One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (History)
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is historian Christopher Clark’s riveting account of the explosive beginnings of World War I.
Drawing on new scholarship, Clark offers a fresh look at World War I, focusing not on the battles and atrocities of the war itself, but on the complex events and relationships that led a group of well-meaning leaders into brutal conflict.
Clark traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts between the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade, and examines the decades of history that informed the events of 1914 and details the mutual misunderstandings and unintended signals that drove the crisis forward in a few short weeks.
Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers is a dramatic and authoritative chronicle of Europe’s descent into a war that tore the world apart.
WWI is frequently described as a long-fused inevitable conflict, yet this comprehensively researched, gracefully written account of the war s genesis convincingly posits a bad brew of diplomatic contingencies and individual agency as the cause. Clark, history professor at Cambridge University, begins by describing the interactions of Serbia and Austria-Hungary, which sparked the conflict. He presents the former as a raw and fragile democracy whose turbulent politics challenged a neighboring empire held together by habit. Indeed, the instability across Europe further polarized alliance networks foreign policies were shaped by ambiguous relationships... and adversarial competitions that obfuscated intentions. Nevertheless, the European system demonstrated a surprising capacity for crisis management. But even the d tente years of 1912 1914 were characterized by persistent uncertainty in all quarters about the intentions of friends and potential foes alike. Beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, that uncertainty informed the burgeoning crisis Austria-Hungary s hesitation allowed Russia to frame the event as a tyrant cut down by citizens of his own country ; Britain and France offered no challenge to the narrative; and Germany counted on the localization of the Austro-Serbian conflict. Instead Russia escalated the crisis by mobilizing, Britain by hesitating, and Germany by panicking: Europe sleepwalked into a tragedy. B&w illus., 7 maps.