Title: The Guns of August
Author: Barbara W. Tuchman
Tuchman, Barbara Wertheim (1962, 1988). The Guns of August. New York: Macmillan
Date Posted: February 6, 2013
It is seldom that a book combining at once such valuable historical material with such an excellent literary style comes along. This book, recounting the political events leading up to the First World War and the first horrible 30 days of that War, is such a work.
Beginning with the pompous, colorful funeral of England’s Edward VII in May of 1910—which was to prove the end of the old European order—the account reaches back into the growing competitive situation between England and Germany. It examines briefly but quite carefully the changes since Victoria’s time—the power intrigues, Germany’s thirst for power, England’s constant encircling of her. Thus, with the immortal assassination of Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914, the martial stage is set. What followed (and again it is reported with succinct, vivid accuracy) was the horrible carnage which is modern war. The author shows how Germany planned its Belgian campaign, how General Foch developed a whole new military “mystique” to meet it, how Turkey, Russia, and Japan became involved, and how men began to die on the Western Front between Germany and France by the tens of thousands. Through the pages too move the great figures—Generals Molke, Joffre, Foch, and Hindenburg; Winston Churchill, Lord Kitchener, Admirals Jellico and von Tirpitz, and dozens more. Concluding with the great Battle of the Marne which saved Paris and turned the Germans back, the volume shows how European and then world history was forever changed by the terrible struggle. It is an exciting interpretation, and Book of the Month Club selection is the first salvo.