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July 1914: Countdown to War | [Sean McMeekin]

July 1914: Countdown to War

When a Serbian-backed assassin gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in late June 1914, the world seemed unmoved. Even Ferdinand’s own uncle, Franz Josef I, was notably ambivalent about the death of the Hapsburg heir, saying simply, "It is God’s will." Certainly, there was nothing to suggest that the episode would lead to conflictmuch less a world war of such massive and horrific proportions that it would fundamentally reshape the course of human events.
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Publisher's Summary

When a Serbian-backed assassin gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in late June 1914, the world seemed unmoved. Even Ferdinand’s own uncle, Franz Josef I, was notably ambivalent about the death of the Hapsburg heir, saying simply, "It is God’s will." Certainly, there was nothing to suggest that the episode would lead to conflictmuch less a world war of such massive and horrific proportions that it would fundamentally reshape the course of human events.

As acclaimed historian Sean McMeekin reveals in July 1914, World War I might have been avoided entirely had it not been for a small group of statesmen who, in the month after the assassination, plotted to use Ferdinand’s murder as the trigger for a long-awaited showdown in Europe. The primary culprits, moreover, have long escaped blame. While most accounts of the war’s outbreak place the bulk of responsibility on German and Austro-Hungarian militarism, McMeekin draws on surprising new evidence from archives across Europe to show that the worst offenders were actually to be found in Russia and France, whose belligerence and duplicity ensured that war was inevitable. Whether they plotted for war or rode the whirlwind nearly blind, each of the men involvedfrom Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold von Berchtold and German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov and French president Raymond Poincarsought to capitalize on the fallout from Ferdinand’s murder, unwittingly leading Europe toward the greatest cataclysm it had ever seen.

A revolutionary account of the genesis of World War I, July 1914 tells the gripping story of Europe’s countdown to war from the bloody opening act on June 28th to Britain’s final plunge on August 4th, showing how a single monthand a handful of menchanged the course of the twentieth century.

©2013 Sean McMeekin (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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  •  
    jhwayne@bigfoot.com Jacksonville, NC 09-24-13
    jhwayne@bigfoot.com Jacksonville, NC 09-24-13 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
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    10
    7
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    Story
    "An exciting story, indifferently read"
    Would you listen to July 1914: Countdown to War again? Why?

    Yes, there are many details in the story that are worth rehearing.


    What other book might you compare July 1914: Countdown to War to and why?

    The Guns of August. They are both good narratives, but this is more current


    What aspect of Steve Coulter’s performance would you have changed?

    He needs to research the correct pronunciation of names. For example, "Choristers Bridge," the shorthand name for the Russian foreign office, is pronounced with a silent "h." Many other names are mispronounced, but that one grates.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    It is a very valuable corrective to the standard interpretation, which places the heaviest portion of the blame for the start of WWI on the Central Powers, especially Germany. It is clear that blame must be more widely apportioned, and that the Dual Monarchy must be given a heavier portion.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard SANTA MARIA, CA, United States 08-31-13
    Richard SANTA MARIA, CA, United States 08-31-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
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    64
    7
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    Story
    "Great Book, Narrator Isn't the Best though"
    Would you listen to July 1914: Countdown to War again? Why?

    Yes, most likely in July 2014 for the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI.


    What did you like best about this story?

    This book goes into more detail than the Guns of August about the actual start of the war, specifically, the 34 days between Franz Ferdinand's assassination and the attack by Austria-Hungary on Serbia.


    What aspect of Steve Coulter’s performance would you have changed?

    A major problem with the narrator is that he isn't pronouncing the German names right. He pronounces von Moltke's name wrong. When he first said "Molt," I actually stopped listening and thought "Who the Hell is 'Molt?'" It's pronounced mɔltkə, two syllables.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Not particularly.


    Any additional comments?

    Audible Inc. needs to make sure that their narrators have cheat sheets to pronounce names right. It can really throw you off when you hear a name pronounced wrong like Moltke.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Juho Helsinki, Finland 03-26-14
    Juho Helsinki, Finland 03-26-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    21
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    "A different view of the origins of WWI"
    Would you consider the audio edition of July 1914: Countdown to War to be better than the print version?

    Probably not. In theory the structure of the book should be really well suited for an audiobook. The events of July of 1914 make for such a dramatic and gripping story. With many non-fiction books it's easy to phase out while listening, and then realize you've have no recollection of the last 15 minutes of the book. There's no danger of that here. But the constant mispronunciation of names is grating, and a real problem.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of July 1914: Countdown to War?

    The most interesting bits to me were the handling of the crisis in France and Russia. The pre-planned French Balkan Inception scenario, the aggressive stance of Poincare during the StP meeting, and the prepared plans and execution of the Russian mobilization (based on a hidden early mobilization while trying to prevent German mobilization for as long as possible via diplomacy). McMeekin's telling of these parts ends up painting a very different picture than the "standard" explanation where the German war council of 1912 is treated as the smoking gun.

    But this isn't a one-sided book by any means. In the final analysis McMeekin seems happy to heap blame of the war on everyone involved. (Even the British, who if this book is to believed must have had one of the most gullible diplomatic corps and least effective foreign ministry of the era.)


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Steve Coulter?

    Maybe one that doesn't have difficult foreign words for him to mangle. It wasn't a bad narration otherwise.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Mark
    Casnewydd, United Kingdom
    10/28/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A good book but let down by the narration"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    How could anyone think it was a good idea to pick a sonorous American narrator and fail to coach him in how to pronounce any European language? (Or even British English - Lord Salisbury is pronounced as "sal-iss-bury")


    What did you like best about this story?

    A well written telling of how the world stumbled to war. Well written but not inspiring


    Would you be willing to try another one of Steve Coulter’s performances?

    No


    Was July 1914: Countdown to War worth the listening time?

    Just about


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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