In This Review

Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?
Europe's Last Summer: Who Started the Great War in 1914?
By David Fromkin
Knopf, 2004, 368 pp

World War I is again attracting a great deal of academic and journalistic interest. Fromkin treats it as a murder mystery, with great success. After a crisp, lively, day-by-day account of that fateful summer, he concludes that what struck Europe in June 1914 was anything but "jagged lightning flashing suddenly across a summer sky"; it was, rather, a powder keg ready to explode long before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28. (After all, Germany's military leaders had begun to advocate preventive war against Russia and France as early as 1905, and Vienna had begun to draft an ultimatum against Serbia two weeks before the assassination.) The blame for this explosion Fromkin pins squarely on Germany and Austria, or at least on the "small governing cliques" that were responsible for the war. Fromkin sees the war as a struggle for mastery in Europe, not for empire. And his bleak conclusion is that, since it takes only one to start a war, it could happen again. This book, both decisive and nuanced, is as convincing as its story is appalling.