." (Kirkus)
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Reexamining the Causes of WWI
Mr. Perkins' was a very straight forward reader - his tone for this book was spot on - and made enjoying the book very easy.
The description of the death of the (young) King and Queen of Serbia - I had not heard this story before and it really set the tone of the book as understanding the ruthlessness of the Serbian revolutionaries leads to a completely different reasoning for the causes of First World War.
First off, for context, I would describe myself as a casual military historian. I enjoy reading (and listening) about military history - I tend to be most interested in Napoleonic history - but the late 19th century and WWI is a relatively new subject to me that I am enjoying learning more about. Mr. Clark has written a book which contradicts much of the "conventional" reasoning behind the cause of WWI. Conventionally, WWI is said to have been caused by German aggression - which is a narrative that tends to be enforced by the aggression of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. However, by setting the context for this specific time in history, late 1800s up to 1914, the readers begin to realize that it wasn't just Germany that was to blame, but that the Triple Entente had an equal share of blame. It seems that by challenging the conventional notion that Germany alone (or primarily) was to blame for WWI causes some to be uncomfortable.Any book on the cause of WWI will lead to a discussion on who was to blame for the war. This book is not the only book on WWI - and it appears that Mr. Clark is writing to those people who have at the very least a basic understanding of the causes of WWI and those (like myself) that believe (or believed until reading this book) that Germany, and German militarism and aggression, was the primary cause of WWI. However after listening to this book I feel that I have a more balanced view, and based on the facts Mr. Clark has presented it appears that at the very least France, Russia, and Britain share an equal amount of blame for the start of the war. I found myself on numerous occasions surprised to be hearing new quotes and information that contradicted the "conventional" narrative of Germany being primarily blamed for the war - which lead to me devouring this book. For anyone interested in learning more about the causes of the First World War this book is simply a must read (or listen).
- Christoph L.
Very interesting take on a complex problem