Since I was a child, I used to love war books, films and documentaries and I really read a lot about WW2 and Spanish Civil War among others. My interest suddenly stopped one day, a few years ago, while reading Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad. There was there so much suffering and horror there, such an utter annihilation of human dignity, that there was no way to find any possible beauty in it in any conceivable sense.
Since then, I just read sometimes war related history books if there is in them some additional approach besides strict the military account. It is with this frameset in mind that I have read Michael S. Neiberg’s Dance of the Furies, Europe and the Outbreak of World War I.
The book pretends to be an account of the way normal citizens lived the outbreak of the war, their feelings, their intuitions and reactions in front of the events or, much better, in front of the limited information about that developments which was reaching them at the moment.
The author tries to recover diaries, letters, reports, etc, written at the same time that those developments were taking pace to illustrate and recover the actual moods of those people and their reactions.
And what are his findings? His first conclusion is that nobody in Europe wanted war and nobody expected war. There had been recent diplomatic crisis between different powers in Europe in recent years which had threatened the outbreak of war which had been solved by diplomatic means. People in Europe was convinced that diplomacy of western powers had reached a level of sophistication an mastering of their trade that a global destructive war, disastrous as it would be, could be avoided by diplomatic means.
When the war begins, however, things developed in such a strange way, that every country felt (and every government pretended) that it was fighting a war of self defense in front of ruthless invaders that threatened their freedoms and motherlands. In front of this perspective, people in Europe feel the need and the responsibility (but not the enthusiasm) of support their governments and join the fight.
Soon the harsh reality of what industrial war meant, turned the moods of Europeans towards disappointment and rebellion, which was hardly contained in France and brought about revolutions in Russia and Germany.
I have enjoyed the book although it was sometimes a little repetitive and I cannot help thinking that gets only have its way and does not fulfill completely its stated goals.