cover image Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

Michael S. Neiberg. Harvard/Belknap, $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-674-04954-3

Neiberg expertly mines letters and diaries of European and American diplomats, authors, journalists, and ex-patriots to show that among "ordinary people," no one wanted WWI. Neiberg quickly dismisses the notion that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand sparked the war. In fact, most people in Europe saw it as a "Balkan issue"; the Irish Times reported it as merely "another tale of blood in the annals of the ill-fated House of Hapsburg"; even the Austrian public was "shocked but not stricken" by the death of the irascible and difficult Archduke. Neiberg illustrates how a select group of men in Austria-Hungary, and in Germany, used the assassination to advance their expansionist programs. Though many (including Stefan Zweig) kept faith in the diplomatic systems that had defused major crises before (Agadir, the Balkan War, and Albania), these systems failed as events moved so rapidly that there was no way to control the descent of the continent into war. Neiberg clearly shows why this war should never have happened: no one believed in or wanted it, there were no strong feelings of nationalism, and economic, family, and cultural links were strong. When it began, each faction believed their war was defensive%E2%80%94and therefore just, and propaganda, censorship, and a lack of real news spread nationalist ideology. (Apr.)