Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

by Michael S. Neiberg


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The common explanation for the outbreak of World War I depicts Europe as a minefield of nationalism, needing only the slightest pressure to set off an explosion of passion that would rip the continent apart. But in a crucial reexamination of the outbreak of violence, Michael Neiberg shows that ordinary Europeans, unlike their political and military leaders, neither wanted nor expected war during the fateful summer of 1914. By training his eye on the ways that people outside the halls of power reacted to the rapid onset and escalation of the fighting, Neiberg dispels the notion that Europeans were rabid nationalists intent on mass slaughter. He reveals instead a complex set of allegiances that cut across national boundaries.

Neiberg marshals letters, diaries, and memoirs of ordinary citizens across Europe to show that the onset of war was experienced as a sudden, unexpected event. As they watched a minor diplomatic crisis erupt into a continental bloodbath, they expressed shock, revulsion, and fear. But when bargains between belligerent governments began to crumble under the weight of conflict, public disillusionment soon followed. Yet it was only after the fighting acquired its own horrible momentum that national hatreds emerged under the pressure of mutually escalating threats, wartime atrocities, and intense government propaganda.

Dance of the Furies gives voice to a generation who found themselves compelled to participate in a ghastly, protracted orgy of violence they never imagined would come to pass.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674725935
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/14/2013
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Michael S. Neiberg is Professor of History at the United States Army War College.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 A Clap of Thunder in the Summer Sky 10

2 Background to Sarajevo, 1905-1914 36

3 The Delivery of the Austro-Hungarian Ultimatum 66

4 Drifting into War against Her Will 93

5 The Coming of a Great Storm 121

6 Our Families Will Be Their Victims 150

7 Hardening Attitudes 180

8 An Evil Dance of the Furies 208

Conclusion 234

Notes 239

Acknowledgments 285

Index 287

What People are Saying About This

Dennis Showalter

Dance of the Furies is a major contribution to our understanding of the Great War's origins and nature. Well researched and well written, this book has a simple central thesis: the peoples of Europe neither expected nor desired war in 1914. But they did believe their nations' causes were just, and their nations' sacrifices must be avenged. Within weeks what began as a cabinet war, initiated by a small group of men, became a total war whose passions defied compromise and whose hatreds left a legacy of militarism, racism, and totalitarianism.

Dennis Showalter, author of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires

Leonard V. Smith

Neiberg tells a lively story. His smooth prose, keen grasp of revealing anecdotes, and transnational focus will find a large and attentive readership.

Leonard V. Smith, Oberlin College

William J. Philpott

In this important book, Neiberg adds greatly to our understanding of the popular mood and political climate of the fateful year in which the twentieth century really started. Drawing on an impressive range of contemporary accounts, he explains convincingly how Europeans metamorphosed into committed belligerents only after their armies had crossed international borders and the reality of modern war—invasion, atrocities, mass casualties—reached civilians on the home front.
William J. Philpott, author of Three Armies on the Somme

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