Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War

Knopf. 2013. 640p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307597052. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780385351225. HIST
OrangeReviewStarHastings (Inferno: The World at War, 1939–1945) turns his hand to the run-up to and first battles of World War I. A theme throughout is the German and Austro-Hungarian brutality and moral culpability for many of the war's horrors while the Allies' political and military leadership was incompetent. Acknowledging that history has never come to a consensus about blame for the catastrophe, Hastings clearly sympathizes with the Allies and the soldiers and civilians who suffered the terrible decisions of their leaders. The Austrians, in their war against Serbia and Russia, combined the brutality of the Germans with the incompetence of the Allies. Hastings clearly describes the political background to hostilities without getting bogged down in the minutiae of Balkan politics. While he spends a good while describing the Eastern political situation, his battlefield focus lies on the western front. His descriptions of the battles that led to three years of trench warfare emphasize how military expertise did not keep pace with military technology at the turn of the century.
VERDICT Hastings makes a very complicated story understandable in a way that few serious history books manage. An ideal entry into World War I history for general readers.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing