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Publisher Description

From the acclaimed military historian, a history of the outbreak of World War I: the dramatic stretch from the breakdown of diplomacy to the battles—the Marne, Ypres, Tannenberg—that marked the frenzied first year before the war bogged down in the trenches.

In Catastrophe 1914, Max Hastings gives us a conflict different from the familiar one of barbed wire, mud and futility. He traces the path to war, making clear why Germany and Austria-Hungary were primarily to blame, and describes the gripping first clashes in the West, where the French army marched into action in uniforms of red and blue with flags flying and bands playing. In August, four days after the French suffered 27,000 men dead in a single day, the British fought an extraordinary holding action against oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history. In October, at terrible cost the British held the allied line against massive German assaults in the first battle of Ypres. Hastings also re-creates the lesser-known battles on the Eastern Front, brutal struggles in Serbia, East Prussia and Galicia, where the Germans, Austrians, Russians and Serbs inflicted three million casualties upon one another by Christmas. 

As he has done in his celebrated, award-winning works on World War II, Hastings gives us frank assessments of generals and political leaders and masterly analyses of the political currents that led the continent to war. He argues passionately against the contention that the war was not worth the cost, maintaining that Germany’s defeat was vital to the freedom of Europe. Throughout we encounter statesmen, generals, peasants, housewives and private soldiers of seven nations in Hastings’s accustomed blend of top-down and bottom-up accounts: generals dismounting to lead troops in bayonet charges over 1,500 feet of open ground; farmers who at first decried the requisition of their horses; infantry men engaged in a haggard retreat, sleeping four hours a night in their haste. This is a vivid new portrait of how a continent became embroiled in war and what befell millions of men and women in a conflict that would change everything.

September 24
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Penguin Random House LLC

Customer Reviews

JF world ,

Catastrophe 1914

Fabulous epic absorbing book, could not put it down. Wonderful stories from every front of First World War during it’s first year brilliantly illustrated by those who fought, lived, suffered and died. Catastrophe 1914 gives you a very complete picture and deep understanding of the complex causes of the conflict, the personalities, the battles, the leaders, and of those millions participatin and caught in the horrendous battlefields, including civilians and soldiers, from infantry and cavalry soldiers to the Commanders in Chief of every one of the warring nations. Highly recommend it.

Mocha jet ,

Superb read

Max Hastings has once again produced a superb book on the very origins and the immediate aftermath of the declaration of WWI...his attention to detail is fascinating and will expand and inform the knowledge of even those who think there is nothing more to write on this huge subject.
He takes you into the minds of the leading protagonists from each country and manages to both explain the importance of this about to forgotten war and yet the feeling that was left of the futility of it all by many who were actually asked to " go over the top"
A huge and important look at our past and that of the Europe that became the modern EU.

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