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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on April 16, 2012
This book is so revealing and sets the onset of the First World War in amazing context. I never realised how the situation in Europe was simmering just waiting to boil over. Barbara Tuchman's writing and research is brilliant. Thoroughly enjoyed it and inspired me to begin a Barbara Tuchman collection.
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on January 16, 2013
Un excellent livre, très bien écrit, on a l'impression de vivre ce mois d'août comme si on y était. Les caractères des principaux acteurs, les lieux, les processus de prises de décision y sont décrits avec détail et suffisamment d'émotion pour en faire un récit captivant. Je suis ressortie de cette lecture avec un sentiment d'enrichissement personnel.
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on December 29, 2002
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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on November 23, 2014
A masterpiece of research.An excellent writer whose awards were well earned.The story is complex,the characters even more so.A lot of vanity is revealed ,so is deceit , one must wonder how much of this played out in the decision to do it all again.
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on February 19, 2014
While Tuchman's book is certainly very readable it views the outbreak of WWI through the lens of WWII. Max Hasting's work does the same. However, other recent authors, such as Christopher Clark who wrote the highly acclaimed book "The Sleepwalkers", have demonstrated that the outbreak of the Great War cannot be merely reduced to German actions although these did not help the situation. This work is similar to Fritz Fischer's 1961 work "Griff nach der Weltmacht" whose thesis of German war guilt has also been proven to be an extremely one-sided account.
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on March 2, 2012
I see this is well reviewed and probably for the reason that this is a very well researched and peicing together of the events that brought about the first world war and an even more comprehensive exposition on how the first part of that war played out. That alone is a 5 star service to the understanding of history...as this not only explains it, but does it very well so we can see the events as they unfold in all three nations without being confused. I admit sometimes not being able to keep track of it all, (probably due to some lazier or rushing through it reading habits than on the part of the writer) but it was gripping all the same and sometimes a real page turner...not bad for a historical war expose'

But this book does something which few if any books I've read does, and it shows the mindset of three nations and the people that run those nations: Germany, France, Great Britain, and to a lesser degree USA. One thing that became stikingly apparent is how the mindset of the Nation of Germany was really the same in WWI as it was in WWII (and apparently the same as the war of 1870...which I shall have to read about at some point) and one could just see how nothing had really changed from the war I'm more familiar with (WWII) and the causes of WWI....even to how the war progressed and to how they treated the people who they overran.

The take away value of this book I think is to these "peace at any costs" people...these "I love everybody and there should never be any war" people. This book shows vividly that there are always going to be peoples and nations that have these incredibly agressive streaks permeating thier societies who cannot NOT be talked out of war when they are determined to have a war, as they will find any excuse if they think they are stronger or strongest to validate such a war even to the deliberate deception of their own and other peoples to justify their "cause".

It shows the need for these beligerants to be accounted for in how diplomacy takes place and how defences are created even in times of peace and how one , as much as one hates war, must be prepared to fight one against the ever present agressor nations when they get too aggressive and turn to bullies. People want to stop bullies but wear pink to do this? all they do is bully those who refuse to wear pink. what nonsence.

Though this is a frank unvarnished look about the first world war it is also a timeless peice that shows the way peoples tick and how one needs to prepare to match an ever present threat and is applicable in all times and places where aggressive people dwell. Yes peace is good and a blessed time, but when a country and it's people get compacent there will always be some people that will want to destroy them and take over. Peace loving nations and people should always have this in the back of their mind in how they live and create their societies to always be able, willing and ready to fight back, and not be unrealistic about expectations they place on other peoples and their mindsets. the old "can't we all just get along" wishfull thinking is blown out of the water with this book. well worth reading and considering.
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on February 26, 2015
Not only a snoozer but I got conned into reading this book being told it would fairly look at the German point of view. It didn't. Instead, like all biased history books, it laid most of the blame on the Central powers, instead of considering the imperialism of Britain, France and Russia.
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on January 7, 2003
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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on September 1, 2002
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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on February 23, 2002
Barbara Tuchman was born in New York City in 1912. She was a self-taught historian but did receive a BA from Radcliffe College. She began a career in journalism by writing for The Nation, owned by her father, in 1935 and traveled to Madrid in 1937 to cover the Spanish Civil War. During this period she also worked as a staff writer for War In Spain and New Statesman. As a liberal she was deeply disappointed by the outcome of the conflict and this may have affected the tenor of her writing. She was awarded her first Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for The Guns of August.
The Guns of August only covers the first thirty days of the war, until the eve of the Battle of the Marne, but is still a wide ranging book. It covers in great detail the nationalism, diplomatic maneuvering, and military planning which seemed to lead the European continent to war; as well as the military maneuvers and battles of the first thirty days both on land and sea. The author's focus on a limited time period, rather than the entire war, allows her to delve into detail on the war's causes and the key decisions and actions that occurred early in the war. She places great emphasis on, and explores in detail, the personalities and governments she feels were instrumental during the crisis that led to the war and whose actions, during the first weeks of the war, contributed greatly to its future course.
Though The Guns of August does not explore the war plans of the great continental powers in great detail it does provide a good background and overview of the different plans. More than other books it explains the basic beliefs espoused and followed by the military planners of Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. Tuchman demonstrates to a certain degree that the plans were not developed following impartial and objective research, but were driven by the pervasive military doctrine accepted by each countries General Staff. The result was plans that were destined to failure by the amazing ability of the highly educated General Staffs to alter their perception of reality to fit the plans that they wished to execute.
The most interesting portions of the book are those sections that deal with the lesser-known facets of the war. Tuchman does a good job describing the remaining European royalty, their personalities and personal relationships, and the effects these had on European politics and alliances. For instance, the significance of King Edward's efforts to find a rapprochement with France and Russia are seldom mentioned in other books on the war. Another section develops the German military's punishment of Belgium's civilians to induce their surrender or subservience. Though other books mention Germany's major depredations they do so in the context of a confused situation that exploded out of control of the soldier's leadership. Tuchman is the first author I've read that deals frankly with the German's philosophy of war, based on Clauswitz, and the fact that the severe punishment meted out in civilian areas was both planned and widespread. In doing so she demonstrates the huge philosophical differences separating the belligerents, which only served to make an early negotiated settlement less likely.
This is a very helpful book. More than any other it assists the reader in understanding the underlying causes of the war and the key events and personalities which contributed to the course the war was to follow. I wouldn't suggest reading it; however, until after completing a more comprehensive history of the war such as A Short History of World War I to aid in putting the significance of some of the war's early events in perspective.
PJZ
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