THE SLEEPWALKERS

This spectacular diplomatic history by Christopher Clark is about European foreign relations and history before World War One. It is an essential source to understand the years before the War.

It tells how Serbian goofballs and nuts, backed blindly by the Russians and supported by the indifferent French, were able to start the War. The British, flat on their asses, joined the French.

Oddly, the Germans were late to the party. Germany began mobilizing on August 1, 1914 two weeks after the Russians with French encouragement began mobilizing and putting a million soldiers on their Western borders. Historian Clark mentions that the Germans have been blamed for heightening tensions and starting the War. Blame is much better placed on the Russians and French. Clark refers to an excellent history by Fritz Fischer, but Clark does not discuss policy during the War, whereas Fischer does.

The Sleepwalkers is an appropriate title. The diplomats and rulers read, discussed, pushed papers and harrumphed. In Britain the Foreign Minister, Edward Grey (of Earl Grey tea fame), was aloof, spoke only English, disliked foreigners, preferred long country jaunts and liked fly fishing. And in 1914 Grey had the on-coming disability of going blind. Everyone in the government knew it but left him in place.

The Sleepwalkers is well presented and well-written. It raises a question: If the men who decided to go to war in 1914 had read this book before deciding, would they chose War? Clark gives the impression that the men were so impossibly devious and utterly stupid, that despite knowing all the facts the would chose War.

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