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CAUT Bulletin Archives

April 2005

Decisions for War, 1914-1917

Richard F. Hamilton & Holger H. Herwig. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005; 282 pp; ISBN: 0-521-83679-4, hardcover $60 US; ISBN: 0-521-54530-7, paper $17.99 US.
Decisions for War focuses on the choices made by small coteries in Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia, France, Britain and elsewhere to address a common yet perplexing question about World War I - why did it happen? Several of the usual causes for the war are reviewed and discussed. Rather than accepting the argument of the alliance systems, the argument of an accident (or "slide"), or the arguments of mass demands - those focusing on nationalism, militarism and social Darwinism, the authors show how in each country, the decision to enter the war was made by only a handful of individuals - monarchs, ministers, military people, party leaders, ambassadors and others. In each case, we also see separate and distinct agendas, the considerations differing from one nation to the next. The leadership of Japan, the Ottoman Empire, Italy, the Balkans and the United States are explored, as well as that of the major European countries involved.
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