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Catastrophe 1914

British journalist and historian Max Hastings explores the tumultuous and sometimes baffling early months of World War I.

Catastrophe 1914
By Max Hastings
Knopf Doubleday
672 pp.

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Reviewed by Meredith Hindley for The Barnes and Noble Review

Popular memory has shrouded the events of 1914–18 with more regret than glory. The First World War hollowed out a generation and left Europe with a set of festering psychic and political wounds that would rip open in a horrific manner two decades later. For many, it belied, as Wilfred Owen wrote, the old canard by Horace that it was sweet and noble to die for one's country. As we approach the hundredth anniversary of the war, the conflict continues to be the subject of relentless debate. Could the war have been avoided? Could it have been over in weeks rather than years? Was it a futile endeavor given the human cost?

Into the fray comes Max Hastings with Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War, which explores the tumultuous and sometimes baffling start of the hostilities. The chaotic terrain of war is familiar territory for Hastings, who spent his formative years working as foreign correspondent for the BBC and the London Evening Standard, and who has published widely on twentieth-century military history, his most recent being the well-regarded "Inferno: The World at War, 1939–1945."


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