July 1914 by Sean McMeekin
Countdown to War

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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 conflict—much 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 involved—from Austrian Foreign Minister Leopold von Berchtold and German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov and French president Raymond Poincaré—sought 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 month—and a handful of men—changed the course of the twentieth century.


About Sean McMeekin

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Sean McMeekin's books include The Berlin-Baghdad Express, The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power (Penguin/Allen Lane) and The Russian Origins of the First World War (Harvard University Press). He lives in Istanbul with his wife, Nesrin, and their daughter, Ayla.
Published April 29, 2014 by Basic Books. 482 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for July 1914

Publishers Weekly

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McMeekin’s newest (after The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany’s Bid for World Power) is a superbly researched political history of the weeks between the assassination of Austria’

Jan 28 2013 | Read Full Review of July 1914: Countdown to War

Kirkus Reviews

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McMeekin (History/Koç Univ.; The Russian Origins of the First World War, 2011, etc.) treads familiar ground but delivers a thoroughly rewarding account that spares no nation regarding the causes of World War I, although Germany receives more than its share of blame.

Mar 26 2013 | Read Full Review of July 1914: Countdown to War

The Washington Times

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These two books, which can only be described as masterful, are the first ripples of what is certain to be a tsunami of works marking the 100th anniversary of the Great War (as World War I was known at the time).

Jun 03 2013 | Read Full Review of July 1914: Countdown to War

Open Letters Monthly

The armchair bookworms who said the onslaught of World War I volumes would be “over by Christmas” were clearly wrong, and once again it’s the unwary readers in the trenches who will pay the price.

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