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Mass Market Paperback The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic about the Outbreak of World War I Book

ISBN: 0345476093

ISBN13: 9780345476098

The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic about the Outbreak of World War I

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PULITZER PRIZE WINNER - "A brilliant piece of military history which proves up to the hilt the force of Winston Churchill's statement that the first month of World War I was 'a drama never surpassed.'"--Newsweek Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time In this landmark account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined...

Customer Reviews

8 ratings

A Mobile Month?

Tuchman explore the first month or so of the first global truly modern conflict. The books goes to illustrate that compared with the rest of the conflict the first month was truly mobile, with the front changing almost on the daily. Moreover, she also notes the casualty figures of certain nations. As well as the disaster at Tannenberg which could have been a blessing in disguise (in a way). Overall a good edification of early WW1 that stood the test of time.

My all-time favorite book about WWI

Guns of August was published in 1962, the year I graduated from college as a recent European history major. The entire book is phenomenal, but it was her first chapter that amazed me. Her description of the events leading up to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand & its consequences that lead to the end of an era & the beginnings of modern warfare is simply stunning. I've read many books since about that time, but this one is number 1 on my list.

Amazing Book!!

An amazing historian, Barbara has no axes to grind and doesn't try to guess what people are thinking. She presents only the facts that can be proven historically in an engaging narrative style. The first few chapters were admittedly difficult to plow through since she is setting up the characters, which happens to be many of the leaders of the first world, but so important and vital to the narrative: of course we have to hear about Germany & the Kaiser & that nation's philosophy of war vs. peace and why and how they chose to start this terrible war is foremost. We hear about France's hierarchy and leaders, England's government & Prime Minister, the personalities and choices given to the Kings of Belgium & Holland and the terrible destruction that took place in their countries, the United States's diplomatic agenda and leaders, Russia, etc. After we see the interactions of the countries and the wrangling that occur, the war begins, and it is a page turner- I couldn't put it down. You will never look at WWI the same ever again.

WW1 comes alive with all its blunders and madness!

Written in 1962, this is a fascinating history of the beginnings of WW1 and is the result of a vast amount of research. It's all true, and all documented, and even though it's a dense read, the huge cast of characters springs to life. This is the story of a war that changed the course of history. And it's also a story of the men who make the war. The reader gets to see the blunders and the madness and the personal feuds. And the humanity of the imperfect human beings who make the decisions that result in slaughter.There are maps in the book describing the battles. There are also photographs. But I must admit that I barely looked at the maps. And I found all the photos of the elderly generals very similar. What I did love though was the sweep of the story as well as the many details that go into waging a war. Previously, most war books I've read had to do with the experience of the soldiers. But this book is about the experience of making decisions, often based on folly. And it opened my eyes to how vulnerable the ordinary person is to the whims of the generals and the forces of pure chance. Ms. Tuchman also had a sense of irony and humor and sometimes I found myself laughing out loud.The narrative of the month of August 1914 is described hour by hour. Belgium has to make a decision to accept an awful defeat or willingly allow the Germans to march through their neutral territory. There are alliances in place that are just waiting to be broken. The Russians come into the war. So do the British, even though it is with much reluctance. The basic war is between France and Germany, almost a continuation of the defeat the French suffered at the hands of the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.Before I read this book, I didn't know much about WW1. Now I do. It was a war that defined the breakdown of the European nobility and set the stage for the next war, which was even more horrific. It taught me a lot, especially about how many people wind up dying because of the quest for power. It saddened me too because this quest for power is basic. So is the folly of mankind. The only thing that has changed is technology.This book is a masterful work. It lays the groundwork for an understanding of the mechanics of war. I might not remember all of the names of the generals or the battle plans. But I will always remember the feeling of being right there, watching the decisions being made, marching for miles in spite of fatigue, handling the big guns, making courageous decisions that sometimes led to disaster. And, especially, knowing that this is the true face of war. Highly recommended.


Barbara Tuchman (1912-89) captured the 1962 Pulitzer Prize with this gripping look at the opening stages of World War I. Tuchman begins by examining the pre-war politics, military plans, and inept diplomacy of major European nations. Once hostilities begin, she focuses heavily on Germany's attack through Belgium and Northern France - an offensive that just missed defeating France outright in 1914 and altering the course of history. The author exposes military stupidity, German atrocities in Belgium, and shows how this conflict opened as a murderous war of movement rather than as the entrenched stalemate that followed. I'd have liked fuller coverage on competing theaters of war, and wish that Tuchman hadn't stopped at the Battle of the Marne. Still, this is compelling history. Most importantly, the author shows how new technology and bungling politicians that failed to control their eager militarists plunged Europe into needless disaster. No wonder President Kennedy referred to this book during the Cuban missile crisis. Tuchman was one of a few readable non-historians (William L. Shirer, John Toland) who outdid the stuffy academics. I particularly liked her coverage on Belgium's dilemma: either let the Germans march through, or fight them against overwhelming odds - you have 12 hours to decide. "The Guns of August" is gripping, tragic history at its finest.

Simply the greatest history book ever written

What Barbara Tuchman has done here is something precious few historians are able to do. With her stunning prose and fathomless knowledge, she brings to life that first fateful month of World War One. The historical figures she describes seem more like a collection of characters from an action novel. More than once I found myself saying "Did they really do that?" Ordinarily I can only read about 75 pages at a time before I start to lose interest and need a break. This book I began one morning and didn't put it down until I finished it. Tuchman kept my interest throughout and at times, though I knew the outcome, I found myself sitting at the edge of my chair wondering what would happen next. Even some of the best novels do not have this kind of power. As for the book itself, it covers only the first month of the war. Though it does go into some depth of the war's origins, the main focus is on the movement and action of the armies from mobilization day until stalemate is reached. Tuchman's research is exhaustive, and this is the definitive work on that period. When the book was finished, I was disappointed only because she didn't continue. I wish I could give this more than five stars. If you have any interest in history whatsoever, regardless of your field, you must read this book, because this is what history should be!

A Wonderful Look At A Moment in 20th Century History

Europe in the late summer of 1914 was more than a powderkeg poised to go off; it was prewired and preset demolition awaiting the excuse of a match. According to Barbara Tuchman in this insightful and descriptive period piece of history, each of the potentates involved in the coming world war had a battle plan, a series of objectives, and a relatively good sense of what the other powers would do in the conduct of hostilities. Yet each disregarded the potential contingencies that might arise from the efforts of opposing forces, and descended pell-mell in the unbelievable madness of total war based on a combination of factors ranging from arrogance, overestimation of capability, personal animosities, ambition, lack of imagination of what could happen as a result, and of course, sheer ignorance. Tuchman's magic in employing the written word to advantage shines here, as her narrative weaves together the elements of a world in transition, empires ruled by Kings, Queens and Kaisers living in the past, out of touch with what advances in technology and tactics meant, and not recognizing that these revolutionary changes in technology, demography, and battle techniques would plunge the world into a nightmare conflict that none of them could foresee, contain, or manage, once it started. In many ways the first world war marks the true demarcation point between the old European world of tradition, chivalry, and empires, on the one hand, and the frightening new world of tanks, machine guns and mass exterminations. Prepared and propelled by visions of glorious conquest in a battlefield characterized by Kipling and "the charge of the light brigade", what they got in its place was the horrifying nightmare war of extermination in trench warfare, infantry slaughtered anonymously by artillary, tanks and rapid fire weapons the troops had no effective tactics to protect against. So much for the old glory. Yet all that lay ahead, in the weeks, months and years of bloody battle, of the excruciatingly costly struggle for new territory turned into a useless bloodbath for mere feet and yards. Here we are dipped deep into the boiling cauldron of people steeped in the mystique of the past, trying to win glory and fortune through warfare, and never understanding that the very attempt itself would result in the ruin of everything they knew and treasured, for the nature of the protracted conflict did indeed change everything, and Tuchman winds her way through the book with dazzling description and highly readable prose. This is a wonderful and memorable book, typical of Tuchman's engaging and often humourous writing style, detailing as it does the ways in which old and outdated perspectives try ruinously to force themselves and their designs into an abrasive future, at the expense of everything traditional, local, and familiar. It is a valuable snapshot of a moment suspended in time, lovingly restored, taken of a world in violent transiti

A superb history of the first month of the 1st World War.

Although we think of the First World War in terms of the stalemate and carnage of the trenches, for the first few weeks of combat, it was a war of movement. The battlelines shifted daily and the British and French came closer to disaster than I realized before I read this book. It's a gripping story, which Tuchman tells superbly. The political and military leaders come alive, the maps are clear, and even though you know how the story ends, you can't put the book down. Tuchman is also a reliable: I didn't find any factual errors. My complaints are minor. I agree with the previous writer who thought that the book ended too early: the war of movement in the west really ended with the French counterattack on the Marne, which is not discussed in the same detail as the campaign that led to it. Also, while Tuchman, presumably legitimately, dismisses the story of the angels of Mons as a legend, she should have told us what the legend was. Overall, however, I thought that the book was great, and I strongly recommend it even to those readers who think they know the story after reading such popular histories of the First World War as those by John Keegan or Martin Gilbert. You'll be surprised how you learn.

The Guns of August Mentions in Our Blog

The Guns of August in You Are What You Read, Part 2!
You Are What You Read, Part 2!
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • April 14, 2022

A few weeks ago, we published a post about how a reader's fave genre might match up with their personalities and it got some attention! Several of you mentioned that you'd like to see some other genres included. So here you go!

The Guns of August in WWI: History and Fiction
WWI: History and Fiction
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • July 27, 2021

As one of the deadliest conflicts in history, WWI became known as “the war to end all wars.” The complexities of war call for a great deal of exploration and examination. Here, we offer a roundup of some of the best historical accounts, analyses, and novels involving the Great War.

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