The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began

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Bloomsbury Publishing USA, Feb 21, 2012 - History - 392 pages
3 Reviews

In The Lost History of 1914, Jack Beatty offers a highly original view of World War I, testing against fresh evidence the long-dominant assumption that it was inevitable. "Most books set in 1914 map the path leading to war," Beatty writes. "This one maps the multiple paths that led away from it."


Chronicling largely forgotten events faced by each of the belligerent countries in the months before the war started in August, Beatty shows how any one of them-a possible military coup in Germany; an imminent civil war in Britain; the murder trial of the wife of the likely next premier of France, who sought détente with Germany-might have derailed the war or brought it to a different end. In Beatty's hands, these stories open into epiphanies of national character, and offer dramatic portraits of the year's major actors-Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas II , Woodrow Wilson, along with forgotten or overlooked characters such as Pancho Villa, Rasputin, and Herbert Hoover. Europe's ruling classes, Beatty shows, were so haunted by fear of those below that they mistook democratization for revolution, and were tempted to "escape forward" into war to head it off. Beatty's powerful rendering of the combat between August 1914 and January 1915 which killed more than one million men, restores lost history, revealing how trench warfare, long depicted as death's victory, was actually a life-saving strategy.


Beatty's deeply insightful book-as elegantly written as it is thought-provoking and probing-lights a lost world about to blow itself up in what George Kennan called "the seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century." It also arms readers against narratives of historical inevitability in today's world.

 

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User Review  - tloeffler - LibraryThing

More specific detail than usual about what was happening in each of the affected countries during 1914 leading up to the war. Interesting information, but a little bit dry. Read full review

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User Review  - douboy50 - LibraryThing

Interesting treatment of "what if" scenarios for preventing the First World War. Or.....conversely, scenarios of reasons why world leaders acted the way they did due to circumstances in their own ... Read full review

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About the author (2012)

Jack Beatty is On Point's news analyst and a longtime senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly. He joined The Atlantic in September of 1983, having previously worked as a book reviewer at Newsweek and as the literary editor of The New Republic. Beatty is the author of The Rascal King" (1992), a biography of the legendary Boston mayor James Michael Curly that was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; "The World According to Peter Drucker" (1998), an intellectual biography of the social thinker and management theorist; and "Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of Money in America, 1865-1900" (2007), a thematic history of the Gilded Age. In addition, he is the editor of "Colossus: How the Corporation Changed America" (2001), an anthology of readings on the history of the American corporation named by Business Week as one of the Ten Best Business Books of the year. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, two fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, an Olive Branch Award from New York University, a William Allen White Award for criticism from the University of Kansas, and an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Born and raised in Boston, Beatty now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.

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