In The Lost History of 1914, Jack Beatty offers a highly original view of World War I, testing against fresh evidence the long-dominant assumption that it was inevitable. "Most books set in 1914 map the path leading to war," Beatty writes, "This one maps the multiple paths that led away from it." Reexamining the standard account of the war's outbreak, Beatty presents the assassination of Archduke Ferninand not as the catalyst of a war that would have broken out in any event over some other crisis, but rather as its "all-but-unique precipitant."
Chronicling largely forgotten events faced by each of the belligerent countries in the months before the war started, Beatty shows how any one of them—a possible military coup in Germany; an imminent civil war in Britain; the murder trial of the wife of the likely next premier of France, who sought détente with Germanymight have derailed the war or brought it to a different end. In Beatty's hands, these stories open up into epiphanies of national character and offer dramatic portraits of the year's major actors—Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas II, Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, Emperor Francis Joseph, along with forgotten or overlooked characters such as Pancho Villa, Rasputin, and Herbert Hoover.
Beatty's deeply insightful book—as elegantly written as it is thought-provoking and probing—illuminates a lost world about to blow itself up in what George Kennan called "the great seminal catastrophe of the twentieth century." It also arms readers against invocations of historical inevitability in today's world.