A magisterial chronicle of the calamity that crippled Europe in 1914.
1914: a year of unparalleled change. The year that diplomacy failed, Imperial Europe was thrown into its first modernised warfare and white-gloved soldiers rode in their masses across pastoral landscapes into the blaze of machine–guns. What followed were the costliest days of the entire War. But how had it happened?
In Catastrophe: 1914 Max Hastings, best-selling author of the acclaimed All Hell Let Loose, answers at last how World War I could ever have begun. Ranging across Europe, from Paris to St. Petersberg, from Kings to corporals, Catastrophe 1914 traces how tensions across the continent kindled into a blaze of battles; not the stalemates of later trench-warfare but battles of movement and dash where Napoleonic tactics met with weapons from a newly industrialised age. A searing analysis of the power-brokering, vanity and bluff in the diplomatic maelstrom reveals who was responsible for the birth of this catastrophic world in arms. Mingling the experiences of humbler folk with the statesmen on whom their lives depended, Hastings asks: whose actions were justified?
From the out-break of war through to its terrible making, and the bloody gambles in Sarajevo and Mons, Le Cateau, Marne and Tannenberg, this is the international story of World War I in its most severe and influential period. Published to coincide with its 100th Anniversary, Catastrophe: 1914 explains how and why this war, which shattered and changed the Western world for ever, was fought.
BOOK OF THE YEAR – AS CHOSEN BY THE INDEPENDENT, FINANCIAL TIMES, TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT AND SPECTATOR.
‘Like one of Field Marshal Haig’s family whiskies, Max Hastings is a dram that steadily improves with age … His position as Britain’s leading military historian is now unassailable … In this enormously impressive new book, Hastings effortlessly masters the complex lead-up to and opening weeks of the First World War … [He] is as magisterial as we would expect … This is a magnificent and deeply moving book, and with Max Hastings as our guide we are in the hands of a master’ Nigel Jones, Telegraph
‘Magnificent … Hastings writes with an enviable grasp of pace and balance, as well as an acute eye for human detail. Even for readers who care nothing for the difference between a battalion and a division, his book is at once moving, provocative and utterly engrossing’ Sunday Times
‘Masterly … Hastings is a brilliant guide to that strange, febrile twilight before Europe plunged into darkness. Writing in pungent prose suffused with irony and underpinned by a strong sense of moral outrage … this is history-writing at its best, scholarly and fluent … for anyone wanting to understand how that ghastly, much-misunderstood conflict came about, there could be no better place to start than this fine book’ The Times
‘One could scarcely ask for a better guide to these horrors than Max Hastings … he is a superb writer with a rare gift for evoking the rhythm, mood and raw physical terror of battle … If you are looking for a humane and compelling interpretive chronicle of the formative months of this horrific conflict, you will find none better’ Mail on Sunday
‘Very readable. Character, pace, sense of landscape, battlefield detail – all are superbly done … it's a splendid read’ Observer