Guns of August

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1 The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman A predilection for the high drama of war stories and an appreciation for history as narrative led me explore Barbara W. Tuchman’s The Guns of August , a dramatic, comprehensive and painstakingly detailed account of the beginnings of World War One. Having read her history of fourteenth century Europe, A Distant Mirror, I was eager to see how she would apply her style of taking important individuals of the period and showing how events unfolded through the prism of their experiences, to the subject of the First World War. Moreover, the period is one in which I have long been interested, having been introduced to it through the World War One poets, T. S. Elliot’s The Wasteland and All Quiet on…show more content…
For Germany, 1914 would witness the enthronement of Kultur in Europe and the fulfillment of Germany’s historic mission. As Thomas Mann saw it, “Germans . . . deserved to be the most powerful, to dominate, to establish a ‘German peace’” (311). The French, for their part, in the face of growing German militarism given voice by the Kaiser himself, “possessor of the least inhibited tongue in Europe,” stoked up their furor Gallicae and awaited the moment that had seemed inevitable ever since the Treaty of Versailles had amputated her eastern flank. Aside from nationalistic scores to settle, many other nations were simply “sore-headed and fed up” with “Germany’s clattering of the sword” and saw in the coming conflict hopes for the “moral regeneration of Europe” (312-313). Tuchman sees the parts as well as the whole, and her discussion of cause as it relates to individual battles and the generals involved is psychologically astute without being limiting. She offers plausible explanations for General John French’s lack of will in the defense of Belgium (218) and shows how the breakdown of Plan 17 in the first weeks of the war paved the way for a long and brutal struggle (262), as did the final failure of the Germans’ Schlieffen Plan for a double envelopment of the enemy. The ensuing deadlock
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