Why did I love 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.