Weigel On World War I Books

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In a recent post on the First Things blog, the well-known Catholic neocon George Weigel recommends in a column titled “Books For Christmas” several books on the origins of World War I. He says this: “Three new books try to explain how this civilizational disaster happened. Sean McMeekin’s July 1914: Countdown to War (Basic Books) lays primary blame on Austria-Hungary; Christopher Clarke’s The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (Harper) and Max Hastings’ Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War (Knopf) spread the responsibility around, with both Clarke and Hastings assigning Wilhelmine Germany the decisive role amidst a desperately inept performance by the Great Powers”

In fact, the book by Christopher Clark (not Clarke) challenges rather than affirms the thesis that Germany bore primary responsibility for the onset of war. His divided verdict on war responsibility recalls the classic treatment of Sidney Fay, The Origins of the World War (1928, second edition 1930), a book Clark cites favorably. His account of McMeekin’s book is also wrong. Though McMeekin notes mistakes by Austria-Hungary, his primary emphasis is on French and Russian responsibility.

Neocons are not known for their care with facts, but this is a little too much.

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