Catastrophe 1914 by Max Hastings Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
Max Hastings

Vintage Books

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“. . .not the slow trench warfare usually associated with the first world war . . .”

Military historian Max Hastings brings order to the horrific chaos and bloodshed that was the opening of the Great War in Catastrophe 1914. Looking deeply into the source of the brutal conflict and the attitude of its various players—military, political and civilian—the reader gains insight into the bigger picture of nations gone mad with self-centered motives at the expense of the suffering of millions.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was never a well-liked person, but his assassination (one of many in that day) became a convenient excuse for Kaiser Wilhelm’s war machine to flex its muscle. Hastings details the deliberate machinations of how the Austro-Hungarians are convinced by the Germans that now is the time to regain land they both lost in previous conflicts. By declaring war on tiny Serbia, the Hapsburg Empire awakens the giant Russia, who will aid their fellow Slavs. Germany then grabs the opportunity to take on the despised Russians as well as their allies, the French. However, the Germans feel confident they’ll enjoy British sympathy as a “white race” who admires their culture, until they make the mistake of invading neutral Belgium. The auspicious start of war sees outdated tactics such as cavalry charges and drum corps against machine guns, virtually non-existent coordination of forces on both sides, and the Germans’ official sanctioning of killing civilians and burning villages in their wake. This is not the slow trench warfare usually associated with the first world war, but its exceedingly deadly and destructive precursor. Catastrophe 1914 demonstrates how the self-delusional reasoning behind a war for economic gain can change the world forever.

Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews