download Prime The Guns of AugustAuthor Barbara W. Tuchman –

Historian And Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Barbara Tuchman Has Brought To Life Again The People And Events That Led Up To World War I With Attention To Fascinating Detail, And An Intense Knowledge Of Her Subject And Its Characters, Ms Tuchman Reveals, For The First Time, Just How The War Started, Why, And How It Could Have Been Stopped But Wasn T A Classic Historical Survey Of A Time And A People We All Need To Know About, THE GUNS OF AUGUST Will Not Be Forgotten

10 thoughts on “The Guns of August

  1. says:

    On the night of the 13th of August 1961 the Government of East Germany began to build the Wall that divided Berlin isolating its Western part within the Communist Eastern block.In 1962, Barbara Tuchman published her Guns of August and the following year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.As many years separate Tuchman s book from the events she discusses as years separate us from the time its publication about half a century.Those two lots of five decades each may explain two different reactions On the one hand Tuchman s choosing as her premise the accountability of Germany and her sole responsibility for the horror of the war, and on the other hand our wider questioning and possibly a skeptical reception of her views The stereotypical view of the Germans as supremely efficient and dangerously single minded is well alive in Tuchman s interpretation when she wrote her account during the Cold War This coined idea is still alive but in a different mode Currently it induces us to think that thank god we have Merkel originally from the communist Germany to steer Europe democratically through its capitalistic mess, and alleviates us when having to accept Germany winning the World Cup for the fourth time this year Our understanding of that war has also moved away from focusing on one sided culpabilities.Tuchman begins her book with the stages that led to the outbreak of the war concentrating on the four great powers only UK, Germany, France and Russia Even Austria and the Balkan troublesome maze are just perfunctorily mentioned For a broader look at the geographic extension of the conflict we have to look elsewhere The bulk of her history is what the title says, the combat that took place at the very beginning of the war, starting with the last week of July and ending with the first of September of 1914.In that she does an excellent job She dissects the period spelling out the accumulation of decisions, many mistaken, which clumsily succeeded each other during those dreadful days She focuses on three arenas the Eastern and Western Fronts, and the Mediterranean After explaining very well two of the major military strategies, the Schlieffen Plan for both the Eastern and Western fronts and the Plan XVII with all their quirks and twists as well as the aberrations in the personalities of those who designed them , she proceeds to show how they failed Her chapters on the invasion of Belgium and northern France are unforgettable The brutality of the German armies in the way they treated the civilians and the cities, leaving in our memories the unforgivable destruction of Louvain and its treasures, as well as the emblematic Reims cathedral in ruins, is the strongest support she could use for postulating Germany as the nation responsible for the war.She devotes less attention to the Eastern front She focuses on what has been called the Battle of Tannenberg , and in her account it serves mostly to prove how the Schlieffen plan had a faulty design To support the Eastern front the Western was too quickly weakened.She closes in with the Battle of Marne and she again proves to be an engaging narrator Building up tension with the approach to Paris she provides a felicitous ending to that episode with the striking story of the heroic taxi drivers transferring the men to the front.The section I found most instructive was the one devoted to the Mediterranean She creates great suspense in the way she narrates the persecution of the German battle cruiser Goeben by the various ships of the Allies The British blundered they did not realize the direction the Goeben was pursuing until it was too late When the German cruiser succeeded in its race and reached the Dardanelles, this prompted the Ottoman Empire, until then neutral, to side with the Central Powers The result was that Russia was cut off from her access to the Mediterranean ports and her trade was blocked Her exports imports dropped by 98 95% respectively paving the way for the continuing growth of domestic troubles until three years later their revolution exploded.This episode has an additional interest In its chapter one can read That morning there arrived at Constantinople the small Italian passenger steamer which had witnessed the Gloucester s action against the Goeben and Breslau Among its passengers were the daughter, son in law and three grandchildren of the American ambassador Mr Henry Morgenthau One of those three children was Barbara Wertheim later Tuchman.Apart from the Pulitzer this book is exceptional because it played a determinant role Margaret MacMillan has underlined in one of her recent interviews that John F Kennedy read it during the time when he had to deal with the Cuban missile crisis, and it made him much aware of the difficulty of controlling when the unexpected happens, so that he made everyone else in his Cabinet and his top military leaders read the book.Tuchman s tendency to rely too much on national stereotypes, which detracts from the credibility of her research and interpretation, is thereby compensated by the role her analysis played in later events And to use another clich , books that do change people s lives, have to have their own special place in our libraries.

  2. says:

    Let s start with a couple items First, there is nothing left to be said about Barbara Tuchman s The Guns of August Second, that is not going to stop me The Guns of August is not only the most famous book written about World War I, it is one of the most famous history books on any topic whatsoever It won the Pulitzer, became a bestseller, was name checked by politicians, and still provides a tidy sum to Tuchman s heirs and designees Even today, if you do a general search for World War I on , this is the first thing to pop up, even though it was originally published in 1962 This actually isn t my first time reading this Ten years ago, I tore through it during the weekend I was waiting for my bar exam results A weekend, I hasten to add, with not a little anxiety and cocktail consumption I m pretty sure I loved it I m also pretty sure it didn t penetrate very far I decided to read it again as part of my WWI centenary reading project to gauge if my vague, decade ago recollections were correct They were This is an awesome book The Guns of August covers the first month of World War I as fighting erupts on both the Western and Eastern Fronts Famously, however, Tuchman begins in May 1910 with the sight of nine kings riding in the funeral of King Edward VII of England T he crowd, waiting in hushed and black clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braids, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun After them came five heirs apparent, forty imperial or royal high nesses, seven queens four dowager and three regent and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last.Tuchman uses the chapter on King Edward s funeral to give a brisk overview of the troublesome context that brought Europe to cataclysm in 1914 The next section covers the operational plans and purposes of the four main belligerents Germany, wedded to the grand sweeping offensive devised by Schlieffen France, haunted by defeat in the Franco Prussian War Great Britain, blessed with a mighty navy and small Regular Army and Russia, the feared steamroller with legions in numbers like the stars Each of these nations had engaged a delicate balancing act in which old friends became enemies, old enemies became friends, and all sides seemed simultaneously convinced that war would never come and war had to come Tuchman s setup is relatively quick In well less than 100 pages, she broadly sketches the strategic situation at the time of Archduke Ferdinand s assassination in Sarajevo The July Crisis is handled even faster In a page in a half, Tuchman dispenses with a fraught month over which thousands of gallons of ink have been expended This brings us to the heart of the book the events of August 1914 The early days of the month are spent on Great Britain s decision to uphold both Belgium neutrality and their tacit wink wink nudge nudge understanding with France Once Great Britain made it clear she would not sit on the sidelines, German troops began crossing the border into Belgium, beginning what Moltke called the struggle that will decide the course of history for the next hundred years Moltke, otherwise a failure, certainly pegged this right Thus begins the battle section of The Guns of August, which comprises the bulk of the narrative Tuchman covers the siege of Liege, the French thrust into Alsace, the Battle of the Frontiers, the arrival of the British Expeditionary Force, the invasion of East Prussia by Russia, and the Battle of Tannenberg When the book ends, the pieces are all in place for the Battle of the Marne, which transformed the conflict from a war of maneuver into a war of trenches, barbed wire, and mechanized slaughter You might have noticed the absence of events involving Austria Hungary or Serbia in that list For some reason, they are almost entirely left out of the book Belgian troops fighting outside LiegeWorld War I battles are overwhelming I ve found that it s a rare author who can make them even partly imaginable Earlier battles like Waterloo or Gettysburg took place on comprehendible fields that you can walk to this day Not so with these titanic clashes Here, you have fronts of 40 to 80 miles, with armies of upwards of a million men Often times the recounting of these fights devolve into a confusing Roman numeral soup of Armies, Corps, and Divisions moving hither and yon, crossing rivers and capturing intersections and moving through quaint little villages Unless you have a very good map sitting next to you, it s nearly impossible for any but the most devoted to fully grasp all the troop movements Here, Tuchman makes the wise choice to take a pretty macro view of the battles, usually at the Corps level Even so, it can be a lot to absorb Moreover, her choice to look at things with a wide angle lens means that the proceedings are filtered through the eyes of God and the generals, rather than the tactile experiences of soldiers As military history, this might come up a bit short But in other areas, Tuchman excels She is excellent at the personalities, bringing a dry, sardonic wit to the characters populating this crowded stage Take, for instance, her brilliant evocation of General Joseph Joffre, the French Commander in Chief Every morning at eight o clock Joffree presided at meetings of the section chiefs, a majestic and immobile arbiter but never the puppet of his entourage as outsiders, misled by his silence and his bare desk, supposed He kept no papers on his desk and no map on his wall he wrote nothing and said little Plans were prepared for him, said Foch he weighs them and decides There were few who did not tremble in his presence Anyone who was five minutes late at his mess was treated to a thunderous frown and remained an outcast for the remainder of the meal Joffre ate in silence with a gourmet s entire devotion to the food He complained continuously of being kept in the dark by his staff He used to rub his forehead, murmuring Poor Joffre which his staff came to recognize as his way of refusing to do something that was being urged upon him He was angered by anyone who tried too openly to make him change his mind Like Talleyrand he disapproved of too much zeal.Joffre Lover of good food and rest Not to be confused with the evil boy king of the Seven KingdomsTuchman can be pretty sharp, noting continuously how Joffre never missed a meal or an hour s sleep But at the same time, she is sympathetic to the humanity of all involved She presents a very mechanistic view of the outbreak of war, how dogmas like the cult of the offensive and master plans such as Schlieffen s right wing dictated the early stages At the same time, she recognizes that these were only plans, and that at any point, someone could have changed them She also recognizes that many of these men were not capable of that.Tuchman is also the master of the literary set piece Her opening paragraph, quoted partially above, is Exhibit A in how to hook a reader and deliver a scene Her handling of the escape of the German battle cruiser Goeben an incident Tuchman initially wanted to devote an entire book to is masterful, and shows how individual decisions can greatly affect the outcome grand events The Goeben and the Breslau both escaped the Germans by entering the Dardanelles and presenting themselves to the Ottomans as a gift This helped pull the Ottoman Empire into the war on Germany s side What followed Gallipoli, Sykes Picot has ramifications that are still felt today The Goeben sails off into historyFor whatever reason, I had it in mind that this was a good WWI starter book Upon rereading, I don t think that s the case It s fantastic, but complex enough to require a bit of background reading in order to fully engage it I could go on, but I ve already gone on longer than necessary It s all been said before The critics are right The Guns of August lives up to its lofty reputation.

  3. says:

    The Guns of August is the first book I read about the Great War or, as I knew it, World War One The Guns of August is also the first substantial information I obtained about this war I was born in Germany, in 1939 My family, then containing of my parents, my biological maternal grandmother, and my adoptive maternal grandmother my biological grand aunt , talked very little about WWI, probably because WWII was raging, food as well as all other supplies were scarce, and we were surrounded by Nazis, some of them murderous SS criminals In other words My family had plenty of present issues to worry about WWI was history, snow of yesterday.When I went to school college, history education stopped before 1900 Teachers shied away from recent history It was too touchy a subject I never even saw related books in bookstores or libraries For these reasons, I was totally ignorant of European 20th century history Once I joined Goodreads and discovered , I started to devour non fiction books about the Third Reich, WWII, and the Holocaust, and I am still not finished reading about this era Yet when August 2014 arrived, I thought it appropriate to read, at least, one book about WWI So I read The Guns of August.This book had me in shock My family members had disliked Kaiser Wilhelm II and had mentioned than once that he had been rather stupid However, nothing had me prepared for what I read in The Guns of August I had not had a clue that he had been a warmonger with zero regard for human lives Neither had I had a clue that his chancellor and his generals had not been any better I had known these prototypes of rigid, narrow minded Germans you can still find some today , yet to find a German emperor and the politicians and generals surrounding him not only caricatures of dislikable Germans but also evil warmongers and indifferent about human suffering is something I have not been able to get over, six weeks after finishing reading the book.Yes, most politicians and generals of the other countries who would get involved were not exactly saints either Yes, the German armies were functional than the rather dysfunctional French, British, and Russian armies What is there to say I came away with great admiration for the King of Belgium, who seemed to be the only head of state of participating countries who was totally innocent, who cared about human lives, and whose decisions were guided by wisdom and common sense What utterly surprised me was the incompetence of the French leadership and its lack of organization Any business owner would go bankrupt in no time being as dysfunctional as the French war machine, not even to speak of the Russians, whose incompetence would have been a joke, had it not cost so many lives Yet whatever I read, my thoughts returned to Kaiser Wilhelm II and his generals, especially general Moltke How can anyone plan and start a war with so little reason and with total disregard for human lives How can anyone send millions of young men to their deaths without a solid cause Was Wilhelm II the main culprit I would say so And to think that he was not hanged as a war criminal along with a bunch of his generals , but comfortably retired This makes my blood boil.I know I should say something about the superb writing style of Barbara Tuchman, her ironic wits, and the thoroughly researched contents of the book So I ll try Yes, the book is superbly written, even though I, occasionally, found it going a bit too much into military details for readers with no military background and I also had trouble with a number of tapeworm sentences which remained unclear to me A few commas would have helped This is why I rated the book only 4 stars It just didn t make it to the full 5 stars on my scale Yet if the system allowed for it, I would have given 4 1 2 stars.Oh, I almost forgot My adoptive grandfather my biological grand aunt s husband was drafted as a reserve officer, a captain, into the Bavarian army He fought in the Vosges He returned uninjured, after the war I still have two carved walking sticks he brought back from the Vosges as souvenirs Yet this is all I know about my adoptive grandfather s engagement in WWI, other than that he and his wife my grand aunt adopted my mother when the war broke out This was for financial reasons Had my mother s uncle been killed in the war, my mother, as his adopted daughter, would have received an orphan s pension This would have enabled my mother s aunt, had she been widowed, to keep up her lifestyle, which would have meant continuing to employ her sister, my biological grandmother, as her cook and what we would call nowadays household manager My mother s biological father had died, at age 42, before the war, while only been engaged to my grandmother He had been an atheist, and my great grandmother, a devoted Catholic, had forbidden the marriage I do not remember my adopted grandfather He died in 1940, when I was a baby I only know him from photographs and from tales of my family members I was told that he had been a good man, kind and compassionate So I am sure that he was not the prototype of a German officer, such as those described in The Guns of August.I know this is not much of a review, but this is all I could think about when reading this book that shook me in my bones.For sound accounts of the book, please see the following reviews

  4. says:

    Well, how d you do, Private Willie McBride, First Class do you mind if I sit down down here by your graveside It s so nice to rest for awhile in the warm summer sun I ve been walking all day and I m nearly done in Well So, Willie I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen when you joined the glorious fallen 1916 a long time ago now Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean But Private Willie McBride, it could have been slow and obscene Let s not think of that And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined And, though you died back in 1916, to that loyal heart you d be forever nineteen Or some bollocks like that That s what they say, isn t it Sorry to have to tell you but you re probably a stranger, without even a name, peering out from some forgotten glass pane, in an old photograph, in a drawer, torn and tattered and stained, or fading to yellow in a brown leather frame Well, take a look around now It s a beautiful day The sun s shining down on these green fields of France Feel that, Willie No, I suppose you don t The warm wind blows gently, and look, the red poppies are dancing just like they re supposed to The trenches have all gone, all ploughed under It s a lovely place now There s no gas and no barbed wire, no guns firing now But I suppose here in this graveyard it s still No Man s Land see how many white crosses there are well, I couldn t count them all But at least you re not alone, Willie, eh There was umpteen thousands like you But you know I can t help but wonder now, Private Willie McBride, First Class do all those who lie here know why they died I mean, did you really believe that your war would end wars Because that s what they said You ll remember that Because, you know, the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame, the killing, the dying, it was all done in vain, Willie It all happened again And again, and again, and again, and again Anyway, that s enough from me I ll bid you good day I ve got another five miles to go Thanks for your time with many apologies to Eric Bogle and his great song The Green Fields of France

  5. says:

    This is an impressive work on the buildup to World War I and the first month of fighting I wanted to read this book after a re read of All Quiet on the Western Front, to better understand the war I ve heard The Guns of August described as one of the best books about WWI ever written, and while I haven t read enough to testify to that, I do think it was an interesting and insightful work, and I d recommend it to history buffs.I listened to The Guns of August on audio, and I enjoyed the narration by Nadia May My one frustration with this book is that Tuchman had so many countries to cover the French, Germans, British, Russians and even Belgians were included that sometimes Tuchman would be relating a long story, and by the end I d be confused about which government she had been talking about This problem probably would have been eased had I been reading in print, where it s easier to flip back a few pages and be reminded about the context Frequently I had to hit rewind to try and catch up with the narrative.Overall, I enjoyed learning about the first world war, and especially the events that led up to it One of my big takeaways was how gung ho Germany was to invade France, and they had elaborate and unrealistic plans about how quickly they could win such a war, despite warnings to the contrary In hindsight, the world seemed destined to fight this war, because not even common sense was able to stop it.Favorite Quote In Whitehall that evening, Sir Edward Grey, standing with a friend at the window as the street lamps below were being lit, made the remark that has since epitomized the hour The lamps are going out all over Europe we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.

  6. says:

    You could almost be excused for thinking that the highest praise one could give a work of non fiction would be that it reads like a work of fiction I haven t looked at any of the other reviews for this book yet, but I would be prepared to bet that many of them say this read like a novel And it is an incredibly dramatic story and some of the characters are larger than life but this is no novel.I say that because in a novel you expect at least some of the characters to develop during it and the horrible thing about this story is how few of the characters learnt a bloody thing As a case in point It might sound like I m anti French, I know, but I can t help it All of the countries were stupid, but the French were absurd, and that is something else I ve been telling people about this book and these have been the things I have been telling them A Frenchman goes over to watch the Japanese beat the Russians in a war that was held just before the First World War, a mere decade before the date this book is set What did he notice in his watching He noticed that it is generally not a good idea to charge against people with machine guns After, when he mentioned this to other French generals they decided that he was a coward He said that wearing a uniform that featured a bright blue coat and bright red trousers might be the equivalent of wearing a bull s eye tied around your neck and a neon sign saying shoot here His saying this was considered not only utterly outrageous but also an insult to French soldiers When there was a suggestion that the French should use BIG guns, the commanders in charge of infantry rejected the suggestion as big cannons would only slow them down.The lesson is that you can change the technology, but people might not understand what that change will mean In fact, they probably won t They may still want to charge in front of machine guns wearing red trousers and showing the world how brave they are Or they might assume that the new communications technology that worked so well in training will work just as well in the chaos of war This is a book about a world that has just changed forever and how hard it was for people to realise just what changes had been wrought It is about how fixed people are in their views, particularly when those views are based on plans that have been worked out in detail for years It is about how hard it is to admit you are wrong, even when all evidence is pointing to the fact It is about how sometimes people will effectively choose death rather than admit they made a mistake.There is a horrible sense in which this book will help to confirm all of your worst fears about humanity World War One was the opening nightmare of our modern world And this book looks at the first month of the war, how that month raced towards war and nearly rushed towards the fall of Paris, and left me despairing for humanity.I couldn t get over how many generals were supporters of Nietzsche and his views on the will to power The idea that a great man will use his will power to create a world in his image That it does not matter how many enemies you face, that all it takes is courage to prevail And when their armies were beaten back by superior fire power, larger armies and crippled by there being no supplies these same generals put it all down to their soldiers lack of courage or lack of will.All I knew about the start of the war before reading this book was that some Prince got killed in the Balkans, Austria and Germany had a pact that meant if one was attacked the other would have to fight with them Russia, France and England were in much the same situation The world started fighting, soldiers dug tranches and everything stayed like that until they called it quits Oh, and lots and lots of people died.I had no idea how close Germany came to winning the war against France in that first month This really is a gripping story, but it is still not a novel In fact, I kept thinking that this would make a much better film than a novel And it would make an amazing film The conversations between members of parliament and generals and kings are invariably remarkable This is well worth getting your hands on Thanks to Richard for recommending it to me.

  7. says:

    After reading this book 100 years, sometimes to the day, after some of the events happened, it is difficult to know what to say Others have written so many excellent reviews I believe that I will focus on reaction for my review reaction 100 years after the fact to the apparent ease with which the European world, and then much , slid into an horrific spilling of blood, the ease with which several leaders gave orders which condemned millions of people to death cities, towns, even small nations to near or total destruction.The pressure for this war had been building for years from what I have read The Germans feared being encircled within Europe They feared that the rest of Europe was excluding them from various treaties The war of brinksmanship had been underway for some time The British had the best Navy and also had no intention of allowing that fact to change Ego Power Money Yes they are the same reasons that wars are fought today Just different weaponry Then it was mud filled trenches Men being mowed down by machine guns or by hand thrown bombs , early grenades The wounded, if lucky might live to fight again If horribly unlucky, might die out in No Man s Land, alone and unaided, between lines.This went on for four years as generals on all sides pushed their men to impossible lengths It was devastating And also devastating to civilians, especially those who happened to be in the path of the German army who adopted a policy of, essentially, teaching all a lesson I had intended to write a review making note of Tuchman s excellent writing and scholarship, with examples of both, but I find I cannot I am simply too tired, too worn out by the reading, too worn out by this horrible war Of course I also read Chevalier s excellent Fear A Novel of World War I which brought the general down to the specific and perhaps tired me But in the end perhaps Tuchman achieved her purpose in me I hate what I saw in that world of August, 1914.I do recommend this book to any who have not read it.

  8. says:

    Brilliant There s no other word for it.

  9. says:

    6.0 stars WOW This book was AMAZING I have always been very interested in World War II and have read quite a few books on the subject However, until reading THIS book I had never endeavored to learn anything than the basics of World War I With the reading of this incredible book, I have taken a tremendous step towards correcting that deficit Focusing on the first 30 days of World War I hence the title , this beautifully written book addresses in great detail the causes for the conflict, the preparations made by the future combatants and the incredible chain of events that led to the war At over 600 pages and dealing with only the first 30 days, you might think this book would be overly dry and long winded NOTHING could be further from the truth This was incredibly entertaining as well as informative HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION

  10. says:

    I ve been reading a fair bit about dubya dubya 2 recently but my knowledge of dubya dubya 1 consists of what I dimly recollect from school That is arms race, Franz Ferdinand, something something, the Somme, gas gas quick boys, Versailles I also remember visiting the massive marble monument the Canadians built at Vimy ridge The 21 years separating 1918 and 1939 are not a great length of time There s something to be said for the thesis that the two world wars should be understood as one extended conflict with a brief breather in the middle Hitler s invasion of France in 1940 bears than a passing resemblance to the Schlieffen plan With the fall of three major empires the Ottoman, the Austro Hungarian and the Russian, the first world war probably has a greater claim than the second to the title of the defining event of the twentieth century Tuchman is gifted at spinning a narrative and at vividly describing the key personalities The book is extremely readable, even rollicking On the other hand she has a fetishistic obsession with the minutiae of troop movements where I would be interested in overarching and underlying socio political themes There s relatively little here about nationalism and imperialism, domestic politics or popular opinion of the war Practically all we get on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand is Bismarck s prescient quip that the Great War would be kicked off by some damn foolish thing in the Balkans.As an easy introduction for someone who knows little about the first world war, it s excellent For depth and substance there are doubtless other places to look I ll take recommendations.