Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman here brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time and a people we all need to know more about, The Guns of August will not be forgotten.
©1962 Barbara Tuchman, Renewed 1990 by Lester Tuchman (P)2011 Tantor
"Fascinating.... One of the finest works of history written.... A splendid and glittering performance." (The New York Times)
Will read (or in this case, listen) to just about anything.
Big history buff so enjoyed it. That said, for those looking for a lighter listen - not for you. Saying it's detail heavy would be an understatement. Also, there were some very annoying narrative components that I didn't appreciate. In particular, the faux French-German-Russian accents used for the major 'characters' could occasionally be eye-rollingly-annoying. As side note, the thick Russian accents he used for the Czar and Czarina were particularly hard to stomach (they were both fluent in English; she was actually German but spent a large chunk of her life in the UK - she was Queen Victoria's favorite granddaughter after all).
Tuchman is a fine writer, and the narration is very good. The most impressive feature of the book to me is the depth of her research; she really seems to know exactly what was happening at all times in all places during the summer of 1914. I must admit, though, I found the narrative, while compelling, difficult to follow at times just because of the number of characters involved. I do like her caustic wit, though; she's great at exposing the pretensions and follies of the people in charge.
The Germans' repeated justification for initiating the war and for the mass killing of civilians in Belgium is remarkable.
John Lee is, in my opinion, just about the perfect narrator. This performance did not fail to impress as usual.
As my first book on WW1, I found it very informative. I plan on reading more, but this was a good starting point as it delves into the politics leading up to the war and through the critical early battles. It does not describe the fighting in any great detail, but focuses more on the movement of the armies and the strategic decisions made along the way.
I would suggest opening a few maps of the early stages of WW1, particularly the Map of the Battle of the Frontiers and the Map of the Tannenberg Campaign. I found them online.
Really enjoyed this one.
Finding out who started the war.
Good reader, did a great job
Barbara Tuchman provides the best look at the run up to WWI and the crucial beginnings of the war. The road to the war seemed like an unstoppable train. She shows the inflexibility of the German chief of staff Moltke and his determination to adhere to the Schlieffen Plan, shortcircuiting the last minute attempts of diplomacy since it would ruin his timetable. Parallel to this was the French inflexibility to Plan XVII and the unshakable belief that Alsace-Lorraine was the best place to stop the Germans. It was instead based on the sentimental feelings that France needed to take back Alsace-Lorraine from the Germans and how that action would be a great victory of its own. The French military never believed that the Germans would go through Belgium and never believed that Germans would utilize reserve troops extensively. The French military would not do so, so of course, it was unthinkable of the Germans. General Joffre ignored warnings that the Germans were attempting an encirclement until it was too late. The French disdain for the use of advanced weaponry, relying instead on courage, led to the slaughter of French soldiers by the German use of those weapons. When it was recommended that French uniforms should be changed to bland, unobtrusive coloring so they wouldn't stand out on the battlefield, French generals indignantly insisted on keeping "les pantalon rouge" again to the detrement of the front line soldiers. The French military leadership did not give any value to defensive war actions. France must always take offensive tactics. There are so many instances in the book where you want to cry out in frustration at the actions of a few that cost the lives of the many. The war was expected to last only a few weeks (where have I heard that before?) but instead lasted years, destroying countless lives, ruining economies of countries, and toppling governments. It is a timeless account of the overwhelming impact of WWI, a war we don't often talk about today.
The section on Belgian civilians fighting against the Germans and their subsequent reaction, reveals a great deal of the German mindset that was previously unknown to me. While the Germans invaded Belgium, it was their expectation that the population would peacefully yield. When they started to fight back, the Germans were enraged, thinking it was a campaign organized by the Belgium government, not the acts of individual civilians. German citizens would never act on their own like the Belgians, so it must be planned. Acting on the Clausewitz theory that terror would shorten war, the more the Belgians fought back, the more horrific reprisals the Germans unleashed on the population without realizing that it further galvonized the civilains to action. The Germans also did not expect how these actions would turn the world against them.
John Lee provides excellent narration.
The introduction to the book discusses the life of Barbara Tuchman and the influence of the book. JFK held the book in high regard. The Zimmerman Telegram by Tuchman is also an excellent book on WWI. It describes the German attempt to enlist Mexico and Japan in fighting the U.S., should the U.S. decided to enter the war.
I have read another BT book and loved it.However The Guns Of August spent too much time concerned with troop deployment which I felt didn,t add to the "history" of the period.I appreciated the immense amount of research needed though.When she concerned herself with how the war impacted on the population,the character of the people concerned and their impact on each other and on the country then it was very interesting.
I would recommend this book only to people with an interest in the mechanics of war
And a special interest in WW1.
The reader is caught up in the folly, inevitability and tension of this march to war from the first page when the dramatis personae of the conflict to come parade in seeming unity at the funeral of the English king. The emotions are held through to the wonderful Afterword that concludes the book and which captures in a few paragraphs the tragic 4 years that followed these 30 days of August and the aftermath of those 4 years.What a fine achievement.
Their is an old Military axiom that goes something like......No military plan survives the first few minutes of Battle.........Wow !! If you listen to The Guns Of August you just have to say.........You Got That Right.......There is no point in repeating the many positive things and reviews.It's a great meticulously researched book,compelling because it's both true and Tuchman makes you feel like it's happening right now.If there ever was a book deserving of the Pulitzer prize......This is it.
Two observations from among 100's
The casual but efficient systematic German brutality is chilling not because they are evil people but because they are not.They fought the old way.The way Napolean,El Cid,Alfred the Great,Alexander might have fought.
Unfortunately Kaiser Wilhelm was an insecure arrogant King who inherited rather than earned the respect of his people and Generals.Tuchman points out that he is a dinosaur who helped bring about the demise of his way of life.
Great books like this are priceless because in order to find out where you are going you need to know where you've been.
Thorough treatment of the subject.
I have not.
This book is well-recognized for its thorough treatment of history. Despite the incredible detail, it is an easy and riveting listen. I highly recommend the audio version.
A really fascinating view of all the relevant events leading up to the start of the horrors of trench warfare. There are so many people, and the events so complicated, that her ability to make it comprehensible is very impressive.
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