The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark
How Europe Went to War in 1914

80%

23 Critic Reviews

WWI is frequently described as a long-fused inevitable conflict, yet this comprehensively researched, gracefully written account of the war’s genesis convincingly posits a bad brew of diplomatic contingencies and individual agency as the cause.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (History)

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is historian Christopher Clark’s riveting account of the explosive beginnings of World War I.

Drawing on new scholarship, Clark offers a fresh look at World War I, focusing not on the battles and atrocities of the war itself, but on the complex events and relationships that led a group of well-meaning leaders into brutal conflict.

Clark traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts between the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade, and examines the decades of history that informed the events of 1914 and details the mutual misunderstandings and unintended signals that drove the crisis forward in a few short weeks.

Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers is a dramatic and authoritative chronicle of Europe’s descent into a war that tore the world apart.

 

About Christopher Clark

See more books from this Author
Christopher Clark is a professor of modern European history and a fellow of St. Catharine's College at the University of Cambridge, UK. He is the author of Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, among other books.
 
Published March 19, 2013 by Harper. 746 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Apr 10 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Sleepwalkers
All: 23 | Positive: 21 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Above average
on Jan 17 2013

For readers who seek a quick overview of one of the most convoluted periods in history, look elsewhere. For those who enjoy excellent scholarship joined with logical composition and an easy style of writing, save a (wide) spot on your bookshelf for Clark’s work.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on May 14 2016

WWI is frequently described as a long-fused inevitable conflict, yet this comprehensively researched, gracefully written account of the war’s genesis convincingly posits a bad brew of diplomatic contingencies and individual agency as the cause.

Read Full Review of The Sleepwalkers: How Europe ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Ian Pindar on Jul 19 2013

Clark brilliantly puts this illogical conflict into context, showing how pre-1914 Europe was inherently unstable, riven by ethnic and nationalistic factions.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Ian Pindar on Jul 19 2013

Clark brilliantly puts this illogical conflict into context, showing how pre-1914 Europe was inherently unstable, riven by ethnic and nationalistic factions.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by William Anthony Hay on Mar 22 2013

"The Sleepwalkers" offers a rich analysis of events in Vienna, Paris, St. Petersburg, London and Berlin, showing how various factions in each capital outmaneuvered their opponents to push particular agendas...

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The Independent

Good
Reviewed by CHRISTOPHER HIRST on Aug 16 2013

Probing the events and characters that ignited war in 1914, this book is as authoritative as it is gripping.

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BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Roger Bishop on Apr 01 2013

He brings that culture vividly to life for readers. The Sleepwalkers is certainly one of the best books on World War I to be published in recent times.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Good
Reviewed by Steve King on Jun 28 2013

...Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers, already being hailed as a masterpiece, takes an approach based on “how” rather than “why.”

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The Daily Beast

Good
Reviewed by Michael F. Bishop on May 22 2013

And while he admits that one can never fully understand the disaster, he presents as spacious and convincing a treatment as has yet appeared.

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Historical Novel Society

Excellent
Reviewed by Jessica Brockmole on May 01 2013

It is this careful, comprehensive focus on events both before and after the assassination that makes Clark’s book stand out amongst others on the genesis of World War One. A detailed, meticulously researched account of a fractured Europe and its inevitable descent into war.

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Macleans

Above average
Reviewed by Jonathan Chevreau on Aug 09 2013

Clark—a modern European history professor—lays out the backstory in such a way that the First World War seems almost inevitable in retrospect.

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London Review of Books

Good
Reviewed by Thomas Laqueur on Dec 05 2013

Christopher Clark’s breathtakingly good book is, much more self-consciously than Tuchman’s, also a history for its – that is, our – times.

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Mail Online

Excellent
Reviewed by SIMON GRIFFITH on Nov 12 2012

Clark’s history of Prussia, Iron Kingdom, was a masterpiece. The Sleepwalkers surpasses it. It’s not often that one has the privilege of reading a book that reforges our understanding of one of the seminal events of world history.

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Foreign Affairs

Good
Reviewed by Andrew Moravcsik on Mar 01 2013

This interpretation not only captures trends in modern historiography on the Great War but also highlights striking similarities with (and a few differences from) the decision-making in contemporary conflicts.

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History News Network

Good
Reviewed by Jim Cullen on Aug 01 2013

This may well be the most troubling aspect of this riveting, sobering book: in the end, good will and intelligence may simply not be enough to prevent disasters. Even those who remember the past may be condemned to repeat it.

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Times Higher Education

Good
on Sep 27 2012

This is a brilliant contribution to the study of a subject that, the author argues, is relevant to the modern world and its tensions.

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eInternational Relations

Good
Reviewed by CHRISTIAN SCHEINPFLUG on Nov 17 2015

The Sleepwalkers is prime scholarship. Students of international relations will find plenty substance on alliance formation and interdependence, the (mis)construction of enemies, and geopolitics.

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The Cutting Edge

Good
Reviewed by Jim Cullen on Aug 06 2013

This may well be the most troubling aspect of this riveting, sobering book: in the end, good will and intelligence may simply not be enough to prevent disasters. Even those who remember the past may be condemned to repeat it.

Read Full Review of The Sleepwalkers: How Europe ...

The Spectator

Good
Reviewed by Nigel Jones on Sep 27 2012

...has written a magnificently detailed study of the diplomatic dance that led the continent up to and over the edge. The Sleepwalkers should be required reading for politicians and decision-makers fumblingly steering the world in our own age, an epoch perhaps even more dangerous than the era of 1914.

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Rhapsody in Books

Good
Reviewed by Jim on May 31 2013

To summarize this 550+ page account would take many more pages than is appropriate in a review. It is an excellent addition to the voluminous literature of the causes of World War I, but is probably not primarily for the casual reader looking for an overview of the War.

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Wales Arts Review

Good
Reviewed by ADAM SOMERSET on Jul 19 2013

The Sleepwalkers is monumental in size, compelling in thesis and vivid in execution. Pushing the deeper causes of the war back in time and eastward in geography it renders the remote real and the far-away close.

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History Today

Below average
Reviewed by Sean McMeekin on Nov 29 2012

Still, after pouring well-deserved scorn on the German ‘preventive war’ thesis, Clark’s story peters out at the end of July 1914, just when it should be reaching its climax. As if exhausted by his Herculean efforts at even-handedness, Clark resolves the whodunit with a resigned shrug of the shoulders in the face of its ‘complexity’.

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George Kelley

Good
Reviewed by george on May 20 2013

How could those political leaders and governments and military heads get sucked into such a disaster? The Sleepwalkers proves it was easy.

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Reader Rating for The Sleepwalkers
81%

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