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The Guns of August: The Pulitzer…
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The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic about the Outbreak… (original 1962; edition 2004)

by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman

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3,621571,456 (4.31)2 / 392
Member:petercalluy
Title:The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic about the Outbreak of World War I
Authors:Barbara Wertheim Tuchman
Info:Presidio Press (2004), Editie: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback, 640 pagina's
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

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The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman (1962)

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Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
I should note that my three-star rating describes my experience of "The Guns of August" does not reflect the book's merits. It's a very fine history book, but I found, as I did the last time I read it, that I've got no talent or patience for battlefield history, and the fact that I read a digital copy this time around really didn't help matters. Still, Tuchman's prose is excellent and her takes on the cultural climate that contributed to the start of the Great War, such as German nationalism and every major army's obsession with taking the initiative, are quite good. Fittingly, for a historian, she's also got an excellent grasp of narrative. Her accounts of the diplomatic machinations that led up to the outbreak of the war and the flight of the Goeben to Istambul are both absolutely gripping. On the centenary of the First World War's outbreak, it's probably more important than ever to remind ourselves how badly things can deteriorate in the international arena, and how quickly. "The Guns of August" still seems unnervingly relevant. ( )
1 vote TheAmpersand | Sep 17, 2014 |
I've read several books by Barbara Tuchman, and am always impressed by her writing. In this book, she covers the first 30 days of the First World War. The writing is vivid; at times, even ironic or humourous. She manages to create a sense of suspense even though we know how it all ended.

Reading this book, I was struck by the thought that World War I divided contemporary history into two distinct ages. ( )
  LynnB | Sep 9, 2014 |
Anyone wanting to learn about World War I will encounter so many references to The Guns of August that it will work its way to the top of the reading list. The 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war seemed like the perfect time to read it. Barbara Tuchman has a gift for writing that many historians would envy. Dates, locations, names, and numbers are not dry facts in her hands. They become an absorbing, page-turning account of hopes and fears, opportunities won and lost, preconceived notions, unwarranted optimism, and unappreciated pragmatism. The list of primary sources Tuchman consulted is impressive. All it lacks are footnotes or endnotes linking Tuchman's conclusions to specific sources. ( )
  cbl_tn | Sep 7, 2014 |
Maybe not a page-turner, but absolutely an eye-opener. She made the beginning of the war matter to me, when before it had always seemed basically ridiculous. She did a marvellous job of impressing the importance of chance/fortune in the unfolding of events without making them seem at all like convenient coïncidences. ( )
  drbubbles | Sep 2, 2014 |
”So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens---four dowagers and three regnant---and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.” (Page 1)

So opens Barbara Tuchman’s wonderful narrative non-fiction account of the events leading up to WWI and the first month of the conflict. First published in 1962, it’s easy to understand the book’s lasting legacy. As lovely as the prose in that paragraph is (some have called it the most beautiful opening paragraph ever written) the remainder of the book provides many instances of her ability to turn a phrase. And that made the reading of this summary of this sad period in history actually very enjoyable.

Tuchman concentrated on the Western Front with a small bit about Russian involvement in the East. She didn’t touch on the war in the Balkans. Her description of the German occupation of Belgium and the atrocities that ensued was so vivid that it literally leaped from the page:

”Von Kluck complained that somehow the methods employed ‘were slow in remedying the evil.’ The Belgian populace continued to show the most implacable hostility. ‘These evil practices on the part of the population ate into the very vitals of our Army.’ Reprisals grew more frequent and severe. The smoke of burning villages, the roads clogged with fleeing inhabitants, the mayors and burgomasters shot as hostages were reported to the world by the crowds of Allied, American and other neutral correspondents. They wrote of the debris of sacked houses, the blackened villages in which no human was left but only a silent cat on a shattered doorstep, the streets strewn with broken bottles and broken windowpanes, the agonized lowing of cows with unmilked udders, the endless files of refugees with their bundles and wagons and carts and umbrellas for sleeping on rainy nights along the roadside, of the fields of grain bending over with ripeness and no one to reap them.”

Then Tuchman laid out the difficulties of this war: the hesitation of the English to commit to the war and join France against Germany; the failure of all sides to prepare for a long war; the enormous and never before seen siege mortars of the Germans; the German justification for the atrocities their troops committed; the lack of a French defensive war; the trench warfare that determined the war of position that would last for four long years; and finally, the enormous egos of the generals who led the charge, especially the French General Joffre and the English general Sir John French whose refusal to cooperate and change their initial plan in order to implement a cooperative plan that might work, almost led to the defeat of the allies in the first month.

The Battle of the Marne turned out to be “one of the most decisive battles of the world not because it determined that Germany would ultimately lose or the Allies ultimately win but because it determined that the war would go on.”

Beautifully written, carefully researched and compulsively readable, The Guns of August should be on your reading list. Very highly recommended. ( )
13 vote brenzi | Jul 21, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara W. Tuchmanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Massie, Robert K.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The human heart is the starting point of all matters pertaining to war.
--Marechal de Saxe
Reveries on the Art of War (Preface), 1732

The terrible Ifs accumulate.
--Winston Churchill
The World Crisis, Vol. I, Chap. XI
Dedication
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So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345476093, Mass Market Paperback)

"More dramtatic than fiction...THE GUNS OF AUGUST is a magnificent narrative--beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained....The product of painstaking and sophisticated research."
CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people and events that led up to Worl War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time and a people we all need to know more about, THE GUNS OF AUGUST will not be forgotten.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:09 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A Pulitzer Prize-winning recreation of the powderkeg that was Europe during the crucial first thirty days of World War I traces the actions of statesmen and patriots alike in Berlin, London, St. Petersburg, and Paris: how the war started, why, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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