The Guns Of August: The Outbreak Of World War I; Barbara W. Tuchman's Great War Series

Paperback | March 8, 1994

byBarbara W. Tuchman

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Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

The Proud Tower, the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Guns of August, and The Zimmerman Telegram comprise Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic histories of the First World War era

In this landmark, Pulitzer Prize–winning account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world. Beginning with the funeral of Edward VII, Tuchman traces each step that led to the inevitable clash. And inevitable it was, with all sides plotting their war for a generation. Dizzyingly comprehensive and spectacularly portrayed with her famous talent for evoking the characters of the war’s key players, Tuchman’s magnum opus is a classic for the ages.
 
Praise for The Guns of August
 
“A brilliant piece of military history which proves up to the hilt the force of Winston Churchill’s statement that the first month of World War I was ‘a drama never surpassed.’”Newsweek
 
“More dramatic than fiction . . . a magnificent narrative—beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained.”Chicago Tribune
 
“A fine demonstration that with sufficient art rather specialized history can be raised to the level of literature.”The New York Times
 
“[The Guns of August] has a vitality that transcends its narrative virtues, which are considerable, and its feel for characterizations, which is excellent.”The Wall Street Journal

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From Our Editors

A definitive Pulitzer Prize-winning recreation of the powderkeg that was Europe during the crucial first thirty days of World War I traces the actions of statesmen and patriots alike in Berlin, London, St. Petersburg, and Paris. Reprint. NYT.

From the Publisher

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all timeThe Proud Tower, the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Guns of August, and The Zimmerman Telegram comprise Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic histories of the First World War eraIn this landmark, Pulitzer Prize–winning account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the sum...

From the Jacket

"More dramtatic than fiction...THE GUNS OF AUGUST is a magnificent narrative--beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained....The product of painstaking and sophisticated research."CHICAGO TRIBUNEHistorian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people and events that led up to Worl War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and...

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912–1989) achieved prominence as a historian with The Zimmermann Telegram and international fame with The Guns of August—a huge bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Bible and Sword, The Proud Tower, Stilwell and the American Experience in China (for which Tuchman was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize), Notes from China, A Distant Mirror, Practicing History, The March...

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The Proud Tower: A Portrait Of The World Before The War, 1890-1914; Barbara W. Tuchman's Great War…
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Format:PaperbackDimensions:608 pages, 8.23 × 5.45 × 1.27 inPublished:March 8, 1994Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:034538623X

ISBN - 13:9780345386236

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from The great war I began with few reservations and prejudices not only because the author was a woman but also was not a scholar. Surprisingly I was better at conjuring the battlefields, position of the armies. Tuchman also perfectly conveys the military and political figures. It's a great book about the great war.
Date published: 2014-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. An excellent read and very timely considering that it was published in 1962. An excellent read and very timely. Who could believe there was so much action in the first month of a war that lasted for more than 50 months
Date published: 2014-09-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificent I excuse my 'puny' review in light of what others have said. My review is of the paperback version, DON'T buy it. The maps are virtually useless with this type of binding. Go for a hardcover.!
Date published: 2014-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling Read Tuchman is "a writer of wit and grace" according to the New York Times. "She has a sardonic sense of humor and an original mind." I found her book about how WWI evolved, both compelling and repulsive. I gulped it in, as though inhaling halting breaths, engrossed in the horrific sadness of it all, putting the book down with a heavy and ponderous sigh, then picking it up again, needing to learn more. Tuchman's writing flows gracefully and she knows just how much detail to bring into this sweeping tale of a "tragedy of errors". Newsweek said it best, I think: "Tuchman is able to evoke both the enormous pattern of the tragedy and the minutiae which make it human" in what must surely be one of history's saddest moments.
Date published: 2008-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Master History Teller at her Best Barbara Tuchman takes us through a vivid exploration of the begining of the most important historical event of the century. Finally a master story teller presents the great debate of the start of the second world war with interesting detail and unbias historical accuracy. A definite must read for anyone who would even consider themselves a serious historian or just a passionate reader of history.
Date published: 2001-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Guns of August This is one of the best books I have ever read about anything and for anyone with a sense of history and even the remotest interest in the subject or period is a must read. It is riveting from the outset. If you are not enthralled by the first paragraph put it down and forget it. It may not be for you.
Date published: 2000-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Balanced, insightful, entertaining This is an entertaining book about the first month ofWWI. The scope is the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo to the eve of the Marne (including Tannenburg on the eastern front). Because most of the early action in WWI occurs in the western front, the book concentrates there. It develops the Schlieffen Plan and the French Plan 17 and explains how the high commands of both countries attempt to carry out these plans. Tuchman gives all sides of a disagreement in policy or action. This even-handed account is most welcome. An example is her treatment of Lanrezac, commander of the French 5th army at the start of the war - she points out that he was essential in preventing the Germans from turning the French flank in the early battles, but then agrees with his dismissal at the eve of the Marne: "...not the man to lead the offensive." The only person she completely villifies is Sir John French of the BEF. Most importantly, the book is very well-written, enjoyable and clear to read, and even witty. Unfortunately, there are some spots with vague allusions to historical events and people without explanantion. While a practising historian probably finds this humourous or helpful, it is murky for an amateur. This is a minor point; on the whole, this book is stellar.
Date published: 2000-06-28

Extra Content

Read from the Book

1A FuneralSo gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the 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 braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens—four dowager and three regnant—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. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history’s clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.In the center of the front row rode the new king, George V, flanked on his left by the Duke of Connaught, the late king’s only surviving brother, and on his right by a personage to whom, acknowledged The Times, “belongs the first place among all the foreign mourners,” who “even when relations are most strained has never lost his popularity amongst us”—William II, the German Emperor. Mounted on a gray horse, wearing the scarlet uniform of a British Field Marshal, carrying the baton of that rank, the Kaiser had composed his features behind the famous upturned mustache in an expression “grave even to severity.” Of the several emotions churning his susceptible breast, some hints exist in his letters. “I am proud to call this place my home and to be a member of this royal family,” he wrote home after spending the night in Windsor Castle in the former apartments of his mother. Sentiment and nostalgia induced by these melancholy occasions with his English relatives jostled with pride in his supremacy among the assembled potentates and with a fierce relish in the disappearance of his uncle from the European scene. He had come to bury Edward his bane; Edward the arch plotter, as William conceived it, of Germany’s encirclement; Edward his mother’s brother whom he could neither bully nor impress, whose fat figure cast a shadow between Germany and the sun. “He is Satan. You cannot imagine what a Satan he is!”This verdict, announced by the Kaiser before a dinner of three hundred guests in Berlin in 1907, was occasioned by one of Edward’s continental tours undertaken with clearly diabolical designs at encirclement. He had spent a provocative week in Paris, visited for no good reason the King of Spain (who had just married his niece), and finished with a visit to the King of Italy with obvious intent to seduce him from his Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria. The Kaiser, possessor of the least inhibited tongue in Europe, had worked himself into a frenzy ending in another of those comments that had periodically over the past twenty years of his reign shattered the nerves of diplomats.Happily the Encircler was now dead and replaced by George who, the Kaiser told Theodore Roosevelt a few days before the funeral, was “a very nice boy” (of forty-five, six years younger than the Kaiser). “He is a thorough Englishman and hates all foreigners but I do not mind that as long as he does not hate Germans more than other foreigners.” Alongside George, William now rode confidently, saluting as he passed the regimental colors of the 1st Royal Dragoons of which he was honorary colonel. Once he had distributed photographs of himself wearing their uniform with the Delphic inscription written above his signature, “I bide my time.” Today his time had come; he was supreme in Europe.Behind him rode the widowed Queen Alexandra’s two brothers, King Frederick of Denmark and King George of the Hellenes; her nephew, King Haakon of Norway; and three kings who were to lose their thrones: Alfonso of Spain, Manuel of Portugal and, wearing a silk turban, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria who annoyed his fellow sovereigns by calling himself Czar and kept in a chest a Byzantine Emperor’s full regalia, acquired from a theatrical costumer, against the day when he should reassemble the Byzantine dominions beneath his scepter.Dazzled by these “splendidly mounted princes,” as The Times called them, few observers had eyes for the ninth king, the only one among them who was to achieve greatness as a man. Despite his great height and perfect horsemanship, Albert, King of the Belgians, who disliked the pomp of royal ceremony, contrived in that company to look both embarrassed and absentminded. He was then thirty-five and had been on the throne barely a year. In later years when his face became known to the world as a symbol of heroism and tragedy, it still always wore that abstracted look, as if his mind were on something else.The future source of tragedy, tall, corpulent, and corseted, with green plumes waving from his helmet, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the old Emperor Franz Josef, rode on Albert’s right, and on his left another scion who would never reach his throne, Prince Yussuf, heir of the Sultan of Turkey. After the kings came the royal highnesses: Prince Fushimi, brother of the Emperor of Japan; Grand Duke Michael, brother of the Czar of Russia; the Duke of Aosta in bright blue with green plumes, brother of the King of Italy; Prince Carl, brother of the King of Sweden; Prince Henry, consort of the Queen of Holland; and the Crown Princes of Serbia, Rumania, and Montenegro. The last named, Prince Danilo, “an amiable, extremely handsome young man of delightful manners,” resembled the Merry Widow’s lover in more than name, for, to the consternation of British functionaries, he had arrived the night before accompanied by a “charming young lady of great personal attractions” whom he introduced as his wife’s lady in waiting with the explanation that she had come to London to do some shopping.A regiment of minor German royalty followed: rulers of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Waldeck-Pyrmont, Saxe-Coburg Gotha, of Saxony, Hesse, Württemberg, Baden, and Bavaria, of whom the last, Crown Prince Rupprecht, was soon to lead a German army in battle. There were a Prince of Siam, a Prince of Persia, five princes of the former French royal house of Orléans, a brother of the Khedive of Egypt wearing a gold-tasseled fez, Prince Tsia-tao of China in an embroidered light-blue gown whose ancient dynasty had two more years to run, and the Kaiser’s brother, Prince Henry of Prussia, representing the German Navy, of which he was Commander in Chief. Amid all this magnificence were three civilian-coated gentlemen, M. Gaston-Carlin of Switzerland, M. Pichon, Foreign Minister of France, and former President Theodore Roosevelt, special envoy of the United States.Edward, the object of this unprecedented gathering of nations, was often called the “Uncle of Europe,” a title which, insofar as Europe’s ruling houses were meant, could be taken literally. He was the uncle not only of Kaiser Wilhelm but also, through his wife’s sister, the Dowager Empress Marie of Russia, of Czar Nicolas II. His own niece Alix was the Czarina; his daughter Maud was Queen of Norway; another niece, Ena, was Queen of Spain; a third niece, Marie, was soon to be Queen of Rumania. The Danish family of his wife, besides occupying the throne of Denmark, had mothered the Czar of Russia and supplied kings to Greece and Norway. Other relatives, the progeny at various removes of Queen Victoria’s nine sons and daughters, were scattered in abundance throughout the courts of Europe.Yet not family feeling alone nor even the suddenness and shock of Edward’s death—for to public knowledge he had been ill one day and dead the next—accounted for the unexpected flood of condolences at his passing. It was in fact a tribute to Edward’s great gifts as a sociable king which had proved invaluable to his country. In the nine short years of his reign England’s splendid isolation had given way, under pressure, to a series of “understandings” or attachments, but not quite alliances—for England dislikes the definitive—with two old enemies, France and Russia, and one promising new power, Japan. The resulting shift in balance registered itself around the world and affected every state’s relations with every other. Though Edward neither initiated nor influenced his country’s policy, his personal diplomacy helped to make the change possible.Taken as a child to visit France, he had said to Napoleon III: “You have a nice country. I would like to be your son.” This preference for things French, in contrast to or perhaps in protest against his mother’s for the Germanic, lasted, and after her death was put to use. When England, growing edgy over the challenge implicit in Germany’s Naval Program of 1900, decided to patch up old quarrels with France, Edward’s talents as Roi Charmeur smoothed the way. In 1903 he went to Paris, disregarding advice that an official state visit would find a cold welcome. On his arrival the crowds were sullen and silent except for a few taunting cries of “Vivent les Boers!” and “Vive Fashoda!” which the King ignored. To a worried aide who muttered, “The French don’t like us,” he replied, “Why should they?” and continued bowing and smiling from his carriage.For four days he made appearances, reviewed troops at Vincennes, attended the races at Longchamps, a gala at the Opéra, a state banquet at the Elysée, a luncheon at the Quai d’Orsay and, at the theater, transformed a chill into smiles by mingling with the audience in the entr’acte and paying gallant compliments in French to a famous actress in the lobby. Everywhere he made gracious and tactful speeches about his friendship and admiration for the French, their “glorious traditions,” their “beautiful city,” for which he confessed an attachment “fortified by many happy memories,” his “sincere pleasure” in the visit, his belief that old misunderstandings are “happily over and forgotten,” that the mutual prosperity of France and England was interdependent and their friendship his “constant preoccupation.” When he left, the crowds now shouted, “Vive notre roi!” “Seldom has such a complete change of attitude been seen as that which has taken place in this country. He has won the hearts of all the French,” a Belgian diplomat reported. The German ambassador thought the King’s visit was “a most odd affair,” and supposed that an Anglo-French rapprochement was the result of a “general aversion to Germany.” Within a year, after hard work by ministers settling disputes, the rapprochement became the Anglo-French Entente, signed in April, 1904.Germany might have had an English entente for herself had not her leaders, suspecting English motives, rebuffed the overtures of the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, in 1899 and again in 1901. Neither the shadowy Holstein who conducted Germany’s foreign affairs from behind the scenes nor the elegant and erudite Chancellor, Prince Bülow, nor the Kaiser himself was quite sure what they suspected England of but they were certain it was something perfidious. The Kaiser always wanted an agreement with England if he could get one without seeming to want it. Once, affected by English surroundings and family sentiment at the funeral of Queen Victoria, he allowed himself to confess the wish to Edward. “Not a mouse could stir in Europe without our permission,” was the way he visualized an Anglo-German alliance. But as soon as the English showed signs of willingness, he and his ministers veered off, suspecting some trick. Fearing to be taken advantage of at the conference table, they preferred to stay away altogether and depend upon an ever-growing navy to frighten the English into coming to terms.Bismarck had warned Germany to be content with land power, but his successors were neither separately nor col- lectively Bismarcks. He had pursued clearly seen goals unswervingly; they groped for larger horizons with no clear idea of what they wanted. Holstein was a Machiavelli without a policy who operated on only one principle: suspect everyone. Bülow had no principles; he was so slippery, lamented his colleague Admiral Tirpitz, that compared to him an eel was a leech. The flashing, inconstant, always freshly inspired Kaiser had a different goal every hour, and practiced diplomacy as an exercise in perpetual motion.