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The Guns of August

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Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and how it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical s Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and how it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time and a people we all need to know more about, THE GUNS OF AUGUST will not be forgotten.

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Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and how it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical s Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and how it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time and a people we all need to know more about, THE GUNS OF AUGUST will not be forgotten.

30 review for The Guns of August

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kalliope

    On the night of the 13th of August 1961 the Government of East Germany began to build the Wall that divided Berlin isolating its Western part within the Communist Eastern block. In 1962, Barbara Tuchman published her Guns of August and the following year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. As many years separate Tuchman’s book from the events she discusses as years separate us from the time its publication: about half a century. Those two lots of five decades each may explain two different reactions On the night of the 13th of August 1961 the Government of East Germany began to build the Wall that divided Berlin isolating its Western part within the Communist Eastern block. In 1962, Barbara Tuchman published her Guns of August and the following year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. As many years separate Tuchman’s book from the events she discusses as years separate us from the time its publication: about half a century. Those two lots of five decades each may explain two different reactions. On the one hand Tuchman’s choosing as her premise the accountability of Germany and her (sole?) responsibility for the horror of the war, and on the other hand our wider questioning and possibly a more skeptical reception of her views. The stereotypical view of the Germans as supremely efficient and dangerously single-minded is well alive in Tuchman’s interpretation when she wrote her account during the Cold War. This coined idea is still alive but in a different mode. Currently it induces us to think that thank god we have Merkel (originally from the communist Germany) to steer Europe democratically through its (capitalistic) mess, and alleviates us when having to accept Germany winning the World Cup for the fourth time this year. Our understanding of that war has also moved away from focusing on one-sided culpabilities. Tuchman begins her book with the stages that led to the outbreak of the war concentrating on the four great powers only: UK, Germany, France and Russia. Even Austria and the Balkan troublesome maze are just perfunctorily mentioned. For a broader look at the geographic extension of the conflict we have to look elsewhere. The bulk of her history is what the title says, the combat that took place at the very beginning of the war, starting with the last week of July and ending with the first of September of 1914. In that she does an excellent job. She dissects the period spelling out the accumulation of decisions, many mistaken, which clumsily succeeded each other during those dreadful days. She focuses on three arenas: the Eastern and Western Fronts, and the Mediterranean. After explaining very well two of the major military strategies, the Schlieffen Plan for both the Eastern and Western fronts and the Plan XVII--with all their quirks and twists as well as the aberrations in the personalities of those who designed them--, she proceeds to show how they failed. Her chapters on the invasion of Belgium and northern France are unforgettable. The brutality of the German armies in the way they treated the civilians and the cities, leaving in our memories the unforgivable destruction of Louvain and its treasures, as well as the emblematic Reims cathedral in ruins, is the strongest support she could use for postulating Germany as the nation responsible for the war. She devotes less attention to the Eastern front. She focuses on what has been called the Battle of Tannenberg , and in her account it serves mostly to prove how the Schlieffen plan had a faulty design. To support the Eastern front the Western was too quickly weakened. She closes in with the Battle of Marne and she again proves to be an engaging narrator. Building up tension with the approach to Paris she provides a felicitous ending to that episode with the striking story of the heroic taxi drivers transferring the men to the front. The section I found most instructive was the one devoted to the Mediterranean. She creates great suspense in the way she narrates the persecution of the German battle cruiser Goeben by the various ships of the Allies. The British blundered; they did not realize the direction the Goeben was pursuing until it was too late. When the German cruiser succeeded in its race and reached the Dardanelles, this prompted the Ottoman Empire, until then neutral, to side with the Central Powers. The result was that Russia was cut-off from her access to the Mediterranean ports and her trade was blocked. Her exports/imports dropped by 98/95% respectively paving the way for the continuing growth of domestic troubles until three years later their revolution exploded. This episode has an additional interest. In its chapter one can read: That morning there arrived at Constantinople the small Italian passenger steamer which had witnessed the Gloucester’s action against the Goeben and Breslau. Among its passengers were the daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren of the American ambassador Mr. Henry Morgenthau. One of those three children was Barbara Wertheim (later Tuchman). Apart from the Pulitzer this book is exceptional because it played a determinant role. Margaret MacMillan has underlined in one of her recent interviews that John F. Kennedy read it during the time when he had to deal with the Cuban missile crisis, and it made him much more aware of the difficulty of controlling when the unexpected happens, so that he made everyone else in his Cabinet and his top military leaders read the book. Tuchman’s tendency to rely too much on national stereotypes, which detracts from the credibility of her research and interpretation, is thereby compensated by the role her analysis played in later events. And to use another cliché, books that do change people’s lives, have to have their own special place in our libraries.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Let’s start with a couple items. First, there is nothing left to be said about Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. Second, that is not going to stop me. The Guns of August is not only the most famous book written about World War I, it is one of the most famous history books on any topic whatsoever. It won the Pulitzer, became a bestseller, was name-checked by politicians, and still provides a tidy sum to Tuchman’s heirs and designees. Even today, if you do a general search for “World War I” on Let’s start with a couple items. First, there is nothing left to be said about Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. Second, that is not going to stop me. The Guns of August is not only the most famous book written about World War I, it is one of the most famous history books on any topic whatsoever. It won the Pulitzer, became a bestseller, was name-checked by politicians, and still provides a tidy sum to Tuchman’s heirs and designees. Even today, if you do a general search for “World War I” on Amazon, this is the first thing to pop up, even though it was originally published in 1962. This actually isn’t my first time reading this. Ten years ago, I tore through it during the weekend I was waiting for my bar exam results. A weekend, I hasten to add, with not a little anxiety and cocktail consumption. I’m pretty sure I loved it; I’m also pretty sure it didn't penetrate very far. I decided to read it again as part of my WWI centenary reading project to gauge if my vague, decade-ago recollections were correct. They were. This is an awesome book. The Guns of August covers the first month of World War I as fighting erupts on both the Western and Eastern Fronts. Famously, however, Tuchman begins in May 1910 with the sight of nine kings riding in the funeral of King Edward VII of England. [T]he crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braids, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal high-nesses, seven queens – four dowager and three regent – and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. Tuchman uses the chapter on King Edward’s funeral to give a brisk overview of the troublesome context that brought Europe to cataclysm in 1914. The next section covers the operational plans and purposes of the four main belligerents: Germany, wedded to the grand sweeping offensive devised by Schlieffen; France, haunted by defeat in the Franco-Prussian War; Great Britain, blessed with a mighty navy and small Regular Army; and Russia, the feared steamroller with legions in numbers like the stars. Each of these nations had engaged a delicate balancing act in which old friends became enemies, old enemies became friends, and all sides seemed simultaneously convinced that war would never come and war had to come. Tuchman’s setup is relatively quick. In well less than 100 pages, she broadly sketches the strategic situation at the time of Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo. The July Crisis is handled even faster. In a page in a half, Tuchman dispenses with a fraught month over which thousands of gallons of ink have been expended. This brings us to the heart of the book – the events of August 1914. The early days of the month are spent on Great Britain’s decision to uphold both Belgium neutrality and their tacit wink-wink-nudge-nudge “understanding” with France. Once Great Britain made it clear she would not sit on the sidelines, German troops began crossing the border into Belgium, beginning what Moltke called “the struggle that will decide the course of history for the next hundred years.” (Moltke, otherwise a failure, certainly pegged this right). Thus begins the battle section of The Guns of August, which comprises the bulk of the narrative. Tuchman covers the siege of Liege, the French thrust into Alsace, the Battle of the Frontiers, the arrival of the British Expeditionary Force, the invasion of East Prussia by Russia, and the Battle of Tannenberg. When the book ends, the pieces are all in place for the Battle of the Marne, which transformed the conflict from a war of maneuver into a war of trenches, barbed wire, and mechanized slaughter. (You might have noticed the absence of events involving Austria-Hungary or Serbia in that list. For some reason, they are almost entirely left out of the book). Belgian troops fighting outside Liege World War I battles are overwhelming. I’ve found that it’s a rare author who can make them even partly imaginable. Earlier battles – like Waterloo or Gettysburg – took place on comprehendible fields that you can walk to this day. Not so with these titanic clashes. Here, you have fronts of 40 to 80 miles, with armies of upwards of a million men. Often times the recounting of these fights devolve into a confusing Roman numeral soup of Armies, Corps, and Divisions moving hither and yon, crossing rivers and capturing intersections and moving through quaint little villages. Unless you have a very good map sitting next to you, it’s nearly impossible for any but the most devoted to fully grasp all the troop movements. Here, Tuchman makes the wise choice to take a pretty macro view of the battles, usually at the Corps level. Even so, it can be a lot to absorb. Moreover, her choice to look at things with a wide-angle lens means that the proceedings are filtered through the eyes of God and the generals, rather than the more tactile experiences of soldiers. As military history, this might come up a bit short. But in other areas, Tuchman excels. She is excellent at the personalities, bringing a dry, sardonic wit to the characters populating this crowded stage. Take, for instance, her brilliant evocation of General Joseph Joffre, the French Commander-in-Chief: Every morning at eight o’clock Joffree presided at meetings of the section chiefs, a majestic and immobile arbiter but never the puppet of his entourage as outsiders, misled by his silence and his bare desk, supposed. He kept no papers on his desk and no map on his wall; he wrote nothing and said little. Plans were prepared for him, said Foch; “he weighs them and decides.” There were few who did not tremble in his presence. Anyone who was five minutes late at his mess was treated to a thunderous frown and remained an outcast for the remainder of the meal. Joffre ate in silence with a gourmet’s entire devotion to the food. He complained continuously of being kept in the dark by his staff…He used to rub his forehead, murmuring “Poor Joffre!” which his staff came to recognize as his way of refusing to do something that was being urged upon him. He was angered by anyone who tried too openly to make him change his mind. Like Talleyrand he disapproved of too much zeal. Joffre: Lover of good food and rest. Not to be confused with the evil boy-king of the Seven Kingdoms Tuchman can be pretty sharp, noting continuously how Joffre never missed a meal or an hour’s sleep. But at the same time, she is sympathetic to the humanity of all involved. She presents a very mechanistic view of the outbreak of war, how dogmas like “the cult of the offensive” and master plans such as Schlieffen’s right wing dictated the early stages. At the same time, she recognizes that these were only plans, and that at any point, someone could have changed them. She also recognizes that many of these men were not capable of that. Tuchman is also the master of the literary set piece. Her opening paragraph, quoted partially above, is Exhibit A in how to hook a reader and deliver a scene. Her handling of the escape of the German battle cruiser Goeben (an incident Tuchman initially wanted to devote an entire book to) is masterful, and shows how individual decisions can greatly affect the outcome grand events. (The Goeben and the Breslau both escaped the Germans by entering the Dardanelles and presenting themselves to the Ottomans as a gift. This helped pull the Ottoman Empire into the war on Germany’s side. What followed – Gallipoli, Sykes-Picot – has ramifications that are still felt today). The Goeben sails off into history For whatever reason, I had it in mind that this was a good WWI starter book. Upon rereading, I don’t think that’s the case. It’s fantastic, but complex enough to require a bit of background reading in order to fully engage it. I could go on, but I’ve already gone on longer than necessary. It’s all been said before. The critics are right. The Guns of August lives up to its lofty reputation.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lilo

    “The Guns of August” is the first book I read about the Great War or, as I knew it, World War One. “The Guns of August” is also the first substantial information I obtained about this war. I was born in Germany, in 1939. My family, then containing of my parents, my biological maternal grandmother, and my adoptive maternal grandmother (my biological grand-aunt), talked very little about WWI, probably because WWII was raging, food as well as all other supplies were scarce, and we were surrounded b “The Guns of August” is the first book I read about the Great War or, as I knew it, World War One. “The Guns of August” is also the first substantial information I obtained about this war. I was born in Germany, in 1939. My family, then containing of my parents, my biological maternal grandmother, and my adoptive maternal grandmother (my biological grand-aunt), talked very little about WWI, probably because WWII was raging, food as well as all other supplies were scarce, and we were surrounded by Nazis, some of them murderous SS criminals. In other words: My family had plenty of present issues to worry about; WWI was history, snow of yesterday. When I went to school/college, history education stopped before 1900. Teachers shied away from recent history. It was too touchy a subject. I never even saw related books in bookstores or libraries. For these reasons, I was totally ignorant of European 20th century history. Once I joined Goodreads and discovered Amazon, I started to devour non-fiction books about the Third Reich, WWII, and the Holocaust, and I am still not finished reading about this era. Yet when August 2014 arrived, I thought it appropriate to read, at least, one book about WWI. So I read “The Guns of August”. This book had me in shock. My family members had disliked Kaiser Wilhelm II and had mentioned more than once that he had been rather stupid. However, nothing had me prepared for what I read in “The Guns of August”. I had not had a clue that he had been a warmonger with zero regard for human lives. Neither had I had a clue that his chancellor and his generals had not been any better. I had known these prototypes of rigid, narrow-minded Germans (you can still find some today), yet to find a German emperor and the politicians and generals surrounding him not only caricatures of dislikable Germans but also evil warmongers and indifferent about human suffering is something I have not been able to get over, six weeks after finishing reading the book. Yes, most politicians and generals of the other countries who would get involved were not exactly saints either. Yes, the German armies were more functional than the rather dysfunctional French, British, and Russian armies. What more is there to say? I came away with great admiration for the King of Belgium, who seemed to be the only head of state of participating countries who was totally innocent, who cared about human lives, and whose decisions were guided by wisdom and common sense. What utterly surprised me was the incompetence of the French leadership and its lack of organization. Any business owner would go bankrupt in no time being as dysfunctional as the French war machine, not even to speak of the Russians, whose incompetence would have been a joke, had it not cost so many lives. Yet whatever I read, my thoughts returned to Kaiser Wilhelm II and his generals, especially general Moltke. How can anyone plan and start a war with so little reason and with total disregard for human lives? How can anyone send millions of young men to their deaths without a solid cause? — Was Wilhelm II the main culprit? I would say so. And to think that he was not hanged as a war criminal (along with a bunch of his generals), but comfortably retired! This makes my blood boil. I know I should say something about the superb writing style of Barbara Tuchman, her ironic wits, and the thoroughly researched contents of the book. So I’ll try. Yes, the book is superbly written, even though I, occasionally, found it going a bit too much into military details for readers with no military background and I also had trouble with a number of tapeworm sentences which remained unclear to me. (A few more commas would have helped.) This is why I rated the book only 4 stars. It just didn’t make it to the full 5 stars on my scale. Yet if the system allowed for it, I would have given 4 1/2 stars. Oh, I almost forgot: My adoptive grandfather (my biological grand-aunt’s husband) was drafted as a reserve officer, a captain, into the Bavarian army. He fought in the Vosges. He returned uninjured, after the war. I still have two carved walking sticks he brought back from the Vosges as souvenirs. Yet this is all I know about my adoptive grandfather’s engagement in WWI, other than that he and his wife (my grand-aunt) adopted my mother when the war broke out. This was for financial reasons. Had my mother's uncle been killed in the war, my mother, as his adopted daughter, would have received an orphan’s pension. This would have enabled my mother's aunt, had she been widowed, to keep up her lifestyle, which would have meant continuing to employ her sister, my biological grandmother, as her cook and what we would call nowadays “household manager”. (My mother’s biological father had died, at age 42, before the war, while only been engaged to my grandmother. He had been an atheist, and my great-grandmother, a devoted Catholic, had forbidden the marriage.) I do not remember my adopted grandfather. He died in 1940, when I was a baby. I only know him from photographs and from tales of my family members. I was told that he had been a good man, kind and compassionate. So I am sure that he was not the prototype of a German officer, such as those described in "The Guns of August". I know this is not much of a review, but this is all I could think about when reading this book that shook me in my bones. For more sound accounts of the book, please see the following reviews: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Well, how d'you do, Private Willie McBride, First Class - do you mind if I sit down down here by your graveside? It's so nice to rest for awhile in the warm summer sun... I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done in. Well. So, Willie - I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen when you joined the glorious fallen. 1916 - a long time ago now. Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean. But Private Willie McBride, it could have been slow and obscene. Let's not think of that. And Well, how d'you do, Private Willie McBride, First Class - do you mind if I sit down down here by your graveside? It's so nice to rest for awhile in the warm summer sun... I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done in. Well. So, Willie - I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen when you joined the glorious fallen. 1916 - a long time ago now. Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean. But Private Willie McBride, it could have been slow and obscene. Let's not think of that. And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind? In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined? And, though you died back in 1916, to that loyal heart you'd be forever nineteen. Or some bollocks like that. That's what they say, isn't it. Sorry to have to tell you but you're probably a stranger, without even a name, peering out from some forgotten glass pane, in an old photograph, in a drawer, torn and tattered and stained, or fading to yellow in a brown leather frame. Well, take a look around now. It's a beautiful day. The sun's shining down on these green fields of France. Feel that, Willie? No, I suppose you don't. The warm wind blows gently, and look, the red poppies are dancing just like they're supposed to. The trenches have all gone, all ploughed under. It's a lovely place now. There's no gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now. But I suppose here in this graveyard it's still No Man's Land - see how many white crosses there are - well, I couldn't count them all. But at least you're not alone, Willie, eh? There was umpteen thousands like you. But you know I can't help but wonder now, Private Willie McBride, First Class - do all those who lie here know why they died? I mean, did you really believe that your war would end wars? Because that's what they said. You'll remember that. Because, you know, the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame, the killing, the dying, it was all done in vain, Willie. It all happened again. And again, and again, and again, and again. Anyway, that's enough from me. I'll bid you good day. I've got another five miles to go. Thanks for your time. (with many apologies to Eric Bogle and his great song The Green Fields of France)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This is an impressive work on the buildup to World War I and the first month of fighting. I wanted to read this book after a re-read of All Quiet on the Western Front, to better understand the war. I've heard The Guns of August described as one of the best books about WWI ever written, and while I haven't read enough to testify to that, I do think it was an interesting and insightful work, and I'd recommend it to history buffs. I listened to The Guns of August on audio, and I enjoyed the narratio This is an impressive work on the buildup to World War I and the first month of fighting. I wanted to read this book after a re-read of All Quiet on the Western Front, to better understand the war. I've heard The Guns of August described as one of the best books about WWI ever written, and while I haven't read enough to testify to that, I do think it was an interesting and insightful work, and I'd recommend it to history buffs. I listened to The Guns of August on audio, and I enjoyed the narration by Nadia May. My one frustration with this book is that Tuchman had so many countries to cover -- the French, Germans, British, Russians and even Belgians were included -- that sometimes Tuchman would be relating a long story, and by the end I'd be confused about which government she had been talking about. This problem probably would have been eased had I been reading in print, where it's easier to flip back a few pages and be reminded about the context. Frequently I had to hit rewind to try and catch up with the narrative. Overall, I enjoyed learning more about the first world war, and especially the events that led up to it. One of my big takeaways was how gung ho Germany was to invade France, and they had elaborate (and unrealistic) plans about how quickly they could win such a war, despite warnings to the contrary. In hindsight, the world seemed destined to fight this war, because not even common sense was able to stop it. Favorite Quote "In Whitehall that evening, Sir Edward Grey, standing with a friend at the window as the street lamps below were being lit, made the remark that has since epitomized the hour: 'The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.'"

  6. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    You could almost be excused for thinking that the highest praise one could give a work of non-fiction would be that it reads like a work of fiction. I haven’t looked at any of the other reviews for this book yet, but I would be prepared to bet that many of them say this read like a novel. And it is an incredibly dramatic story and some of the characters are larger than life – but this is no novel. I say that because in a novel you expect at least some of the characters to develop during it – and You could almost be excused for thinking that the highest praise one could give a work of non-fiction would be that it reads like a work of fiction. I haven’t looked at any of the other reviews for this book yet, but I would be prepared to bet that many of them say this read like a novel. And it is an incredibly dramatic story and some of the characters are larger than life – but this is no novel. I say that because in a novel you expect at least some of the characters to develop during it – and the horrible thing about this story is how few of the characters learnt a bloody thing. As a case in point. It might sound like I’m anti-French, I know, but I can’t help it. All of the countries were stupid, but the French were absurd, and that is something else. I’ve been telling people about this book and these have been the things I have been telling them. A Frenchman goes over to watch the Japanese beat the Russians in a war that was held just before the First World War, a mere decade before the date this book is set. What did he notice in his watching? He noticed that it is generally not a good idea to charge against people with machine guns. After, when he mentioned this to other French generals they decided that he was a coward. He said that wearing a uniform that featured a bright blue coat and bright red trousers might be the equivalent of wearing a bull’s eye tied around your neck and a neon sign saying ‘shoot here’. His saying this was considered not only utterly outrageous but also an insult to French soldiers. When there was a suggestion that the French should use BIG guns, the commanders in charge of infantry rejected the suggestion as big cannons would only ‘slow them down’. The lesson is that you can change the technology, but people might not understand what that change will mean. In fact, they probably won’t. They may still want to charge in front of machine guns wearing red trousers and showing the world how ‘brave’ they are. Or they might assume that the new communications technology that worked so well in training will work just as well in the chaos of war. This is a book about a world that has just changed forever and how hard it was for people to realise just what changes had been wrought. It is about how fixed people are in their views, particularly when those views are based on ‘plans’ that have been worked out in detail for years. It is about how hard it is to admit you are wrong, even when all evidence is pointing to the fact. It is about how sometimes people will (effectively) choose death rather than admit they made a mistake. There is a horrible sense in which this book will help to confirm all of your worst fears about humanity. World War One was the opening nightmare of our modern world. And this book looks at the first month of the war, how that month raced towards war and nearly rushed towards the fall of Paris, and left me despairing for humanity. I couldn’t get over how many generals were supporters of Nietzsche and his views on the ‘will to power’. The idea that a great man will use his will-power to create a world in his image. That it does not matter how many enemies you face, that all it takes is courage to prevail. And when their armies were beaten back by superior fire power, larger armies and crippled by there being no supplies these same generals put it all down to their soldiers’ lack of courage or lack of will. All I knew about the start of the war before reading this book was that some Prince got killed in the Balkans, Austria and Germany had a pact that meant if one was attacked the other would have to fight with them – Russia, France and England were in much the same situation. The world started fighting, soldiers dug tranches and everything stayed like that until they called it quits. Oh, and lots and lots of people died. I had no idea how close Germany came to winning the war against France in that first month. This really is a gripping story, but it is still not a novel. In fact, I kept thinking that this would make a much better film than a novel. And it would make an amazing film. The conversations between members of parliament and generals and kings are invariably remarkable. This is well worth getting your hands on. Thanks to Richard for recommending it to me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    Brilliant. There's no other word for it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    After reading this book 100 years, sometimes to the day, after some of the events happened, it is difficult to know what to say. Others have written so many excellent reviews. I believe that I will focus on reaction for my review---reaction 100 years after the fact to the apparent ease with which the European world, and then much more, slid into an horrific spilling of blood, the ease with which several leaders gave orders which condemned millions of people to death; cities, towns, even small na After reading this book 100 years, sometimes to the day, after some of the events happened, it is difficult to know what to say. Others have written so many excellent reviews. I believe that I will focus on reaction for my review---reaction 100 years after the fact to the apparent ease with which the European world, and then much more, slid into an horrific spilling of blood, the ease with which several leaders gave orders which condemned millions of people to death; cities, towns, even small nations to near or total destruction. The pressure for this war had been building for years from what I have read. The Germans feared being encircled within Europe. They feared that the rest of Europe was excluding them from various treaties. The war of brinksmanship had been underway for some time. The British had the best Navy and also had no intention of allowing that fact to change. Ego. Power. Money. Yes they are the same reasons that wars are fought today. Just different weaponry. Then it was mud-filled trenches. Men being mowed down by machine guns or by hand thrown "bombs", early grenades. The wounded, if lucky might live to fight again. If horribly unlucky, might die out in No Man's Land, alone and unaided, between lines. This went on for four years as generals on all sides pushed their men to impossible lengths. It was devastating. And also devastating to civilians, especially those who happened to be in the path of the German army who adopted a policy of, essentially, "teaching all a lesson." I had intended to write a review making note of Tuchman's excellent writing and scholarship, with examples of both, but I find I cannot. I am simply too tired, too worn out by the reading, too worn out by this horrible war. (Of course I also read Chevalier's excellent Fear: A Novel of World War I which brought the general down to the specific and perhaps tired me more.) But in the end perhaps Tuchman achieved her purpose in me. I hate what I saw in that world of August, 1914. I do recommend this book to any who have not read it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    howl of minerva

    I've been reading a fair bit about dubya dubya 2 recently but my knowledge of dubya dubya 1 consists of what I dimly recollect from school. That is: arms race, Franz Ferdinand, something something, the Somme, gas gas quick boys, Versailles. I also remember visiting the massive marble monument the Canadians built at Vimy ridge. The 21 years separating 1918 and 1939 are not a great length of time. There's something to be said for the thesis that the two world wars should be understood as one exten I've been reading a fair bit about dubya dubya 2 recently but my knowledge of dubya dubya 1 consists of what I dimly recollect from school. That is: arms race, Franz Ferdinand, something something, the Somme, gas gas quick boys, Versailles. I also remember visiting the massive marble monument the Canadians built at Vimy ridge. The 21 years separating 1918 and 1939 are not a great length of time. There's something to be said for the thesis that the two world wars should be understood as one extended conflict with a brief breather in the middle. Hitler's invasion of France in 1940 bears more than a passing resemblance to the Schlieffen plan. With the fall of three major empires: the Ottoman, the Austro-Hungarian and the Russian, the first world war probably has a greater claim than the second to the title of "the defining event of the twentieth century". Tuchman is gifted at spinning a narrative and at vividly describing the key personalities. The book is extremely readable, even rollicking. On the other hand she has a fetishistic obsession with the minutiae of troop movements where I would be more interested in overarching and underlying socio-political themes. There's relatively little here about nationalism and imperialism, domestic politics or popular opinion of the war. Practically all we get on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand is Bismarck's prescient quip that the Great War would be kicked off by "some damn foolish thing in the Balkans". As an easy introduction for someone who knows little about the first world war, it's excellent. For more depth and substance there are doubtless other places to look (I'll take recommendations).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    6.0 stars. WOW!! This book was AMAZING!! I have always been very interested in World War II and have read quite a few books on the subject. However, until reading THIS book I had never endeavored to learn anything more than the basics of World War I. With the reading of this incredible book, I have taken a tremendous step towards correcting that deficit. Focusing on the first 30 days of World War I (hence the title), this beautifully written book addresses in great detail the causes for the conf 6.0 stars. WOW!! This book was AMAZING!! I have always been very interested in World War II and have read quite a few books on the subject. However, until reading THIS book I had never endeavored to learn anything more than the basics of World War I. With the reading of this incredible book, I have taken a tremendous step towards correcting that deficit. Focusing on the first 30 days of World War I (hence the title), this beautifully written book addresses in great detail the causes for the conflict, the preparations made by the future combatants and the incredible chain of events that led to the war. At over 600 pages and dealing with only the first 30 days, you might think this book would be overly dry and long-winded. NOTHING could be further from the truth. This was incredibly entertaining as well as informative. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gadi

    I let go at around page 280 (out of 440 in my edition), when I started realizing that every paragraph is so chunked up with minute details about this general moving these troops out of this place and into this wing on this day because of these emotions and this miscommunication and this people's overconfidence that it just all became so trivial and so unbelievably lifeless--which in a weird way completely contradicts all of the GR reviews I've read about how this book brings life to the first mo I let go at around page 280 (out of 440 in my edition), when I started realizing that every paragraph is so chunked up with minute details about this general moving these troops out of this place and into this wing on this day because of these emotions and this miscommunication and this people's overconfidence that it just all became so trivial and so unbelievably lifeless--which in a weird way completely contradicts all of the GR reviews I've read about how this book brings life to the first month of the war. I also think the writing just slowly, gradually became less and less vigorous and more rote as the war left its initial stages and moved to the actual fighting of month 1. I realized I didn't want to finish this book when it struck me that it's all just pointless military maneuvers, some of them more successful than others, almost all of them led by a bunch of overconfident idiots, and that I had nothing to gain from learning about these dumb poops and their meaningless military decisions. I actually really liked the first part of the book, and liked the second part. It was the third part, "Battle", that just gutted me with its unbelievable tediousness. And I hate giving up on books, but there are only so many free seconds in my life to dedicate to things I don't enjoy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    This is a superb read. It is a tightly packed book, full of detail about arcane goings on in the corridors of power and on the battlefield. Europe in 1914 was divided into two armed camps, a rising power in Germany shackled to an Austro-Hungary about to succumb to the lure of nationhood amongst its subject peoples, and an encircling status quo alliance of France, Russia and probably perfidious Albion. The murder of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian empire, by uppity Serbs provided the spark f This is a superb read. It is a tightly packed book, full of detail about arcane goings on in the corridors of power and on the battlefield. Europe in 1914 was divided into two armed camps, a rising power in Germany shackled to an Austro-Hungary about to succumb to the lure of nationhood amongst its subject peoples, and an encircling status quo alliance of France, Russia and probably perfidious Albion. The murder of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian empire, by uppity Serbs provided the spark for a European and colonial war. Millions died, three empires were toppled, the first communist state born, resentments raised, and an Austrian corporal found his metier and his tribe The guns of August details the first month of the war, where the failure by a close margin of the schleiffen plan and the annihilation of the Russian thrust into Prussia meant that a war which would be over by Christmas somehow became a four year attritional slog.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Phew, this was a difficult book to digest in the audiobook format. Neither is it easy to digest in a paper book format. It is dense. It is detailed. Names and places and battles are thrown at you in rapid succession. You have to remember who is who, which corps is fighting where and its number, the title of each commander and more. You do not have time to stop and think and recall what was told to you minutes/pages or even hours/chapters before. You need more than a detailed map because you don’ Phew, this was a difficult book to digest in the audiobook format. Neither is it easy to digest in a paper book format. It is dense. It is detailed. Names and places and battles are thrown at you in rapid succession. You have to remember who is who, which corps is fighting where and its number, the title of each commander and more. You do not have time to stop and think and recall what was told to you minutes/pages or even hours/chapters before. You need more than a detailed map because you don’t have much time to spend looking at that map. What you need most of all is a good memory, a good knowledge of history and geographic knowledge before you even pick up the book. OR you can read this book to begin learning and accept that there will be parts that go over your head. That is what I did, and I enjoyed much of it, but I also spent time exasperated since there were sentences I had to think about and ponder before I understood their implications. I had to rewind and write notes and search on the internet. Does this mean I regret reading it? My response is emphatically no. Much of the book is set in Belgium and France. (It also covers the Eastern Prussian Front.) I have been to many of the towns, cities, citadels, squares, forests and rivers named. Knowing the history of what happened where I have walked is special to me. I am a bit unsure if it would mean as much to one who has not been there. If you have been in the Ardennes you immediately understand the difficulty of moving artillery around there. Having walked in Leuven, Dinant, Mons, Charleroi and Namur, to name a smattering, when you hear of the burning and sacking and murder of hostages, you more intimately understand. I believe my own experiences, rather than the writing made the events real. It is important to know that this book is focused primarily on the military battles of the first month of the war. Why? Because what happened then set the course for the four years that followed. You might as well be told that the primary focus is military because that will not appeal to all. The start of World War One is all about the idiosyncrasies of generals. It is about a lack of communication. It is about men who have decided on a plan and from that they will not budge. The narration by John Lee was fine, but he does not speak slowly and that might have made things a bit easier. Some say he speaks with a Scottish dialect. That is fine by me! I will tell you why I liked this book. I now have the basics for how the war started. I appreciate knowing what has happened to the people living around me here in Belgium; I understand them better. I understand why they so quickly capitulated in the Second World War. Today there is so much squabbling going on between the Flemish and the French people of Belgium. It was wonderful to see how in the First World War they fought united, as one people, for their independence and very existence. I needed to learn of this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lobstergirl

    This is an excellent but somewhat odd book; odd because the emphasis is so much more on the military than the political that you're left wondering why, how, precisely, this war was so inevitable. Granted, the political leaders are discussed in the first few chapters, the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar more so than the French and the British. But the stress is on the generals, and the war planners, on Schlieffen, whose plan had been prepared in 1905-06 and seemed to be restlessly waiting for This is an excellent but somewhat odd book; odd because the emphasis is so much more on the military than the political that you're left wondering why, how, precisely, this war was so inevitable. Granted, the political leaders are discussed in the first few chapters, the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar more so than the French and the British. But the stress is on the generals, and the war planners, on Schlieffen, whose plan had been prepared in 1905-06 and seemed to be restlessly waiting for enactment. Political alliances were there, and military alliances - it was understood that Britain would come to France's aid if France were attacked, and that Germany would assist Austria-Hungary, and that France, Britain and Russia were allied. All that was necessary apparently was a mechanism to ignite; and yet, to ignite what? What seems to be missing from the equation is actual hostility, actual reasons to fight. There's no Hitler here, no rampaging evil. Just a bunch of nations at the ready, with their war plans, their generals, and their armies. I was expecting this to be a lighter read. It was a Pulitzer winner, after all. Tuchman is a superb writer, writing in an elegant, sometimes effervescent way that probably few historians today could match: "Doubting Lanrezac's mood, Joffre arrived early in the morning at Laon, now Lanrezac's headquarters, to lend him sangfroid out of his own bottomless supply." She has a charming, dry wit: "Their new Secretary for War was a barrister with a passion for German philosophy, Richard Haldane, who, when asked by the soldiers in Council what kind of army he had in mind, replied, "A Hegelian army." "The conversation then fell off," he recorded." Yet the book is also extremely dense, thoroughly and magnificently researched. No contemporaneous account or memoir has gone unplumbed. If you lose focus for a paragraph or two, you'll be lost. She has a way of not explaining much back story. Things will be referenced obliquely, such as "Kitchener of Khartoum." You'll have to research it yourself, if you're unfamiliar with it. There is an entire chapter titled "The Shadow of Sedan" where she never explains what Sedan was, or why we need to know about its shadow. (The Battle of Sedan (1870)) The maps in my edition, in tones of gray and grayer, were nearly impossible to read. If you really want to know what the outlines and events of these battles were you'll have to consult other sources.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    The Guns of August which I read in September “Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” ― Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August What an amazing piece of historical writing. Tuchman shows how August, 2014 was impacted by two failed plans (Plan 17 & the Schlieffen Plan), Generals and politicos who were either overly optimistic at the wrong time or overly pessimistic at the wrong time. She detailed how inadvertent acts by disgraced Generals might have saved The Guns of August which I read in September “Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” ― Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August What an amazing piece of historical writing. Tuchman shows how August, 2014 was impacted by two failed plans (Plan 17 & the Schlieffen Plan), Generals and politicos who were either overly optimistic at the wrong time or overly pessimistic at the wrong time. She detailed how inadvertent acts by disgraced Generals might have saved France, how the politics and the national moods of France, Germany, Russia, and Great Britain may have contributed to the length of the Great War. After the Civil War and the War of Franco-Prussian War of 1870, war had morphed into a whole new beast. Few leaders grasped this at the beginning of August but by September 1914 there were very few living on the European continent who could avoid recognizing that war would never be the same again. The vitality and the drama of Tuchman's narrative made this book seemed delivered by 420-millimetre siege howitzers. Chapter after chapter would absolutely devastate me as I read. I am very glad I wasn't in the French (or Belgian or German or Russian) military in August of 1914.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    "Dead battles, like dead generals, hold the military mind in their dead grip, and Germans no less than other peoples prepare for the last war." - Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August. In her Pulitzer-Prize winning classic The Guns of August, the story of the first month of World War I, Barbara Tuchman argues convincingly that August 1914 was when the Gilded Age died and the modern era really began. The book opens with a famous depiction of Edward VII’s funeral in 1910, attended by all the kings a "Dead battles, like dead generals, hold the military mind in their dead grip, and Germans no less than other peoples prepare for the last war." - Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August. In her Pulitzer-Prize winning classic The Guns of August, the story of the first month of World War I, Barbara Tuchman argues convincingly that August 1914 was when the Gilded Age died and the modern era really began. The book opens with a famous depiction of Edward VII’s funeral in 1910, attended by all the kings and princes of the west: “the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last.” Other than a few details, this scene would not have been out of place in 1610. But by September 1914, it was clear that the world had changed in a fundamental way. And not necessarily for the better. World War I is most famous for the years of bitter trench warfare that took place on the Western Front. But at the beginning of the war, in August 1914, the leading generals had other ideas. The Germans were determined to execute the Schlieffen Plan, a strategy where the bulk of their forces would attack France from the north, sweeping down the Atlantic coast, crushing French resistance, and taking Paris within 30 days. This necessitated an invasion of Belgium, and in all likelihood would drag England into the conflict, but this was a price the Germans were willing to pay. For their part, the French had never really gotten over their humiliating defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, a loss they blamed on a lack of sufficient offensive spirit, or “élan.” French leaders refused to sit back and fight a defensive war. Instead, largely ignoring the German menace to their north, they charged east in a fit of medieval gallantry that would have made Charlemagne proud. Although most of the German forces were attacking from the north, plenty remained in the east, and they were perfectly content to hunker behind their machine guns and let the enemy come to them. The French, dressed in the same bright red and blue uniforms that Napoleon’s soldiers wore a century before, suffered terrible losses and during the Battle of the Frontiers (August 14-24) were driven back to where they started. Meanwhile, French forces in the north (along with the British Expeditionary Force) fought hard to delay the Germans’ advance, but were forced to give ground before the overwhelming German assault. On the Eastern Front, the Germans had annihilated the Russians at the Battle of Tannenberg, and in the west their armies were getting closer to Paris by the day. The reeling French chose to make a desperate last stand at the Marne. Every man was needed; famously, the taxi drivers of Paris were used to ferry troops from the capital to the front in order to plug a hole in the line. The Germans had been pushing their men hard to reach Paris, and in the “Miracle at the Marne” the French and British were able to repel the exhausted Germans and win a historic victory, ending the Germans’ hopes for a quick and decisive war. Instead, the two sides spent the next four years in brutal trench warfare, the Germans were ultimately defeated, and the table was set for round two in 1939. The Guns of August covers a lot more ground than this in its 600+ pages, from the naval buildup to reactions in America and beyond. But throughout the book, there is a sense that the world changed forever in August 1914. World War I was a dumb, senseless war in a lot of ways. There were a number of causes, but at the end of the day Germany basically wanted to fight a war for the hell of it. After all, that’s what the nations of Europe had been doing for as long as they’d existed. Some territory would change hands, some lives would be lost and some glory would be won, and everyone would be home by Christmas. But by September 1914, it was clear that advances in technology had forever changed the nature of war. In the Battle of Marne, there were approximately 500,000 casualties. To put that in perspective, there were less than 47,000 total casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The age of élan was officially over. The history in this book is fascinating and well researched, but the writing on display is simply superb. Tuchman was one of the best prose stylists of her generation, fiction or nonfiction, and she makes this book an absolute pleasure to read. I went into this book with very high expectations, as The Guns of August has the reputation of a nonfiction classic. I was not disappointed: this was one of the 2-3 best nonfiction books I’ve ever read and a true masterpiece. 6 stars, highest possible recommendation.

  17. 5 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    Nope. Maybe it is this particular audiobook version, but I'm really not feeling the love for this book. With The Guns of August, Tuchman wrote this incredibly detailed account of the first month of WWI - and the detail is staggering, so much so that it might even be somewhat overwhelming and that somehow this detail detracts a little from what otherwise looks like a one-sided portrayal. I mean the detail staggering (and the only aspect that kept me reading this far) and includes a lot of detail o Nope. Maybe it is this particular audiobook version, but I'm really not feeling the love for this book. With The Guns of August, Tuchman wrote this incredibly detailed account of the first month of WWI - and the detail is staggering, so much so that it might even be somewhat overwhelming and that somehow this detail detracts a little from what otherwise looks like a one-sided portrayal. I mean the detail staggering (and the only aspect that kept me reading this far) and includes a lot of detail of the politics, personalities, military strategy, philosophical motivations, etc. of all parties involved. However, what I cannot get passed is that the well-known (western) figures (Foch, Churchill, etc. - even Haig and French of whose short-comings Monty later wrote without holding back) come out pretty well, whereas the less well known (and for the most part Russian and German) personalities seem to be caricatures. There is a lot of national stereotyping - but maybe this is just exaggerated by the narration of this particular audiobook version which aims to read different characters in actual accents. (Why???) It is seriously making me dislike the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I used to repeat the common wisdom that if only the WWI reparations hadn’t been imposed on Germany, there would have been no WWII. Now I understand that it would have been impossible to convince the Allies that the reparations weren’t necessary. On August 25 the burning of Louvain began. The medieval city on the road from Liege to Brussels was renowned for its University and incomparable Library, founded in 1426...for the Germans burned Louvain not as a punishment for alleged Belgian misdeeds [de I used to repeat the common wisdom that if only the WWI reparations hadn’t been imposed on Germany, there would have been no WWII. Now I understand that it would have been impossible to convince the Allies that the reparations weren’t necessary. On August 25 the burning of Louvain began. The medieval city on the road from Liege to Brussels was renowned for its University and incomparable Library, founded in 1426...for the Germans burned Louvain not as a punishment for alleged Belgian misdeeds [defending their neutral country against the German invaders], but as a deterrent and a warning to all their enemies...General von Luttwitz, the new Governor of Brussels...visited in the course of duty by the American and Spanish Ministers, he said to them, “A dreadful thing has occurred at Louvain. Our General there has been shot by the son of the Burgomaster. The population has fired on our troops.” He paused, looked at his visitors, and finished, “And now of course we have to destroy the city.” I knew, or remembered from school, next to nothing about the war. So Tuchman’s outstanding history gradually built the story and the ’suspense’ of how the Germans were halted into a narrative that kept me on the edge of my seat. Would the English finally fight? Would Gallieni get the troops he needed to defend Paris? Would the troops holding the eastern flank along the Moselle hold? I know it’s ridiculous to be anxious about a war one knows the outcome of, but her writing is that good. Tuchman is masterful at summarizing the lead-up, and following each of the belligerents and key neutrals through the early weeks of mobilization and fighting. She outlines that master plans that underlay both German and French mobilization designs, with their opposite assumptions. She manages to paint quick, memorable portraits of the generals and politicians, so that you understand how each of their decisions followed from both situation and temperament. She spends just the right amount of time on each strategic and tactical decision before returning to another front to catch up with events there. And she describes the movements of each of France’s six armies and Germany’s seven armies on the western front so clearly that the reader never loses track of who’s where, even if she is listening rather than reading, as I was (although I had occasional reference to the maps in a paper version). There is undoubtedly an allied bias in this history, but it is hard to understand how there could not be. However, Tuchman doesn’t flinch from showing all of the weaknesses, snobbery, fears, and confusion among the Allies. I ended aghast at the stupidity and destruction, to be shortly followed by more of the same.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark Mortensen

    In the 19th Century Henry David Thoreau eloquently stated: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” In the 20th Century, Barbara W. Tuchman full of vision, passion, discipline and self confidence, pursued her American dream and found such success. The historian extraordinaire lacked a PhD but proved to critics that her In the 19th Century Henry David Thoreau eloquently stated: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” In the 20th Century, Barbara W. Tuchman full of vision, passion, discipline and self confidence, pursued her American dream and found such success. The historian extraordinaire lacked a PhD but proved to critics that her well focused mind evolved outside the confines of mainstream academics. This bold fact was highlighted in the Forward segment written by Robert K. Massie. Much has been written about the German mentality prior to the Great War (WWI). William II the German Kaiser had a thirst for war and the world traveler focused his sights on Paris, but in his life he would never set foot in the notorious French capital. Tuchman provides much insight into the pre-war political and social atmosphere of the Allied countries France, England and Belgium, which is often overlooked. I appreciated her flair with imagery especially when she mentioned: “Lanrezac understood him to say he intended employing it as mounted infantry in the line, a contemptible form of activity which the hero of Kimberly would as soon have used as a dry-fly fisherman would use live bait.” It was to be a true war, a brutal ugly war. As the flames of First Global War fanned out in August of 1914 the chapters detail the initial chess moves of each major participant. The German forward march through Belgium, a stationary pawn, set the tone with rampage looting and the purposeful killing of many innocent citizens. Tuchman’s masterpiece documents the August insane madness with no resolution.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul E. Morph

    This book came highly recommended and I can now see why. Tuchman really brings the war to life, which is quite a harrowing experience, I have to say. This book would be a great starting point for any serious would-be-scholar of the First World War and has just the right general overview to detail ratio for the casual reader like myself. It made me realise how we'd only studied the war from the British perspective at school (many, many, many years ago) and it was very interesting to see the French This book came highly recommended and I can now see why. Tuchman really brings the war to life, which is quite a harrowing experience, I have to say. This book would be a great starting point for any serious would-be-scholar of the First World War and has just the right general overview to detail ratio for the casual reader like myself. It made me realise how we'd only studied the war from the British perspective at school (many, many, many years ago) and it was very interesting to see the French and German side of things. In fact, I'm not sure if it's my imagination, but the author seems to spend the majority of the book talking about the French point of view. If you have any interest at all in World War I, you could do much worse than to read this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Clark Zlotchew

    As always, Barbara W. Tuchman delves deeply into the historical subject matter. This book is about the First World War, its causes, the conduct of it, and the results. I see that what I've just written in the preceding sentence doesn't sound inviting; it comes off as dry and uninteresting. But this book is anything but that. It is actually exciting in its description of the progress of the war, and the various armies. It is also fascinating to burrow into the causes and the intrigue involved. It As always, Barbara W. Tuchman delves deeply into the historical subject matter. This book is about the First World War, its causes, the conduct of it, and the results. I see that what I've just written in the preceding sentence doesn't sound inviting; it comes off as dry and uninteresting. But this book is anything but that. It is actually exciting in its description of the progress of the war, and the various armies. It is also fascinating to burrow into the causes and the intrigue involved. It seems almost like a thriller. Ms. Tuchman, Pulitzer Prize winner, as always, does exhaustive research before tackling a book, totally familiarizes herself with the facts and comments, give a deep analysis of the events, the how and why and when, and who, describes in vivid detail the events and their consequences, shows great insight about the facts, and, perhaps best of all, writes in a manner that makes history as exciting as an adventure story. For me, it was a page-turner. We delve into the personalities that brought about the war, and their manner of prosecuting it. We learn, in addition to all the important matters relating to this war, interesting tidbits as well, such as the fact that an army on the march can be smelled for some distance, since there are so many men together, and since they haven't had a chance to take a bath or change clothes for some time. Fascinating reading.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    I don't like technical books about military maneuvers--all that blather about Colonel Blimp, General von Bomb-them-all, and Prince Icantmakeupmymind, and the 5th Army Group attacks the XVI Corps on the right salient---yawn... Welcome to a book that makes all this nearly understandable. Tuchman gives a great picture of the men who made the fatal errors of judgement which led to the four years of hell known as WW I and then resulted in, twenty years later, the even worse agony known as WW II. She i I don't like technical books about military maneuvers--all that blather about Colonel Blimp, General von Bomb-them-all, and Prince Icantmakeupmymind, and the 5th Army Group attacks the XVI Corps on the right salient---yawn... Welcome to a book that makes all this nearly understandable. Tuchman gives a great picture of the men who made the fatal errors of judgement which led to the four years of hell known as WW I and then resulted in, twenty years later, the even worse agony known as WW II. She is such a wonderful writer, and has so much knowledge, that she brings life, humor, and human interest to this long and sad saga of the old world order disappearing inexorably in a sucking quagmire of arrogance, stupidity,and criminally mistaken military decisions. This is a fascinating look at a widely diverse group of men who changed the history of the world and led us to the international messiness of today. Most highly recommended to anyone who is interested in history or the military.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sotiris Karaiskos

    A historical book that is considered to be one of the classics of the genre and a necessary reading for these non-experts who want to learn about the beginning of the First World War. After reading it I can say that I understand the reasons for the popularity of this work. In a simple and accessible way that keeps the reader's interest, the author starts from far behind to find the causes of the conflict, seeking them into the mindset of the opposing sides that have been the result of historical A historical book that is considered to be one of the classics of the genre and a necessary reading for these non-experts who want to learn about the beginning of the First World War. After reading it I can say that I understand the reasons for the popularity of this work. In a simple and accessible way that keeps the reader's interest, the author starts from far behind to find the causes of the conflict, seeking them into the mindset of the opposing sides that have been the result of historical experiences of the past decades. Then she narrates in a very nice way the events that brought things to an impasse and thus led to the beginning of the war, eventually ending talking us about the first war operations that determined to a great extent the continuity and its result. A book that taught me a lot of things I did not know about and a lot of details about things that I knew and ideally filled my knowledge of this critical time, while it is a very fascinating reading. Of course I have some objections, the writer seems to me that she is using her own judgment for some of the protagonists, while I think she did not write as much as she could about the Austro-Hungarians who actually started the war, these details, however, I skip ahead of the overall value of the book. So my perfect score comes out effortlessly. Ένα ιστορικό βιβλίο που θεωρείται από τα κλασικά του είδους και απαραίτητο ανάγνωσμα για αυτούς τους μη ειδικούς που θέλουν να μάθουν για την έναρξη του πρώτου Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου. Μετά από την ανάγνωση του μπορώ να πω ότι καταλαβαίνω τους λόγους για τη δημοφιλία αυτού του έργου. Με ένα τρόπο απλό και προσιτό που κρατάει το ενδιαφέρον του αναγνώστη, η συγγραφέας ξεκινάει από πολύ πίσω για να βρει τις αιτίες της εμπόλεμης σύγκρουσης, αναζητώντας τες στην νοοτροπία των αντίπαλων πλευρών που ήταν αποτέλεσμα ιστορικών εμπειριών των περασμένων δεκαετιών. Στη συνέχεια μας αφηγείται με έναν πολύ ωραίο τρόπο τα γεγονότα που έφεραν τα πράγματα σε αδιέξοδο και έτσι οδήγησαν στην έναρξη του πολέμου, καταλήγοντας στο τέλος να μας μιλάει για τις πρώτες πολεμικές επιχειρήσεις που καθόρισαν σε μεγάλο βαθμό τη συνέχεια και το αποτέλεσμα του. Ένα βιβλίο που μου έμαθε αρκετά πράγματα που δεν τα γνώριζα και αρκετές λεπτομέρειες για πράγματα που ήξερα και συμπλήρωσε ιδανικά τις γνώσεις μου για αυτό το κρίσιμο διάστημα, ενώ παράλληλα είναι ένα ιδιαίτερα συναρπαστικό ανάγνωσμα. Βέβαια έχω και κάποιες ενστάσεις, η συγγραφέας Μου φαίνεται ότι χρησιμοποιεί πολύ τη δική της κρίση για κάποιους από τους πρωταγωνιστές, την ώρα που νομίζω ότι δεν ασχολήθηκε όσο έπρεπε με την Αυστροουγγαρία που ουσιαστικά ξεκίνησε τον πόλεμο, αυτές τις λεπτομέρειες, όμως, μπορώ να τις προσπεράσω μπροστά στη γενικότερη αξία του βιβλίου. Οπότε η άριστη βαθμολογία μου βγαίνει αβίαστα.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Susan in NC

    5 stars, because I love Tuchman’s writing style - she sums up historical figures brilliantly, encapsulating their strengths, flaws and quirks in pithy paragraphs, capturing their essence and historical importance with a novelist’s eye. So much has been written in the last several years for the 100-year anniversary of WWI, but Tuchman’s exhaustive work of the outbreak and first month of fighting won the Pulitzer Prize and is still considered a classic. She also wrote The Proud Tower, about the Eur 5 stars, because I love Tuchman’s writing style - she sums up historical figures brilliantly, encapsulating their strengths, flaws and quirks in pithy paragraphs, capturing their essence and historical importance with a novelist’s eye. So much has been written in the last several years for the 100-year anniversary of WWI, but Tuchman’s exhaustive work of the outbreak and first month of fighting won the Pulitzer Prize and is still considered a classic. She also wrote The Proud Tower, about the European powers and the mood of the period leading up to the war, and The Zimmermann Telegram, for which she won a second Pulitzer. I had read Proud Tower many years ago, always meant to read this book, and still must get to Zimmermann Telegram, the last of her WWI history books. I read this book also to fulfill the non-fiction challenge for The Book For All Seasons group here on Goodreads. I love well-written history, and even though I got a little bogged down in all of the First Army, Second Army, etc. references, Tuchman truly brings history alive with her accessible, intelligent style and, where appropriate, her dry humor. When studying the incomprehensible waste of life in this conflict brought about by stubbornness, incompetence and clinging to accepted, if outdated, concepts of war and national honor, it truly is a matter of seeing the gallows humor or crying. I have read other books in the last four years about the war, and although new analysis or scholarship may have come to light, nothing changes the tragedy and waste, and it never ceases to amaze me. I recommend her work highly to anyone looking for a lucid, intelligent, accessible approach to whatever history she chose to tackle. This account of August 1914, the first month of the war, and how it set the tone for the seemingly never-ending slog and slaughter of the next four years, deserves to be read, if only to remind us when we think, “that could never happen”, or “that would never be allowed”, that it can and has happened - twice.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John

    Barbara Tuchman did not have a PHD, “It’s what saved me, I think” she said, believing that academic life can stultify imagination, stifle enthusiasm and deaden prose style. After all, Herodotus, Thucydides, Gibbon, Mac Cauley and Parkman did not have PhD’s.” Her dealings with the press and critics were cautious and in their reviews of this book described her as a fifty-year-old housewife, a mother of three daughters and the spouse of a prominent New York physician. More succinctly, how could she Barbara Tuchman did not have a PHD, “It’s what saved me, I think” she said, believing that academic life can stultify imagination, stifle enthusiasm and deaden prose style. After all, Herodotus, Thucydides, Gibbon, Mac Cauley and Parkman did not have PhD’s.” Her dealings with the press and critics were cautious and in their reviews of this book described her as a fifty-year-old housewife, a mother of three daughters and the spouse of a prominent New York physician. More succinctly, how could she have written this book? Well, she did and won the Pulitzer Prize along the way plus it was an instant and overwhelming success. Huh! Tells us something about the press doesn’t it? This is a magnificent Pulitzer Prize Winning Classic (She has won two) that in the first several chapters successfully portrays the fascinating diplomatic history leading to WW I. The remaining chapters are a thorough and detailed account of troop movements, battles and leaders that cover not the entire war but only the first month of the war. Tuchman makes several references to previous national conflagrations and various earlier attempts to prevent German hegemony on the continent and it made me wonder; can we ever proceed differently and avoid these continuous wars? As fortune would have it though, “The War to end all wars” or “The Great War” was shortly and dutifully followed by a bigger war, WW II. An interesting side note here was that it took Mrs. Tuchman a full day, eight hours to compose the first paragraph of this book. That certainly gives solace to other thoughtful and slow writers. I was taken aback and learned of the inaction and reserve of the British Army at this extremely critical time, which by the way continued long into the conflict, because I had observed “The Last Post” at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, (pronounced eepers) Belgium in 1993. The city of Ypres wished to express their gratitude to the British Commonwealth soldiers who died for Belgium freedom and hence conduct “The Last Post” – a solemn bugle call similar to our “Taps” – every day at 8 pm at the Menin Gate. This observance has gone on continuously since 1928 except during the Nazi occupation in WW II. So this initial British reticence to engage, bordering on incompetence and cowardice when those around them were in full fight, was thankfully in strong contrast to how they later performed as evidenced by the Menin Gate Memorial. Admittedly, I did find some of the detail of the troop movements etc a little overdone but it would be perfect for a student of such maneuvers. Overall, this was a wonderful book and one that had too long been ensconced on the dusty shelf of my brain. After all, it was first published when John Glenn was still trying to be the first American to orbit the globe and accordingly; I had then marked it as one to read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charissa

    This was the first non-fiction history book that read so much like a good novel that I screamed through it almost without pausing for breath. I knew bits and pieces about World War I before this... but the persistent idiocy of so many involved simply held me riveted to the pages. One of my favorite bits is how the French kept insisting on wearing their red uniforms as they charged through field and forest toward machine gun fire. They just couldn't wrap their heads around the idea that "elan" ju This was the first non-fiction history book that read so much like a good novel that I screamed through it almost without pausing for breath. I knew bits and pieces about World War I before this... but the persistent idiocy of so many involved simply held me riveted to the pages. One of my favorite bits is how the French kept insisting on wearing their red uniforms as they charged through field and forest toward machine gun fire. They just couldn't wrap their heads around the idea that "elan" just wasn't going to make up for the fact that they were bright, shiny targets waddling towards their quick death. That small piece of trivia about this war pretty much sums it up. A foreshadowed beginning to the 20th Century... carnage all around, stupidity, technology rolling over the past like so many broken eggs... I am always reminded of that Loony Toons Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd scene where one starts out with a pistol, the other gets a shotgun, the other gets a cannon, the other brings in a nuclear weapon... or something like that. This book is a perfect window into the character of various European nations... things have changed somewhat since then... but not a lot (if you know what I mean). Best history lesson ever. Tuchman's finest writing. Highly recommended. Should be required reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    "The Guns of August" gives an account of the events leading up to the outbreak of World War I, and the first month of battles in August 1914. The writing is colorful and very dense. Some basic knowledge of World War I is helpful since Barbara Tuchman throws out the names of the main players very rapidly in the initial chapters about the causes of the war. The black and white maps are helpful, but not spectacular. The author is an interesting storyteller, looking at many of the politicians and ge "The Guns of August" gives an account of the events leading up to the outbreak of World War I, and the first month of battles in August 1914. The writing is colorful and very dense. Some basic knowledge of World War I is helpful since Barbara Tuchman throws out the names of the main players very rapidly in the initial chapters about the causes of the war. The black and white maps are helpful, but not spectacular. The author is an interesting storyteller, looking at many of the politicians and generals with a bit of humor and frustration. The book concentrates on the Western Front as the German troops moved into Belgium and northeastern France. A few chapters are devoted to the Eastern Front, especially the Battle of Tannenberg. In the Mediterranean the search for the battleship "Goeben" is discussed since its presence in the Dardanelles blocked Russian trade and influenced Turkey to join forces with Germany. The naval presence in the North Sea is also mentioned. The book omits the situation between Austria and the Balkans. The battles are described in an informative and detailed manner. Better weapons, new technology, and strong planning and organization benefited the Germans. But their "slash and burn" philosophy in the treatment of neutral Belgium brought Britain into the war, and turned US sympathies toward the Allies. Tachman writes vividly about the plight of the infantry (on both sides) who often marched and fought for days before their supplies of food and ammunition finally caught up with them. The book ends dramatically with an account of the first Battle of the Marne in early September 1914 with taxi cabs of soldiers speeding from Paris to the Front. Although the Allies prevented the Germans from entering Paris, the bloodshed had only just begun. "Sucking up lives at a rate of 5,000 and sometimes 50,000 a day, absorbing munitions, energy, money, brains, and trained men, the Western Front ate up Allied war resources....The deadlock, fixed by the failures of the first month, determined the future course of the war and, as a result, the terms of the peace, the shape of the interwar period, and the conditions of the Second Round."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Silvana

    The Guns of August is the best researched book I’ve ever read so far with such poised and skillful narrative style. Tuchman managed to entertain her readers with vivid, incredible details about the prelude to the first thirty days of World War I. She never cease in captivating our minds with epic tales of bravery, cowardice and indecisiveness. Did I say “entertain”? Ah indeed, this book is indubitably a remarkable form of entertainment. Battles, maneuvers, and actions in the field plus debates ( The Guns of August is the best researched book I’ve ever read so far with such poised and skillful narrative style. Tuchman managed to entertain her readers with vivid, incredible details about the prelude to the first thirty days of World War I. She never cease in captivating our minds with epic tales of bravery, cowardice and indecisiveness. Did I say “entertain”? Ah indeed, this book is indubitably a remarkable form of entertainment. Battles, maneuvers, and actions in the field plus debates (internal and external) outside the field are told with great pace, well-structured and easy to understand. Even someone with pathetic sense of direction like yours truly could have a grasp on what happened without having to consult a map for every paragraph. The book itself is divided into three parts: “Plans” (war preparation by the main actors: Germany, France, Britain and Russia), “Outbreak” and of course the most stirring part, “Battle”. It amazed me when I read the inanity and misjudgment by commanders in chief, field marshalls, generals and politicians, causing all the gratuitous calamities. I think I rolled my eyes lots of times or simply sighed with frustration when reading the accounts of Germans’ over-optimism, the Russians’ unpreparedness, the Frenchs’ over-confidence and the British’ reluctance. However, they’re human after all, right? Errare humane est. The characters (historical figures) are unforgettable, especially the commanders such as Joffre, Foch, Gallieni, Moltke, Kluck, Samsonov, and the most annoying one, Sir John French, the British Field Marshall. Their thoughts, actions and interactions – which had got to be compiled meticulously and painstakingly from various memoirs and other sources – are making me feel as if I was reading a novel, of course without all the dramatization. I applaud Tuchman for this superb and extraordinary work of literature which gave me a very real perspective on one of the greatest debacles in human history. The Guns of August truly deserves all the praises as a true military classic.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilson

    The Guns of August is a class act, not only as a military history, but also as an analysis of human and organizational behavior. What drives us? What motivates us? Well, primarily an unwillingness to confront hard problems and the need to get promoted at our jobs. Maybe it's the same where you work. The Guns of August explains how the First World War came to be as well as its first month, up to the Battle of the Marne. But Tuchman doesn't simply deliver facts—she gives razor-sharp insights into t The Guns of August is a class act, not only as a military history, but also as an analysis of human and organizational behavior. What drives us? What motivates us? Well, primarily an unwillingness to confront hard problems and the need to get promoted at our jobs. Maybe it's the same where you work. The Guns of August explains how the First World War came to be as well as its first month, up to the Battle of the Marne. But Tuchman doesn't simply deliver facts—she gives razor-sharp insights into the relationships and character flaws that led people on both sides to make ridiculous decisions. I've worked for people very similar to the ones described in this book, and if they had been running countries and armies instead of companies, they probably would also have slaughtered millions of people too. To me, the most affecting section was the description of the Burning of Louvain, including the destruction of a one-of-a-kind library and the Belgian civilians systematically shot in their town squares. Tuchman puts the reader in an intellectual and emotional place of wanting to root for the French, Russian, and British leaders so hard! But you can't, because they had their heads so far up their asses. In the end, I became completely convinced that British and (much later) American intervention was a moral necessity. But that doesn't mean my heart didn't break for all the fighters (and the horses, goddammit) who were led into such a disaster. But especially for the civilians...and that library. Oh that library.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    This was a really, really good read. It was so good, I wish Barbara Tuchman had carried on and covered the whole war and its aftermath, instead of "just" the first month. Very readable, detailed, and with vivid characterisation, it reads like a good novel (which I mean as a complement). I especially enjoyed the first section, covering the lead-up to the outbreak of war. Although generally I thought Tuchman managed to explain events very clearly, when it came to the battles I occasionally found my This was a really, really good read. It was so good, I wish Barbara Tuchman had carried on and covered the whole war and its aftermath, instead of "just" the first month. Very readable, detailed, and with vivid characterisation, it reads like a good novel (which I mean as a complement). I especially enjoyed the first section, covering the lead-up to the outbreak of war. Although generally I thought Tuchman managed to explain events very clearly, when it came to the battles I occasionally found myself getting lost and having to reread a passage. But that's probably more to do with my feeble powers of concentration than Touchman's writing. However I wasn't helped by the fuzzy, infrequent and unhelpful maps in the edition I read. But that was a minor issue - definitely recommended.

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