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The Games of July: Explaining the Great War

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Overview

"Frank C. Zagare combines a deep command of historical scholarship and the sophisticated skills of an applied game theorist to develop and test a theory of why deterrence failed, catastrophically, in July 1914. . . . Zagare concludes with sage advice on how to avoid even more cataclysmic breakdowns in a nuclear world."
---Steven J. Brams, New York University

"Zagare's deft study of the origins of the First World War using his perfect deterrence theory uncovers new insights into that signal event and shows the value of formal theory applied to historical events. A must-read for those interested in security studies."
---James D. Morrow, University of Michigan

"Through an exemplary combination of formal theory, careful qualitative analysis, and lucid prose, The Games of July delivers important and interesting answers to key questions concerning the international political causes of World War I. Its well-formed narratives and its sustained engagement with leading works in IR and diplomatic history . . . make it a rewarding read for security scholars in general and a useful teaching tool for international security courses."
---Timothy W. Crawford, Boston College

Taking advantage of recent advances in game theory and the latest historiography, Frank C. Zagare offers a new, provocative interpretation of the events that led to the outbreak of World War I. He analyzes key events from Bismarck's surprising decision in 1879 to enter into a strategic alliance with Austria-Hungary to the escalation that culminated in a full-scale global war. Zagare concludes that, while the war was most certainly unintended, it was in no sense accidental or inevitable.

The Games of July serves not only as an analytical narrative but also as a work of theoretical assessment. Standard realist and liberal explanations of the Great War are evaluated along with a collection of game-theoretic models known as perfect deterrence theory.

Frank C. Zagare is UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Cover illustration: Satirical Italian postcard from World War I. Used with permission from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.

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Editorial Reviews

Perspectives on Politics - Stephen E. Gent

"A common critique of game-theoretic work in international relations is that it is often not connected to the empirical world that it is meant to explain. By combining a sophisticated model with detailed historical analysis, The Games of July does a nice job of showing that this does not need to be the case."
Perspectives on Politics
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472051168
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 3/3/2011
  • Pages: 226
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part 1 Theoretical Underpinnings

Chapter 1 Purpose and Method 3

1.1 Bringing Theory to Bear on Data 6

1.2 Bringing Data to Bear on Theory 7

1.3 A Possible Objection and a Rejoinder 9

1.4 Blueprint 10

1.5 Scylla and Charybdis 12

1.6 Coda 14

Chapter 2 Theories and Explanations 19

2.1 The Realist Paradigm and Classical Deterrence Theory 21

2.2 Coda 37

Chapter 3 Perfect Deterrence Theory: An Overview 39

3.1 Axioms and General Theoretical Characteristics 40

3.2 Explaining the Absence of War 44

3.3 Theoretical Propositions, Empirical Expectations, and Policy Implications 49

3.4 Coda 56

Part 2 Explaining the Great War

Chapter 4 Bismarck's System 61

4.1 The Tripartite Crisis Game 64

4.2 Outcomes and Preferences 67

4.3 Analysis 72

4.4 Explaining the Austro-German Alliance of 1879 87

4.5 Coda 89

Chapter 5 Vienna, Berlin, and the Blank Check 90

5.1 Background 91

5.2 The Tripartite Crisis Game Redux 96

5.3 Analysis 100

5.4 Coda 106

Chapter 6 La Guerre Européenne 110

6.1 Asymmetric Escalation Game 113

6.2 Preferences 118

6.3 Some Caveats 120

6.4 Analysis 123

6.5 Discussion 128

6.6 Coda 143

Chapter 7 Britain's Strategic Dilemma 144

7.1 Modeling the Deterrence versus Restraint Dilemma 147

7.2 Preference Assumptions 148

7.3 Information and Utility Assumptions 151

7.4 Analysis 152

7.5 Explaining Britain's Foreign Policy in 1914 158

7.6 Coda 166

Part 3 Endgame

Chapter 8 Questions, Answers, Implications 171

8.1 Explanation 172

8.2 Theoretical Assessment 181

8.3 Implications and Final Thoughts 186

References 195

Index 209

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