Why this book?
There are many different vantage points from which to view the road to war in 1914, but an essential one is that which focuses on the ethos, politics, and strategy of one of the constellations of European Great Powers. In the 1980s, Macmillan published a series of books focusing on each of these, written by acknowledged experts (Zara Steiner on Britain, John Keiger on France, Dominic Lieven on Russia, Volker Berghahn on Germany, Richard Bosworth on Italy). The last in the series appeared in 1990, when Samuel Williamson published his study of Austria-Hungary.
It was well worth the wait. Comprehensive in its structure, balanced in its judgments, meticulous in its research, Williamson established a new standard for studies of the Great Powers. His conclusion – that Austria-Hungary was largely responsible for initiating the July Crisis and, ultimately, the war itself – is persuasively argued and the story compellingly told.
Why should I read it?
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What is this book about?
A major re-examination of Habsburg decision-making from 1912 to July 1914, the study argues that Austria-Hungary and not Germany made the crucial decisions for war in the summer of 1914. Based on extensive new archival research, the book traces the gradual militarization of Austro-Hungarian foreign policy during the Balkan Wars. The disasters of those wars and the death of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir-apparent and a force for peace in the monarchy, convinced the Habsburg elite that only a war against Serbia would end the South Slav threat to the monarchy's existence. Williamson also describes Russia's assertive foreign policy…