The Lost History of 1914 by Jack Beatty
Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began

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Synopsis

In The Lost History of 1914, Jack Beatty offers a highly original view of World War I, testing against fresh evidence the long-dominant assumption that it was inevitable. "Most books set in 1914 map the path leading to war," Beatty writes. "This one maps the multiple paths that led away from it."


Chronicling largely forgotten events faced by each of the belligerent countries in the months before the war started in August, Beatty shows how any one of them-a possible military coup in Germany; an imminent civil war in Britain; the murder trial of the wife of the likely next premier of France, who sought détente with Germany-might have derailed the war or brought it to a different end. In Beatty's hands, these stories open into epiphanies of national character, and offer dramatic portraits of the year's major actors-Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas II , Woodrow Wilson, along with forgotten or overlooked characters such as Pancho Villa, Rasputin, and Herbert Hoover. Europe's ruling classes, Beatty shows, were so haunted by fear of those below that they mistook democratization for revolution, and were tempted to "escape forward" into war to head it off. Beatty's powerful rendering of the combat between August 1914 and January 1915 which killed more than one million men, restores lost history, revealing how trench warfare, long depicted as death's victory, was actually a life-saving strategy.


Beatty's deeply insightful book-as elegantly written as it is thought-provoking and probing-lights a lost world about to blow itself up in what George Kennan called "the seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century." It also arms readers against narratives of historical inevitability in today's world.

 

About Jack Beatty

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Jack Beatty great up listening to his father's memories of serving in WWI as a sailor on a ship torpedoed in the Bay of Biscay. He is a news analyst for "On Point," the public affairs program on National Public Radio, and the author of The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley, Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America, and Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900. He lives in New Hampshire.
 
Published February 22, 2012 by Walker Books. 400 pages
Genres: History, War, Travel. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Things could have easily been different, writes Beatty, as the countries involved were all locked in internal struggles that could have taken different outcomes, and Princip’s bullet could have easily missed and struck another target—if it had, the living Ferdinand would not have argued for war.

Dec 01 2011 | Read Full Review of The Lost History of 1914: Rec...

Publishers Weekly

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Had war been delayed a month, for instance, civil war over the bitter Irish Home Rule controversy might have embroiled Britain.

Nov 21 2011 | Read Full Review of The Lost History of 1914: Rec...

Washington Independent Review of Books

With The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began, Jack Beatty has written not so much an alternative history of 1914 as an amplified history.

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Open Letters Monthly

Even as we approach its centennial, the First World War is still barnacled with reductions and simplifications, and surely the foremost of these is what Jack Beatty, in his spritely, captivating new book The Lost History of 1914, refers to as “the cult of inevitability.” Before the shooting had e...

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City Book Review

Jack Beatty tells the whole story and breaks it down, one country at a time, in a way that no other book I have read before does.

Mar 27 2012 | Read Full Review of The Lost History of 1914: Rec...

Macleans

Like Britain, on the brink of civil war over Irish Home Rule, Germany was riven by internal tension: if war was staved off for even a few years, change—peaceful or otherwise—was coming.

Mar 07 2012 | Read Full Review of The Lost History of 1914: Rec...

Arts Fuse

For Jack Beatty, born in the last year of World War II, World War I was, far more than for most Boomers, a family story.

Mar 08 2012 | Read Full Review of The Lost History of 1914: Rec...

The Evening Sun

He focuses not on the events that led to the war, but on selected forces at play in Europe and America that could have led away from war if things had worked out differently.

Mar 06 2012 | Read Full Review of The Lost History of 1914: Rec...

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