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[[File:French_soldiers.jpg|thumbnail|left|300px|French soldiers flaming German trenches in Flanders]]
The First World War was an incredibly destructive and wide ranging catastrophe. Not only did it dramatically change the map of Europe and the world and it led to further instability. The First World War was one of the most important wars in human history. There has long been a debate about the exact cause of the First World War. The assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand triggered the war but its ultimate causes were far more complex. These works all tend to agree that no government wanted to start a general war in Europe and dismiss the old idea that Germany was solely responsible for the war. They books shift blame for the immediate start of the war either on the miscalculations or errors of judgments of politicians. They also all agree that nationalism and international rivalry encouraged reckless decision making by governments and the militaries.
275px|[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345476093/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0345476093&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=78538aecb1e3ec8e2a8768740f38b078 The Guns of August]]]
Barbara Tuchman. <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345476093/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0345476093&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=78538aecb1e3ec8e2a8768740f38b078 The Guns of August]</i> (1962)
Barabara Tuchman's Pulitzer Prize winning book narrates and analyzes the immediate causes of the war. She discusses the strategies and policies of all those involved in the declaration of war. The book is a work of diplomatic and political history and Tuchman outlines the series of errors that according to her led to the onset of war. She asserts that none of those involved envisaged that any conflict in 1914 could become a global conflict. Tuchman believed that politicians and soldiers underestimated the possibility that Europe could descend into a general war. Politicians miscalculated that economic ties would mean that war would be averted because all the European nations were economically interdependent. The military mistakenly believed that any conflict would be limited. These miscalculations resulted in politicians and generals making decisions without considering their impact and this was to plunge the continent into war.
Gordon Martel. <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1405874317/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1405874317&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=dae35f8407a1cc20fbbb446072116d50 The Origins of the First World War]</i>. (2001)
Martel summarizes and analyzes the policies and errors of judgments that led to a war in Europe. He provides an overview of the system of alliances in Europe prior to the war and how this system dominated international affairs. Martel explains the position of each of the great powers and how they saw the system as protecting their interests. The author shows that the system of alliances was fundamentally unstable. This was demonstrated when the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand led to its collapse. For Martel the alliance system in Europe, designed to create a ’balance of power’ and secure the peace, was fatally flawed and ultimately plunged Europe into the most barbaric war in centuries.
Christopher Clarke. <i>[https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0061146668/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0061146668&linkCode=as2&tag=dailyh0c-20&linkId=38982d06b625fe0770ea3ac9f09c4f36 The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War]</i>. (2014)
Clarke concentrates on the political decisions that led to the outbreak of war. He argues that none of the leaders were interested in starting a general war. All the leaders wanted peace. However, they made a series of mistakes and errors in their policies that led to misunderstandings and mutually suspicions among the competing nations. When Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated these led to the declaration of war. According to the thesis in this book, Europe was led into war by a series of political and diplomatic blunders.