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The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

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Overview

On the morning of June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, arrived at Sarajevo railway station, Europe was at peace. Thirty-seven days later, it was at war. The conflict that resulted would kill more than fifteen million people, destroy three empires, and permanently alter world history.

The Sleepwalkers reveals in gripping detail how the crisis leading to World War I unfolded. Drawing on fresh sources, it traces the paths to war in a ...

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The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

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Overview

On the morning of June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, arrived at Sarajevo railway station, Europe was at peace. Thirty-seven days later, it was at war. The conflict that resulted would kill more than fifteen million people, destroy three empires, and permanently alter world history.

The Sleepwalkers reveals in gripping detail how the crisis leading to World War I unfolded. Drawing on fresh sources, it traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts among the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade. Distinguished historian Christopher Clark 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.

How did the Balkans—a peripheral region far from Europe's centers of power and wealth—come to be the center of a drama of such magnitude? How had European nations organized themselves into opposing alliances, and how did these nations manage to carry out foreign policy as a result? Clark reveals a Europe racked by chronic problems—a fractured world of instability and militancy that was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. These rulers, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, stumbled through crisis after crisis and finally convinced themselves that war was the only answer.

Meticulously researched and masterfully written, The Sleepwalkers is a magisterial account of one of the most compelling dramas of modern times.

Winner of the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History
One of the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2013

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Gerard DeGroot
…easily the best book ever written on this subject. The Sleepwalkers is a work of rare beauty that combines meticulous research with sensitive analysis and elegant prose. The enormous weight of its quality inspires amazement and awe.
The New York Times Book Review - Harold Evans
The distinctive achievement of The Sleepwalkers is Clark's single-volume survey of European history leading up to the war. That may sound dull. Quite the contrary. It is as if a light had been turned on a half-darkened stage of shadowy characters cursing among themselves without reason…The brilliance of Clark's far-reaching history is that we are able to discern how the past was genuinely prologue. The participants were conditioned to keep walking along a precipitous escarpment, sure of their own moral compass, but unknowingly impelled by a complex interaction of deep-rooted cultures, patriotism and paranoia, sediments of history and folk memory, ambition and intrigue…In conception, steely scholarship and piercing insights, [Clark's] book is a masterpiece.
Publishers Weekly
WWI is frequently described as a long-fused inevitable conflict, yet this comprehensively researched, gracefully written account of the war’s genesis convincingly posits a bad brew of diplomatic contingencies and individual agency as the cause. Clark, history professor at Cambridge University, begins by describing the interactions of Serbia and Austria-Hungary, which sparked the conflict. He presents the former as a “raw and fragile democracy” whose “turbulent” politics challenged a neighboring empire held together by habit. Indeed, the instability across Europe further polarized alliance networks—foreign policies were shaped by “ambiguous relationships... and adversarial competitions” that obfuscated intentions. Nevertheless, the European system demonstrated “a surprising capacity for crisis management.” But even the détente years of 1912–1914 were characterized by “persistent uncertainty in all quarters about the intentions of friends and potential foes alike.” Beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, that uncertainty informed the burgeoning crisis—Austria-Hungary’s hesitation allowed Russia to frame the event as a tyrant “cut down by citizens of his own country”; Britain and France offered no challenge to the narrative; and Germany “counted on the localization of the Austro-Serbian conflict.” Instead Russia escalated the crisis by mobilizing, Britain by hesitating, and Germany by panicking: Europe sleepwalked into “a tragedy.” B&w illus., 7 maps. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
A massive, wide-ranging chronicle of the events, personalities and failures of the run-up to World War I. Clark (Modern European History/Univ. of Cambridge; Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947, 2006, etc.) lays out the long and violent history of Serbian nationalism, the confusion in the dying Austro-Hungarian empire and the struggle for dominance between the British and Russian empires. While explaining the irredentist mindset of Serbia then, the author also illuminates the causes of the Balkan unrest that erupted again in the 1990s. Surely he read every journal, letter, accounting and government document related to every nation and player in this period; indeed, there are points where some readers may wonder if this is a case of research rapture. Patience will be necessary to wade through the myriad details. However, given the vast amount of available material on World War I and the daunting task of trying to produce a readable account, Clark has succeeded admirably. The most remarkable fact about the crisis that led to this war is that none of those involved had any clue as to the intentions of not only their enemies, but also their allies. In fact, they weren't absolutely sure who the enemy would be. Consequently, many, including Czar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II, tried to head off the conflict right up to the end, each waiting for someone to do something as the world stumbled into war. For readers who seek a quick overview of one of the most convoluted periods in history, look elsewhere. 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.
Niall Ferguson
“The most readable account of the origins of the First World War since Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. The difference is that The Sleepwalkers is a lovingly researched work of the highest scholarship.”
Thomas Laqueur
“Clark’s narrative sophistication, his philosophical awareness, and his almost preternatural command of his sources make The Sleepwalkers an exemplary instance of how to navigate this tricky terrain. The best book on the origins of the First World War that I know.”
Matthew Yglesias
“One of 2013’s finest nonfiction books. . . . Offers more up-to-date scholarship than you’ll find in a classic like Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August.”
From the Publisher
"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
Max Hastings
“An important book. . . . One of the most impressive and stimulating studies of the period ever published.”
Foreign Affairs
“This compelling examination of the causes of World War I deserves to become the new standard one-volume account of that contentious subject.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Clark is a masterly historian. . . . His account vividly reconstructs key decision points while deftly sketching the context driving them. . . . A magisterial work.”
The Boston Globe
“A monumental new volume. . . . Revelatory, even revolutionary. . . . Clark has done a masterful job explaining the inexplicable.”
Ian Kershaw
“Excellent. . . . The book is stylishly written as well as superb scholarship. No analysis of the origins of the First World War will henceforth be able to bypass this magisterial work.”
The Washington Post
“Easily the best book ever written on the subject. . . . A work of rare beauty that combines meticulous research with sensitive analysis and elegant prose. The enormous weight of its quality inspires amazement and awe. . . . Academics should take note: Good history can still be a good story.”
MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History
“A meticulously researched, superbly organized, and handsomely written account.”
Fareed Zakaria
“Superb. . . . One of the great mysteries of history is how Europe’s great powers could have stumbled into World War I. . . . This is the single best book I have read on this important topic.”
Harold Evans
“A thoroughly comprehensive and highly readable account. . . . The brilliance of Clark’s far-reaching history is that we are able to discern how the past was genuinely prologue. . . . In conception, steely scholarship and piercing insights, his book is a masterpiece.”
The Daily Beast
“As spacious and convincing a treatment as has yet appeared. . . . Clark’s prose is clear and laced with color.”
Slate
“A great book. . . An amazing narrative history of the crisis and the larger context.”
The Guardian
“A superb account of the causes of the first world war. . . . Clark brilliantly puts this illogical conflict into context.”
The Independent
“This book is as authoritative as it is gripping. . . . Clark provides a vivid panorama of the jostling among Europe’s policymakers. . . . The reader is rapt as ‘watchful but unseeing’ protagonists head for inconceivable horror.”
The Economist
“Excellent. . . . Where Clark excels is in explaining how the pre-war diplomatic maneuvers resembled a giant exercise in game theory.”-
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061146657
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/19/2013
  • Pages: 697
  • Sales rank: 51,173
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Clark is a professor of modern European history and a fellow of St. Catharine's College at the University of Cambridge, UK. He is the author of Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, among other books.

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Read an Excerpt

The Sleepwalkers


By Christopher Clark

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Christopher Clark
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-114665-7


3
1
Serbian Ghosts
Murder in Belgrade
Shortly after two o'clock on the morning of 11 June 1903, twenty-eight
officers of the Serbian army approached the main entrance of the royal
palace in Belgrade.* After an exchange of fire, the sentries standing
guard before the building were arrested and disarmed. With keys taken
from the duty captain, the conspirators broke into the reception hall
and made for the royal bedchamber, hurrying up stairways and along
corridors. Finding the king's apartments barred by a pair of heavy oaken
doors, the conspirators blew them open with a carton of dynamite. The
charge was so strong that the doors were torn from their hinges and
thrown across the antechamber inside, killing the royal adjutant behind
them. The blast also fused the palace electrics, so that the building was
plunged into darkness. Unperturbed, the intruders discovered some can-
dles in a nearby room and entered the royal apartment. By the time they
reached the bedroom, King Alexandar and Queen Draga were no longer
to be found. But the queen's French novel was splayed face-down on the
bedside table. Someone touched the sheets and felt that the bed was still
warm — it seemed they had only recently left. Having searched the bed-
chamber in vain, the intruders combed through the palace with candles
and drawn revolvers.
While the officers strode from room to room, firing at cabinets, tap-
estries, sofas and other potential hiding places, King Alexandar and
Queen Draga huddled upstairs in a tiny annexe adjoining the bedcham-
ber where the queen's maids usually ironed and darned her clothes. For
* Today the former palace houses the Belgrade City Assembly on Dragoslava Jovanovica.

4
Roads to Sarajevo
nearly two hours, the search continued. The king took advantage of this
interlude to dress as quietly as he could in a pair of trousers and a red
silk shirt; he had no wish to be found naked by his enemies. The queen
managed to cover herself in a petticoat, white silk stays and a single
yellow stocking.
Across Belgrade, other victims were found and killed: the queen's
two brothers, widely suspected of harbouring designs on the Serbian
throne, were induced to leave their sister's home in Belgrade and 'taken
to a guard-house close to the Palace, where they were insulted and bar-
barously stabbed'.1 Assassins also broke into the apartments of the
prime minister, Dimitrije Cincar-Markovic, and the minister of war,
Milovan Pavlovic. Both were slain; twenty-five rounds were fired into
Pavlovic, who had concealed himself in a wooden chest. Interior Minis-
ter Belimir Theodorovic was shot and mistakenly left for dead but later
recovered from his wounds; other ministers were placed under arrest.
Back at the palace, the king's loyal first adjutant, Lazar Petrovic, who
had been disarmed and seized after an exchange of fire, was led through
the darkened halls by the assassins and forced to call out to the king
from every door. Returning to the royal chamber for a second search,
the conspirators at last found a concealed entry behind the drapery.
When one of the assailants proposed to cut the wall open with an axe,
Petrovic saw that the game was up and agreed to ask the king to come
out. From behind the panelling, the king enquired who was calling, to
which his adjutant responded: 'I am, your Laza, open the door to your
officers!' The king replied: 'Can I trust the oath of my officers?' The con-
spirators replied in the affirmative. According to one account, the king,
flabby, bespectacled and incongruously dressed in his red silk shirt,
emerged with his arms around the queen. The couple were cut down in
a hail of shots at point-blank range. Petrovic, who drew a concealed
revolver in a final hopeless bid to protect his master (or so it was later
claimed), was also killed. An orgy of gratuitous violence followed. The
corpses were stabbed with swords, torn with a bayonet, partially disem-
bowelled and hacked with an axe until they were mutilated beyond
recognition, according to the later testimony of the king's traumatized
Italian barber, who was ordered to collect the bodies and dress them for
burial. The body of the queen was hoisted to the railing of the bedroom
window and tossed, virtually naked and slimy with gore, into the gar-
dens. It was reported that as the assassins attempted to do the same

5
Serbian Ghosts
with Alexandar, one of his hands closed momentarily around the rail-
ing. An officer hacked through the fist with a sabre and the body fell,
with a sprinkle of severed digits, to the earth. By the time the assassins
had gathered in the gardens to have a smoke and inspect the results of
their handiwork, it had begun to rain.2
The events of 11 June 1903 marked a new departure in Serbian political
history. The Obrenovic dynasty that had ruled Serbia throughout most
of the country's brief life as a modern independent state was no more.
Within hours of the assassination, the conspirators announced the ter-
mination of the Obrenovic line and the succession to the throne of Petar
Karadjordjevic, currently living in Swiss exile.
Why was there such a brutal reckoning with the Obrenovic dynasty?
Monarchy had never established a stable institutional existence in
Serbia. The root of the problem lay partly in the coexistence of rival
dynastic families. Two great clans, the Obrenovic and the Karadjordjevic,
Petar I Karadjordjevic

6
Roads to Sarajevo
had distinguished themselves in the struggle to liberate Serbia from
Ottoman control. The swarthy former cattleherd 'Black George' (Ser-
bian: 'Kara Djordje') Petrovic, founder of the Karadjordjevic line, led an
uprising in 1804 that succeeded for some years in driving the Ottomans
out of Serbia, but fled into Austrian exile in 1813 when the Ottomans
mounted a counter-offensive. Two years later, a second uprising unfolded
under the leadership of MiloÅ Obrenovic, a supple political operator
who succeeded in negotiating the recognition of a Serbian Principality
with
(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark. Copyright © 2013 Christopher Clark. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 15 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2013

    For the WW I relative novice like me, this astonishingly detaile

    For the WW I relative novice like me, this astonishingly detailed, 584-page book (plus another 150 or so of notes) can be daunting at first. Just trying to keep track of the main characters (apart from the wild and wacky Wilhelm II or the allegedly dimwitted Nicholas II, apparently a nose-picker) was very difficult. However, immersing oneself in this book leaves one with a tapestry-like impression of the chaotic domestic politics of pre-WW I Europe, and, as another reviewer said, how the world bumbled into the war. For the history buff, I'd say this is overall a rewarding read.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    Clark brings to life the myriad of characters that played a role in bumbling the world into The First World War. It would be comical how these macho men misunderstood each other expect for the catastrophe they wrought. The book shows how everybody involved,Serbian,Russian,French,German,Austrian were equally culpable.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2014

    Those imbeciles who choose to play (at times) vulgar story games

    Those imbeciles who choose to play (at times) vulgar story games with other imbeciles should be permanently blocked from writing reviews. Those of us who earnestly want to know other reader responses find you boring and useless. Also, you skew the reader ratings for everyone. Barnes and Noble should take more care about what goes on this spac!

    Excellent study of the beginnings o WWI. Diplomancy failed and too eager did the world plunge into a war with horrific consequences they could not have foreseen as up until this point there had never been a war of this scope at any time in human history.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 27, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent study of the origins of the Great War. You can reach y

    Excellent study of the origins of the Great War. You can reach your own conclusion about which country was most responsible for the apocalypse.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2014

    From this book I learned that WWI was created by a few ego's and

    From this book I learned that WWI was created by a few ego's and a fractal decision tree that branched into an odd but extreme position
     that became WWI.  What was it 60 million casualties from a war that just sort of happened?  

    This book convinced me the war could have just as easily not happened. It lays all of this out and the
    'great powers' mentality of the day,  something we of this age never experienced. The book is detailed and intricate, but this is necessary.  
    What I read gave me insights to drivers in today's conflicts and the possible recurrence of competing great powers in the future.  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2014

    Mollie

    Walks in

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2014

    Comand post

    Where people sighn up fo being a comander or soy.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2014

    Finn

    Carries May into a room and locks the door

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Detailed and scholarly but tedious. I like history and was looki

    Detailed and scholarly but tedious.
    I like history and was looking  for a  good review book about WWI.   I found "Sleepwalkers"  very well researched and detailed,  but difficult to follow and  meticulous  to the point of being almost unreadable for an amateur like myself.  I think I'll try Max Hasting's book Instead.I grade books as Buy and Keep ( BK), Read a Library Copy (RLC) and Once-I-Put-It-Down-I-Couldn’t-Pick-It-Up (OIPD-ICPU).  This one,   I'm sorry to say, was OIPD-ICPU. 

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2013

    Lilystem

    Goto result one. Sry

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted June 5, 2013

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    Posted May 17, 2013

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