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The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I; Barbara W. Tuchman's Great War Series Paperback – Mar 8 1994

4.6 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Ballantine Books ed edition (March 8 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034538623X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345386236
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.2 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“A brilliant piece of military history which proves up to the hilt the force of Winston Churchill’s statement that the first month of World War I was ‘a drama never surpassed.’”Newsweek
“More dramatic than fiction . . . a magnificent narrative—beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained.”Chicago Tribune
“A fine demonstration that with sufficient art rather specialized history can be raised to the level of literature.”The New York Times
“[The Guns of August] has a vitality that transcends its narrative virtues, which are considerable, and its feel for characterizations, which is excellent.”The Wall Street Journal

From the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

To many people, W.W.I seems like ancient history. To me, it is the most fascinating of wars. It is when the modern world began, or, in Barbara Tuchman's opinion, when the 19th Century ended. My late Great Uncle Jimmy, a Brit, joined the Army at the age of 16 by lying that he was 18 after being encouraged to do so by a recruiter. Where did they send him? To Ireland, to train horses for the cavalry! This was the same war that saw the debut of the airplane, submarine, tank, poison gas, machine gun, flamethrower, and hand grenade!

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning history, Tuchman writes about the turning point of the year 1914--the month leading up to the war and the first month of the war. This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war. How quickly it all changed, and how horrible it became. Tuchman is masterful at portraying this abrupt change from 19th to 20th Century. And how she manages to make the story utterly suspenseful, when we already know the outcome, is the mark of a great writer, and a classic volume of history.

Doug Grad, Editor

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Barbara Tuchman's account of the outbreak of the First World War is the definitive book on the subject. From the political crises and entangling alliances that characterized Europe in 1914 to the "damn fool thing in the Balkans" that set the war machines in motion, Tuchman provides insight and clarity to a complex situation.
Tuchman goes beyond the superfluous details of the alliances and actions which brought the war about to bring about a deeper understanding of the prevailing attitudes in each country. She explains the German approach through the expansionist philosophy of Hegel and Nietzsche, along with the ideas of Clausewitz on how to fight a war and deal with conquered enemies. Also the political culture in France (where government was rapidly changing, especially with regards to mandatory military service), and the English policy of sending only volunteers abroad, and only when enough replacements could be brought back from remote outposts all over the world. These and many other meticulously resarched details provide a fascinating depth to the story.
Also very interesting are the studies in character of the main players in the drama of August 1914. Joffre, French, von Kluck, and the German Kaiser (among many others) are studied in detail, in an effort to understand the decisions each made through the first month of the war. To her credit, Tuchman doesn't place thoughts in anyone's head; reasons for action are given in the individual's own words (as recorded in journals or official histories), or when the reason is not clear, Tuchman gives a number of possible answers puctuated by the fact that we can't be sure exactly what anyone was thinking.
This is a brilliant book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
My review title says it all. If you are a serious reader of world war one histories then this book needs to be on your shelf. Occasionally (and just occasionally) the tactical descriptions of various combat encounters get a little dry but the first part of the book dealing with the outbreak of the war is one of the best going. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Format: Paperback
I finished the book with great sadness for the men who died in this war. For the millions on both sides lead to their deaths by incompetent generals, who didn't understand that technology had changed warfare since the prussian-franco war. Hungry and without ammo to fight because their supply lines from the taxpayers who reluctantly footed the bills throughout the whole system where the stupid if not utterly corrupt ruled. ("now boys don't steal anything") I wholeheartedly agreed with the author who wrote on the last page, "when at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominat one transcended all others, disillusionment." Especially knowing that we are in many ways the disillusioned and cynical result of those lost generations who fought and died in Flanders field. The writing is excellent, the topic important and riveting even now 90 years after the event. You find yourself unable to put down the book, or to cease thinking about the issues, which is exactly what a superb author like Ms. Tuchman intended when she struggled to write the book for us, her readers. It is one of those often recommended books that I simply didn't get around to reading, now I wish I had done so years ago, given myself more time to read more about WWI. After all, that is the measure of a good book, one that inspires you to follow the author's footsteps and read some of her research material, immerse yourself in more tellings of the story she introduced you to. Thanks Ms. Tuchman. (d. 1989)
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Format: Paperback
I have given this great book only 4 stars instead of its deserved 5 stars in order to register my level of enjoyment rather than my rating of its absolute merit. I was very fascinated by the build up to the war and can't wait to read about this aspect in more detail in her prequel, The Proud Tower. Tuchman explores the pre-war strategic planning by both rivals Germany and France of marching through Belgium. I did not know so much forethought had gone into the invasion of Belgium nor the eventual historic struggle put up by the Belgians. I also found the discussion of various pre-war militaristic ideological witings enlightening and found their relation to Germany's later Nazi ideology chilling. I was previously unaware that the French had exploited Bergson's notion of elan for militaristic ends. I was also intrigued by other behind the scenes maneuvers and the way in which non-combatants were caught up in the war. What lowered my enjoyment of the book was the long passages about specific troop maneuvers and debates about these maneuvers between the various generals and military strategists--its just a matter of personal preference but I was bored by some of the detail of this aspect of the war. Great book but large sections not exactly to my taste--my shortcoming --not Tuchman's.
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Format: Paperback
The Guns of August, as the name implies, is not a history of World War I, but of only its first month and the events leading up to it. For those who only have a passing knowledge of its onset (i.e. some European Duke-guy got shot and everybody went crazy), this book will fill in all of the details regarding the personalities and the climate that would leave millions dead. Especially present is the bumbling, in both philosophy and logistics, of both sides and what amounts to a scathing rebuke for the military intellectualism of the time (but of course everything is clear in hindsight). Military planners on all sides grossly miscalculated the values of naval power, communication, supply and good old fashioned guts (Elan!). It is a reminder that generals can never let their romanticism for past conflicts and pride create a denial of the presience of new technologies and methods. Also discussed in the pre-war portion of the book is the belief that the inter-connected European economy would never allow war to break out. This is especially important as modern-day Europe shows that some mistakes are destined to be habitually repeated and that, despite all the bloodshed of history, some group of morons will always believe that war is effectively extinct. World War I seems so far away to most of us. The black and white images of soldiers wearing shorts, dropping bombs from zepplins and riding to battle on horseback minimize World War I as a somewhat silly conflict that is so ancient that no real lessons from that time can benefit us in the internet age. Read the Guns of August and you will see that the causes of war never go out of style.
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