Review: The Lost History of 1914 (Beatty)


The Lost History of 1914: Reconstructing the Year the Great War Began.

A different perspective on the outbreak of the First World War which posits that, contrary to popular belief, war was neither inevitable in 1914, nor that some other crisis than the assassination in Sarajevo easily would have precipitated it.

Beatty builds on idea that the war happened because the governments of the belligerents wanted it to happen: not only that war was specifically on the agenda of one country’s head of state (guess who?), but also because it was thought to be an easy way out of the escalating domestic crises in the countries that were signatories of both European alliances. If any of them had focused on fixing the failings within their own borders, “world war” would not have occurred; moreover, the assassination in Sarajevo so perfectly fitted the bill for casus belli, that one wonders if Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph might not have had an ulterior motive to his encouraging Franz Ferdinand, the Heir Apparent whose reforming notions and mésalliance seemed to threaten the hegemony and purity of the Habsburgs, to take his beloved wife with him to Bosnia.

In accordance with the author’s hypothesis, a chapter is given to explaining the decision of the United States to enter the war. Beatty also provides a variant interpretation of the nature and necessity of trench warfare, and he expounds on the broader implications of the times and the war.

The book is an inexpensively-bound hardcover, but sports a dust jacket. The text is illustrated throughout with black-and-white reproductions of period photos and drawings, which are credited at the end of the book. There are both footnotes and endnotes, as well as an index. A half-dozen misspellings, occasional awkward grammar, and the repetition of long word-for-word passages in the introduction (a glaring editing/proofreading defect that should have pulled this printing of the book for pulping) mar an otherwise readable treatise.

Recommended, despite a few warts. Try it, and share your opinion, in a Letter to the Editor of this “trench newspaper.”

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