16/07/2014

The sleepwalkers (book review)

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
Christopher Clark
HarperCollins, 2014

A century ago Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austia and his wife during a visit of Sarajevo. A few weeks later war broke out. Earlier I wrote about the year 1913 and the First World War. Today, I'll review The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark.

In this book, Clark outlines the prelude of the Great War. He describes the situation in the European states, their mutual relations and their interests both in- and outside Europe.

First of all Serbia which was an agrarian country. In this kingdom, the government was interwoven with some nationalistic organisations. The level of education was relatively low.

Its neighbour, the dual monarchy Austria-Hungary had another structure. It had one Emperor (Franz Joseph) but two parliaments. The Austrians runned a flourishing civilized country. They were tolerant towards minorities. They created and maintained a good infrastructure and developed acquired parts of the empire like Bosnia-Herzegovina. Rural Hungary's parliament however neglected their minorities.

Germany was headed by Emperor Wilhelm II ("Willy") who was also King of Prussia. An unpredictable aristocrat who lost influence during the war. Prussia had a strong military tradition and Germany was developing steadily.

Russia was led by Tsar Nicholas II ("Nicky"). This agrarian country was recovering of the lost war against Japan. The government was seeking access to the warm water of the Mediterranen Sea. Note the family relations of the Heads of State of the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia.

Great Britain was in anti-German mood. It experiended troubles in Ulster. The author describes the balances of power in not only the British but also in the French and other governments. The French were struggling with the UK for influence in Egypt and with Germany about Marocco.

Each of the European Powers and Turkey had their interests in the Balcan peninsula. A mix of etnic, economic and religious issues. In each of the countries there were discussions between the civil and military authorities as well as about the military budgets. Nevertheless an arms race developed. Furthermore there were tensions between the press and the governments. The continent was divided in two alliances: Austia-Hungary, Germany and Italy versus Russia, France and the UK.

After the assissination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a crisis originated. Austria-Hungary would punish the Serbians. Tensions increased as all of the states had their interests and allies. Due to a mix of masculinity and bungling of governments and diplomats, war broke out. We all know the results.

Clark describes the main characters, their in- and external relations and the affairs happened. Thereby he raises understanding of the affairs during the summer of 1914. I found The Sleepwalkers quite interesting to read. However, it is a huge book and there are many details in it. No easy stuff but very interesting.

Keep on reading!

No comments:

Post a comment