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Publisher's Summary

Christmas 1913: In Britain, people are debating a new dance called ‘the tango’. In Germany, they are fascinated by the wedding of the Kaiser’s daughter to the Duke of Brunswick. Little did they know that their world was on ‘The Eve of War’, a catastrophe that was to engulf the continent, cost millions of lives, and change the course of the century. And yet behind the scenes, the Great Powers were marching towards what they thought was an inevitable conflict.

In this controversial and concise essay, the military historian Paul Ham argues that the First World War was not an historical mistake, a conflict into which the Great Powers stumbled by accident. Nor was it a justified war, in which uncontained German aggression had to be defeated. Instead the politicians and generals of the day willed the war, and prepared for it - but eventually found themselves caught up in an inferno they could no longer control.

Paul Ham is the author of the forthcoming 1914: The Year the World Ended, to be published by Random House in Britain in 2014. He has previously written the acclaimed Sandakanz, Kokoda, Vietnam: The Australian War and Hiroshima Nagasaki. A former Australia Correspondent of the Sunday Times, he was born in Sydney and educated in Australia and Britain. He now lives in Sydney and Paris.

©2013 Paul Ham (P)2014 Audible Studios
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"[A] vivid, comprehensive and quietly furious account...Paul Ham brings new tools to the job, unearthing fresh evidence of a deeply disturbing sort. He has a magpie eye for the telling detail" (Ben Macintyre, The Times)
"Provocative and challenging… A voice that is both vigorous and passionate" (Christopher Sylvester, Daily Express)
"Controversial...Well documented and stringently argued" (Peter Lewis, Daily Mail)"

What listeners say about 1913

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Paul Ham

What made the experience of listening to 1913 the most enjoyable?

Paul Ham's writing. He is an exceptionally gifted writer as well as a first rate historian. He knows how to turn a phrase, and I found myself constantly highlighting sentences that were especially well put. It was delightful to come across a prose style that even in a fiction writer would set him apart. Also, he is not afraid to make a judgment now and then, which, when appropriate, is welcome from a historian who does not overdo it. One such judgement is that the leaders of the various countries who fought during the great tragedy known as WW I is that they more or less accepted the inevitability of a war that was not inevitable. For example, none so much as proposed a conference to discuss the issues that preceded and led to the War. As long as a historian is not being overtly tendentious, there is nothing wrong with calling it as you see it, and this author is not afraid to do that when plainly called for.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

I am actively seeking out to read or listen to other works by Paul Ham, based on how impressed I was by (a) his writing skills, and (b) his willingness to state plainly what went wrong and why on issues that cry out for someone to do just that.

3 people found this helpful

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This is What Wasn't Taught in School.

This is a great read that gives you a broad and quick idea of the European leaders and the mind set that lead up to The Great War. A lot of statistical numbers are rattled off, but you'll get through it, and they are helpful with country by country comparisons. I had always wondered why these three cousins George, Nicholas and Wilhelm, did not just set down and hash things out? One may be King, Tsar, or Kaiser but ambition, paranoia and the state run bureaucracy was the true ruler here. Family ties could not and did not have influence on the actions taken in September 1914.

2 people found this helpful

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1913 The Eve of War

My husband taught me, guided me, into an appreciation of history. For that I'll always be Thankful. Happy New Year! My hope is that more people learn history, good, bad as it was, as it is. Thank-you

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a clever alternative history

This arrangement of facts illustrates the influence of militarism and yet the possibility of peace in Europe prior to the Great War. I disagree with this conclusion that denies the possibility of "invisible forces" driving toward war. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus warned us with their lives of the predisposition that republics have towards victimization by invisible forces. that said this book serves as a clever what if thought experiment as to what the world would look like if there was no war.

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Not worth it

A lot of contradictory assertions and unsupported speculation. It's a difficult topic, not sure it can be done effectively in such a small work.

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What caused the First World War?

Quite a different take on origins of WW1. Should to the point and highly compelling.

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Boring

This is the worst documentary I have ever listened too. It is good to go to sleep by.

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Shocking and revealing

Excellent topic. Well researched by the author and well read by the narrator.
Clearly shows how European leaders used poor judgment to make bad decisions that caused a world wide disaster. Very well done.

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The calm before

Useful and engrossing prequel and context to the Great War. The mindsets, policies, and decisions of the European powers made war not only desirable in their distorted view, but virtually inevitable. Much of this is touched upon in Barbara Tuchman's wonderfully readable book, The Guns of August.

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Mediocre, neither good nor bad

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I wouldn't say it was a waste of time, but it wasn't terribly enjoyable, either.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Something with a lighter subject, perhaps.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Christopher Oxford?

I don't know enough about narrators to answer this question.

Did 1913 inspire you to do anything?

It inspired me to avoid books narrated by Christopher Oxford.

Any additional comments?

I will probably keep it I the library, but may not ever listen to it again.

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  • Robbie James Walsh
  • 09-02-21

Unnecessary chapters dominate.

The book itself simultaneously was long winded and far too short, more research was definitely needed. Russia's threat to British interests and the entire geopolitical balancing act of the great game was completely ignored.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anthony Robins
  • 09-30-22

An interesting approach overall

The author attempted to ‘peel away the onion skins’ on the lead up to the First World War rather than assume a linear causality, and raised some very good points along the way. There are longer and more authoritative books on the subject, but this one provides a useful interjection challenging the notion that war was inevitable and the leaders powerless to stop it.

The narrator had a clear and listenable voice, but unfortunately, to my ears, a constant pomposity of tone reminiscent of an Oxford dinner party male monologue, and I often found I had accordingly ‘tuned out’ for minutes at a time.

It’s a shame - this is of course a history book, but the written tone struck me as more edgy and conversational than the stentorian narration and I feel I might have retained more with a better match.

That said, these are quibbles, and the content is very worthwhile, and perfectly audible.

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  • Ludwig van El
  • 07-05-22

What awaits us with Ukrayne

reader was very good
describes the shenanigans played by that led to the slaughter of millions, and eventually to ww2 (an1dx soon perhaps ww3?)

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  • MichaelDee
  • 05-10-22

Excellent!

Very interesting take on the events leading up to the Great War. In sharp contrast to Christopher Clark's view of a Europe sleepwalking into the biggest catastrophe to befall the Western world. Armed conflict could have been avoided if the belligerent nations had shown a willingness to engage with each other to resolve their disputes and set aside their mistrust. War was not an inevitable outcome, but rather a way devised by the respective governments to defer the social reforms which were underway and necessary to improve the lot of the general population. Nationalism and the fostering of a false sense of patriotism played a role in fanning the flames of hostility which helped prime Europe's youth for war. Extremely well written and relatively concise account. Top marks for the narration. Really enjoyed the audiobook.

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  • susan cumisky
  • 04-29-22

1913 highly recommended

This should be read alongside other historians eg Barbara Tuchman, using this as the excellent basic scenario. It is heartfelt at times which gives it a deeper authority.

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  • Ravi Dass
  • 11-14-21

Enjoyable history

A good short history you could enjoy over a weekend. Excellent narration that keeps up your interest

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  • X-ray Chick 351
  • 01-07-18

A well argued opinion.

A generally understandable explanation for the origin of the first world war. Easy to read in one sitting

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  • Ian
  • 03-31-22

Excellent short review of the background to ww1

Excellent snapshot of the lead up to world war 1 which appears to be refreshingly unbiased.

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  • luke
  • 12-31-21

informative but tedious.

I wanted a better understanding of how the first world war could have spread in 1914, this book gives a good account but I really struggled to stay listening. it might just be that I am not smart enough for a book like this, it may also be just a boring read/ listen.
I think I needed the attitudes and lives of people, politicians and militaries at that time to come alive for me rather than just an outpouring of facts.

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