Barbara Tuchman's Pulitzer prize-winning book about the start of World War I is a fascinating and detailed work that delivers the thoughts and actions of the belligerents and their previously mysterious leaders to life on every page. This military history of the first month of the war is written in a way as to keep the reader interested because of the great detail. The author also manages to write about the events in such a manor as the reader sees them as they happened. Despite any previous knowledge about the historical events of the war, the book manages to keep you wondering if the Germans will succeed in its aims.
In Chapters 5 through 9, Tuchman doesn't discuss much about why Germany, France, or Russia progressed toward war, she pretty much describes it as more of an inevitability sparked by Austria's affairs with Serbia. She does manage to chronicle the key events, the people and their decisions of the preceding years and days of the war. Along with the key events of the first few weeks of battle, Tuchman provides a perspective into each of the belligerent's strategic aims and goals. These forces that drive each country into war in 1914 along with a brief discussion of their backgrounds is what follows.
It is possible that with no other country in the twentieth century clearly on the inevitable road to war has there been as much unpreparedness and complete lack of all comprehension than that of Russia prior to World War I. For the few years before 1914 and the start of the war, especially following the embarrassing loss to Japan, Russia recognized its eminent clash with Germany. The way with which it conducted its international relations and internal affairs is puzzling to say the least.
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...nd therefore it is understandable why so many found a war that appeared to have little benefit for them unappealing.
Tuchman helps us understand an interesting time in history when old ways clash directly with new means of communication and ways of fighting. These few years in world history are a unique time of unusual people and events that can only be explained in the context of understanding how much things for these countries had remained the same despite the changing world around them. After the strategy and plans, the following deployments and battles would demonstrate this very fact. The Guns of August is a superb narrative bringing us a key insight into the war that at the time had such great significance and today has such great historical value.
Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August, Ballantine Books; New York: 1962.
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