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The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman

The Guns of August (1962)

by Barbara W. Tuchman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,742881,474 (4.27)2 / 468

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Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
The book covers the weeks leading up to WWI and the first month of the war. I got this book because of the 100th anniversary memorials for WW1 I realized I knew next to nothing about this war. The big takeaways from this book is the egos and chaos that preceded the war and governed the first month of the war. I'm guessing both egos and chaos continued through most of the war if not all of it. Poor and broken communications contributed too much of the chaos and if not so broken could have potentially swayed many egos to act differently. ( )
  rayski | Feb 12, 2019 |
I regret that between all the books my mother hold on her bookshelf was none of Tuchman's. It is possible that if she did that, I would love to read thriller books as well because one of the most prominent feelings when I read it was that everything could happen. It doesn't matter that I know the end, how long that war lasted, how many people killed there, I didn't stop hoping that the good guys would win. And fast. That the English would do what was expected of them, that the French would have the sense that something wouldn't work for the Germans and that the Russians would discover capabilities they did not have.
It is one of the fascinating books I have ever read, a book that manages to prove the personality and influence of decision-makers, to take the considerations taken into account and to make an excellent distinction between what every political leader or general knew, and the historical information we have in retrospect.
The frustration that accompanies it connected to the understanding that ultimately these are people, some of whom are not great, and those who can analyze and understand the meaning of the actions they are about to do, but there are not always those who will listen to them for all sorts of reasons. And it turns out that it is not enough to be right. Sometimes it is equally important to be nice or consider the ego of other people.
Another thing that the book emphasizes is the national ethos and its tactical use so that together with selective access to information, national morale can be created that can serve the strategy. This raises quite a few questions regarding the situation today. In the era of freedom of information, this kind of use is seemingly impossible, but when you look at what we know and do not know, I think that there has not been any real change. Even in this era, leadership ultimately has the most control over how information is processed and presented to us as a public. Very few people bother to gather facts themselves and examine political reality through various media. ( )
  JantTommason | Jan 7, 2019 |
A brilliant book about the events leading to the outbreak and opening days of World War I. ( )
  ffifield | Oct 9, 2018 |
Extremely detailed explanation of the origins of WWI in German ambition for control of Europe. Blindness of planners on both sides--untested assumptions allowed to control plans and preparations. ( )
  ritaer | Oct 7, 2018 |
This review is, as others on my profile, a "dual review", i.e. covering in part two books.

The reason is that I do not look at the subject at face value- and, as I wrote in other reviews, the history of warfare (and crime history, in this case) often have a major advantage: the authors review known choices from multiple perspectives.

The first book is Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August", about the inception of WWI.

The other is one of the few about criminology written in Italian that didn't disappoint in its discussion about decisions-making.

As you can see, both of the books are really about decision-making and avoiding various forms of bias.

And now, the review about "The Guns of August".

WWI was the first mechanized war, bringing also on the front new weaponry that was to be characterist of the XX century.

But what was impressive was how much choices were made based upon the bias deriving from previous wars- so much that even correct information was ignored.

WWI brought about a shortening of the time available to make choices while at the same time converting logistics into an even more critical element, as you could not simply pick up from the land what you needed- spare parts, oil, etc had all to be brought.

Sounds an unusual "connecting the dots", but in reality this divergence of available timeframe between decision making and decision implementation actually became more critical with each war- including, of course, Cold War.

This was a lesson that had yet to be learned in WWII, but in reality also the war in Africa and all the mistakes in WWI and WWII organized by Winston Churchill were a painful "learning ground" that enabled the landing in Normandy.

When seen at a distance, we are inclined to over-rationalize choices made (including the wrong ones), and this happens often also in business: who would admit having made a choice on a whim?

The most interesting point of this book is actually the large quantity of background information on decisions and availability of information to the decision makers.

Anyway, if you are just interested in history per se (I am biased, as I am focused on change), it is a book still worth reading 56 years after it was published.

[Review released on 2018-08-23] ( )
1 vote aleph123 | Aug 22, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara W. Tuchmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Massie, Robert K.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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."
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:08 -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.

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