100 books like The Russian Origins of the First World War

By Sean McMeekin,

Here are 100 books that The Russian Origins of the First World War fans have personally recommended if you like The Russian Origins of the First World War. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway

Barrett Tillman Author Of When the Shooting Stopped: August 1945

From my list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like all Boomers, I grew up in the shadow of “The War.” My parents, relatives, and others participated in World War II to various extents; all were affected by it. Therefore, I absorbed the Pacific Theater early on. My father trained as a naval aviator, and among my early TV memories is the 1950s series Victory at Sea. My mother coaxed me early on, and an aunt was an English teacher, so I began learning to read before kindergarten. In retrospect, that gave me extra time to start absorbing the emerging literature. Much later I helped restore and flew WW II aircraft, leading to my first book.

Barrett's book list on WWII aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific

Barrett Tillman Why did Barrett love this book?

Shattered Sword is proof that history is a journey rather than a destination. When published in 2005, Parshall and Tully set a milepost on the then-six-decade road to understanding the pivotal June 1942 battle.  

Aside from correcting “settled facts” about the battle, the authors added depth with detailed examinations of rare subjects.  Among other things, how the Imperial Navy managed its flight and hangar decks; how the combat air patrols were cycled. What some readers might consider “nuts and bolts” provide revelations to those seeking deeper knowledge, especially for relevant individuals and Japanese culture.

By Jonathan Parshall, Anthony Tully,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Shattered Sword as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many consider the Battle of Midway to have turned the tide of the Pacific War. It is without question one of the most famous battles in history. Now, for the first time since Gordon W. Prange's bestselling Miracle at Midway, Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully offer a new interpretation of this great naval engagement.

Unlike previous accounts, Shattered Sword makes extensive use of Japanese primary sources. It also corrects the many errors of Mitsuo Fuchida's Midway: The Battle That Doomed Japan, an uncritical reliance upon which has tainted every previous Western account. It thus forces a major, potentially controversial reevaluation…


Book cover of Frankreichs Außenpolitik in Der Julikrise 1914: Ein Beitrag Zur Geschichte Des Ausbruchs Des Ersten Weltkrieges

Terence Zuber Author Of The Real German War Plan, 1904-14

From my list on new revisionist military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in military history and wanted to become a professional soldier. I benefitted especially from three years as the American liaison officer on the staff of the German 12th Panzer Division. German Army organization, planning and decision-making, troop leadership, and training are outstanding and made a deep impression on me. I received a superb education as a historian at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, which required history to be written from original source documents, not secondary sources uncritically accepted. My standards emphasize attention to detail in military planning and operations, and archival work in English, German, and French. As do the authors that I have selected.

Terence's book list on new revisionist military history

Terence Zuber Why did Terence love this book?

Conventional histories give the French a free pass concerning the causes of World War I: the French leadership is commonly described as being literally out-of-touch (on a battleship coming back to France). Schmidt’s brilliant archival research shows that the French were fully aware that the Austrians were going to issue an ultimatum to the Serbs and encouraged the Russians to support a Serb refusal and a Russian military attack on Austria. (My addendum: the French plan is a mirror image of the Russian plan – the French would tie down the Germans in the West and the Russians hordes would overwhelm the Germans in the East.)

By Stefan Schmidt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frankreichs Außenpolitik in Der Julikrise 1914 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Auch wenn die Genese des Ersten Weltkriegs - der "Ur-Katastrophe" des 20. Jahrhunderts - als gründlich erforscht gilt, verzeichnet die Geschichte des Kriegsausbruchs immer noch Bereiche, deren Bearbeitung bislang vernachlässigt wurde. Zu ihnen gehört die französische Außenpolitik in der Julikrise 1914. Obwohl in der wissenschaftlichen Kontroverse der Zwischenkriegszeit kein Konsens über Motive und Absichten des "forgotten belligerent of July 1914" (John W. Langdon) gefunden werden konnte, sind dem Gegenstand nach 1945 nur wenige Untersuchungen gewidmet. In dieses bislang kaum beachtete Terrain stößt die Studie vor. Nicht zuletzt auf der Grundlage neuer Quellen entwirft sie im Gegensatz zur älteren Forschung von…


Book cover of Contesting the Origins of the First World War: An Historiographical Argument

Terence Zuber Author Of The Real German War Plan, 1904-14

From my list on new revisionist military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in military history and wanted to become a professional soldier. I benefitted especially from three years as the American liaison officer on the staff of the German 12th Panzer Division. German Army organization, planning and decision-making, troop leadership, and training are outstanding and made a deep impression on me. I received a superb education as a historian at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, which required history to be written from original source documents, not secondary sources uncritically accepted. My standards emphasize attention to detail in military planning and operations, and archival work in English, German, and French. As do the authors that I have selected.

Terence's book list on new revisionist military history

Terence Zuber Why did Terence love this book?

Paddock brings together the work of three revisionist historians, myself, McMeekin, and Schmidt, in one slim (136 pages) volume. In particular, Paddock gives access to Schmidt’s important work on French planning for those who do not read German. Paddock not only presents German, Russian, and French military planning, but correlates them. The result is a fundamentally new and convincing picture of pre-war military planning and diplomacy.

By Troy R. E. Paddock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Contesting the Origins of the First World War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Contesting the Origins of the First World War challenges the Anglophone emphasis on Germany as bearing the primary responsibility in causing the conflict and instead builds upon new perspectives to reconsider the roles of the other Great Powers.

Using the work of Terrance Zuber, Sean McMeekin, and Stefan Schmidt as building blocks, this book reassesses the origins of the First World War and offers an explanation as to why this reassessment did not come about earlier. Troy R.E. Paddock argues that historians need to redraw the historiographical map that has charted the origins of the war. His analysis creates a…


Book cover of Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths, Deceptions

Terence Zuber Author Of The Real German War Plan, 1904-14

From my list on new revisionist military history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been interested in military history and wanted to become a professional soldier. I benefitted especially from three years as the American liaison officer on the staff of the German 12th Panzer Division. German Army organization, planning and decision-making, troop leadership, and training are outstanding and made a deep impression on me. I received a superb education as a historian at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, which required history to be written from original source documents, not secondary sources uncritically accepted. My standards emphasize attention to detail in military planning and operations, and archival work in English, German, and French. As do the authors that I have selected.

Terence's book list on new revisionist military history

Terence Zuber Why did Terence love this book?

Zinn uses Japanese sources and modern Operations Research techniques to produce a revisionist account of the attack. The Japanese planning was deeply flawed and the execution of the attack chaotic. The Japanese escaped disaster only because American defensive measures were abysmal. The Japanese attack wasn’t “brilliant,” is commonly maintained – it was dumb luck. Zinn also demolishes numerous hoary myths, for example, that the Japanese could/should have destroyed the American fuel storage tanks. Zinn’s attention to military detail produces a fundamentally new appreciation of the Pearl Harbor attack.

By Alan Zimm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Attack on Pearl Harbor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941, has been portrayed by historians as a dazzling success, "brilliantly conceived and meticulously planned". With most historians concentrating on command errors and the story of participants' experiences, this book presents a detailed evaluation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on an operational and tactical level.

It examines such questions as: Was the strategy underlying the attack sound? Were there flaws in planning or execution? How did Japanese military culture influence the planning? How risky was the attack? What did the Japanese expect to achieve, balanced against what they did achieve?…


Book cover of Towards the Flame: Empire, War and the End of Tsarist Russia

Adam Zamoyski Author Of Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe

From my list on to truly understand the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

Adam Zamoyski is a British historian of Polish origin. He is the author of over a dozen award winning books. His family originates in Poland. His parents left the country when it was invaded by Germany and Russia in 1939, and were stranded in exile when the Soviets took it over at the end of World War II. Drawn to it as much by the historical processes at work there as by family ties, Zamoyski began to visit Poland in the late 1960s. His interest in the subject is combined with a feel for its connections to the history and culture of other nations, and a deep understanding of the pan-European context.

Adam's book list on to truly understand the First World War

Adam Zamoyski Why did Adam love this book?

The outbreak of war was hastened, if not actually caused by, the fact that the whole of Central and Eastern Europe was governed by failed states. The Russian, German and Austrian empires had outlived their respective raisons d’être and, either unwilling or incapable of forging new ones through radical reform, hoped to justify their survival through the pursuit of success in the international arena, and ultimately through war. This is a brilliant account of the doomed attempts to reform the greatest yet most fragile of these states, and of the slow car-crash that ensued.

By Dominic Lieven,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Towards the Flame as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FINANCIAL TIMES BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2015

The Russian decision to mobilize in July 1914 may have been the single most catastrophic choice of the modern era. Some articulate, thoughtful figures around the Tsar understood Russia's fragility, and yet they were shouted down by those who were convinced that, despite Germany's patent military superiority, Russian greatness required decisive action. Russia's rulers thought they were acting to secure their future, but in fact - after millions of deaths and two revolutions - they were consigning their entire class to death or exile and their country to a uniquely terrible generations-long experiment…


Book cover of Roads to Glory: Late Imperial Russia and the Turkish Straits

Gordon Martel Author Of The Origins of the First World War

From my list on why the First World War happened.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of diplomacy, war, and empire. A founding editor of The International History Review, I have written books on ‘Imperial Diplomacy’, on the origins of the First World War, and on the July Crisis. I have edited: the 5-volume Encyclopedia of War and the 4-volume Encyclopedia of Diplomacy; the journals of A.L. Kennedy for the Royal Historical Society; numerous collections of essays, and the multi-volume Seminar Studies in History series. I am currently working on a two-volume study of Political Intelligence in Great Britain, 1900-1950, which is a group biography of the men who made up the Department of Political Intelligence in Britain, 1917-1919

Gordon's book list on why the First World War happened

Gordon Martel Why did Gordon love this book?

One of the most enduring explanations for the outbreak of war in 1914 is that of ‘imperialism’. The argument that competition for resources beyond the ‘natural’ frontiers of European states created bitter rivalries among the Great Powers had been made many times before 1914, whenever a crisis in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East threatened to turn into a shooting war. But disentangling the complex motives, strategies, and tactics that intersected Great Power politics is a daunting task.

One of the finest case studies of the imperial mentalité can be found in Bobroff’s fascinating book. Not only does he break new ground in this study, but he has mined the Russian archives to great effect, moving the subject along from grand, unproven assertions concerning Russian policies to a detailed and persuasive understanding of both their ambitions and their fears.

By Ronald P. Bobroff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roads to Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Until now, it has been accepted that the Turkish Straits - the Russian fleet's gateway to the Mediterranean - were a key factor in shaping Russian policy in the years leading to World War I. Control of the Straits had always been accepted as the major priority of Imperial Russia's foreign policy. In this powerfully argued revisionist history, Ronald Bobroff exposes the true Russian concern before the outbreak of war: the containment of German aggression. Based on extensive new research, Bobroff provides fascinating new insights into Russia's state development before the revolution, examining the policies and personal correspondence of its…


Book cover of Playing the Great Game: A Victorian Cold War

Riaz Dean Author Of Mapping the Great Game: Explorers, Spies and Maps in 19th-Century Asia

From my list on the Great Game.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have travelled much of the area described in this book, including the two halves of what was once Turkestan, and on the Roof of the World which divides them. I collect old maps and books (including historical fiction titles) about the exploration of the region and the machinations of the Great Game. My book is the result of four years of research and writing.

Riaz's book list on the Great Game

Riaz Dean Why did Riaz love this book?

This is a shorter book by a well-established historian, who nevertheless writes in an accessible manner for the general reader. It is a good introductory text to the Great Game and contains a good map of the region and several illustrations and photographs.

By Michael Edwardes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Playing the Great Game as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this era of Cyber Warfare, it's great to compare with the original Khyber Warfare


Book cover of Weak Strongman: The Limits of Power in Putin's Russia

Mark Lawrence Schrad Author Of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

From my list on understanding Putinism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve lived, learned, and loved Russian politics since before the collapse of communism. My Vodka Politics book takes a deep dive into Russian history but is ultimately focussed on better understanding contemporary social, economic, and political developments in Russia, where Putin and Putinism are at the core. Having taught graduate and undergraduate courses on Russian and post-Soviet politics for the past fifteen years, I find it essential to keep up-to-date on the latest scholarship. There are many great works out there by gifted journalists, writers, and scholars, many of which illuminate perhaps only part of Russia’s personalized autocracy. The ones I’ve listed here I feel present the most well-rounded picture, from a wide variety of perspectives.

Mark's book list on understanding Putinism

Mark Lawrence Schrad Why did Mark love this book?

The most recent book on the list, Timothy Frye’s Weak Strongman brings together many of the different factors and perspectives from previous readings. Rather than playing to contemporary stereotypes of the omnipotence of the Russian political system and its leader, Frye explores the limits of Putinism. It highlights the importance of maintaining a positive image for Russian public opinion, and how that weighs into the various policy tradeoffs and strategic decisions made by the Kremlin. These more distant, theoretical questions are couched in prescient and timely discussions of Putin’s enduring popularity, the prospects for Russia’s resource-based economy, the role of strategic repression and media manipulation, the roots of frayed relations with the West, and the questionable utility of foreign election meddling and cyber-warfare.

By Timothy Frye,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Weak Strongman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Looking beyond Putin to understand how today's Russia actually works

Media and public discussion tends to understand Russian politics as a direct reflection of Vladimir Putin's seeming omnipotence or Russia's unique history and culture. Yet Russia is remarkably similar to other autocracies-and recognizing this illuminates the inherent limits to Putin's power. Weak Strongman challenges the conventional wisdom about Putin's Russia, highlighting the difficult trade-offs that confront the Kremlin on issues ranging from election fraud and repression to propaganda and foreign policy.

Drawing on three decades of his own on-the-ground experience and research as well as insights from a new generation…


Book cover of Putin's Wars: From Chechnya to Ukraine

Ursula Wong Author Of Amber Wolf

From my list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about Eastern Europe, both past and present, and what it means to have Russia as a neighbor. I write historical fiction and historical thrillers with a soupcon of espionage. I talk about the politics of the day, whether the story is set during WWII or in modern times. While my stories and characters are fictional, I constantly strive to accurately reflect time, place, and, most of all, history. I hope that my novels entertain and inform about a corner of the world folks may not know much about. 

Ursula's book list on books that changed my perspective on Eastern Europe and Russia

Ursula Wong Why did Ursula love this book?

Mr. Galeotti makes Russia’s ever-changing military status read like a spy novel. You might think information about drones, tanks, aircraft, and MANPADS is boring. I beg to differ.

Starting with the disarray caused by the breakup of the Soviet Union, Mr. Galeotti tells us who changed things, who failed to, and why. He matches the retooling of the Russian military to war lessons learned in Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, and Syria.

Mr. Galeotti has intimate knowledge of history, personal connections with individuals in the Russian military, and a brilliant way of putting it all together. He asked a Russian soldier his opinion of a photograph of Putin, who never served in the military, sitting at the controls of a fighter aircraft. The soldier said it was like being married to a virgin; the concept was good, but the experience wasn’t there.

This book is amazing.

By Mark Galeotti,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Putin's Wars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Financial Times - Best books of 2022: Politics 'The prolific military chronicler and analyst Mark Galeotti has produced exactly the right book at the right time.' The Times A new history of how Putin and his conflicts have inexorably reshaped Russia, including his devastating invasion of Ukraine. Putin's Wars is a timely overview of the conflicts in which Russia has been involved since Vladimir Putin became prime minister and then president of Russia, from the First Chechen War to the two military incursions into Georgia, the annexation of Crimea and the eventual invasion of Ukraine itself. But it also…


Book cover of Negotiating the New START Treaty

James Graham Wilson Author Of America's Cold Warrior: Paul Nitze and National Security from Roosevelt to Reagan

From my list on reducing nuclear war risk Cold War to present.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even before recently becoming a dad, I was passionate about reducing the risks of nuclear war. I am also firmly committed to pursuing—yet never fully knowing—the answers when it comes to achieving that. I think that trying to figure out why things happened as they did in the Cold War can sometimes help illuminate partial answers. The late Michael Krepon referred to the period 1985–1992 as the high tide of nuclear agreements and risk reduction, and I retain optimism that it can happen again. Deterrence is equally important. I have spent the past decade working on historical projects covering national security and negotiating sides of the Cold War equation.

James' book list on reducing nuclear war risk Cold War to present

James Graham Wilson Why did James love this book?

I recommend this book because it tells the inside story of what it is like to actually negotiate and get a nuclear arms accord ratified. The word “negotiate” means several things here. For Rose Gottemoeller—as with any head of a delegation—nearly everything required some form of negotiation.

At times I found myself thinking: one-on-one sessions with her hawkish Russian counterpart (Anatoly Antonov, who is currently the Russian Ambassador to the United States) must have been the most pleasant part of the whole ordeal. In that setting, at least you know where the other side stands. There is also mutual empathy between the top negotiators regarding bureaucratic turf wars and demands from on high—such as “get this done by X date.”

Previous nuclear agreements came about during a time of relative political consensus—when President Barack Obama sent Gottemoeller to Capital Hill to generate support for New START after he signed it…

By Rose Gottemoeller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Negotiating the New START Treaty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rose Gottemoeller, the US chief negotiator of the New START treaty—and the first woman to lead a major nuclear arms negotiation—delivers in this book an invaluable insider’s account of the negotiations between the US and Russian delegations in Geneva in 2009 and 2010. It also examines the crucially important discussions about the treaty between President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev, and it describes the tough negotiations Gottemoeller and her team went through to gain the support of the Senate for the treaty. And importantly, at a time when the US Congress stands deeply divided, it tells the story of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, international relations, and World War 1?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Russia, international relations, and World War 1.

Russia Explore 364 books about Russia
International Relations Explore 268 books about international relations
World War 1 Explore 897 books about World War 1