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Publisher's Summary

Christmas 1913: In Britain, people are debating a new dance called ‘the tango’. In Germany, they are fascinated by the wedding of the Kaiser’s daughter to the Duke of Brunswick. Little did they know that their world was on ‘The Eve of War’, a catastrophe that was to engulf the continent, cost millions of lives, and change the course of the century. And yet behind the scenes, the Great Powers were marching towards what they thought was an inevitable conflict.

In this controversial and concise essay, the military historian Paul Ham argues that the First World War was not an historical mistake, a conflict into which the Great Powers stumbled by accident. Nor was it a justified war, in which uncontained German aggression had to be defeated. Instead the politicians and generals of the day willed the war, and prepared for it - but eventually found themselves caught up in an inferno they could no longer control.

Paul Ham is the author of the forthcoming 1914: The Year the World Ended, to be published by Random House in Britain in 2014. He has previously written the acclaimed Sandakanz, Kokoda, Vietnam: The Australian War and Hiroshima Nagasaki. A former Australia Correspondent of the Sunday Times, he was born in Sydney and educated in Australia and Britain. He now lives in Sydney and Paris.

©2013 Paul Ham (P)2014 Audible Studios

Critic Reviews

"[A] vivid, comprehensive and quietly furious account...Paul Ham brings new tools to the job, unearthing fresh evidence of a deeply disturbing sort. He has a magpie eye for the telling detail" (Ben Macintyre, The Times)
"Provocative and challenging… A voice that is both vigorous and passionate" (Christopher Sylvester, Daily Express)
"Controversial...Well documented and stringently argued" (Peter Lewis, Daily Mail)"

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This is What Wasn't Taught in School.

This is a great read that gives you a broad and quick idea of the European leaders and the mind set that lead up to The Great War. A lot of statistical numbers are rattled off, but you'll get through it, and they are helpful with country by country comparisons. I had always wondered why these three cousins George, Nicholas and Wilhelm, did not just set down and hash things out? One may be King, Tsar, or Kaiser but ambition, paranoia and the state run bureaucracy was the true ruler here. Family ties could not and did not have influence on the actions taken in September 1914.

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    5 out of 5 stars

1913 The Eve of War

My husband taught me, guided me, into an appreciation of history. For that I'll always be Thankful. Happy New Year! My hope is that more people learn history, good, bad as it was, as it is. Thank-you

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Mediocre, neither good nor bad

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I wouldn't say it was a waste of time, but it wasn't terribly enjoyable, either.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Something with a lighter subject, perhaps.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Christopher Oxford?

I don't know enough about narrators to answer this question.

Did 1913 inspire you to do anything?

It inspired me to avoid books narrated by Christopher Oxford.

Any additional comments?

I will probably keep it I the library, but may not ever listen to it again.

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Paul Ham

What made the experience of listening to 1913 the most enjoyable?

Paul Ham's writing. He is an exceptionally gifted writer as well as a first rate historian. He knows how to turn a phrase, and I found myself constantly highlighting sentences that were especially well put. It was delightful to come across a prose style that even in a fiction writer would set him apart. Also, he is not afraid to make a judgment now and then, which, when appropriate, is welcome from a historian who does not overdo it. One such judgement is that the leaders of the various countries who fought during the great tragedy known as WW I is that they more or less accepted the inevitability of a war that was not inevitable. For example, none so much as proposed a conference to discuss the issues that preceded and led to the War. As long as a historian is not being overtly tendentious, there is nothing wrong with calling it as you see it, and this author is not afraid to do that when plainly called for.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

I am actively seeking out to read or listen to other works by Paul Ham, based on how impressed I was by (a) his writing skills, and (b) his willingness to state plainly what went wrong and why on issues that cry out for someone to do just that.

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  • Curly
  • 01-07-18

A well argued opinion.

A generally understandable explanation for the origin of the first world war. Easy to read in one sitting