On the morning of June 28, 1914, when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie Chotek arrived at Sarajevo Railway Station, Europe was at peace. Thirty-seven days later, it was at war. The conflict that resulted would kill over fifteen million people, destroy three empires, and permanently alter world history.
The Sleepwalkers reveals in gripping detail how this crisis unfolded. Drawing on fresh sources, it traces the paths to war in a minute-by-minute, action-packed narrative that cuts between the key decision centers in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade. Distinguished historian Christopher Clark examines the decades of history that informed the events of 1914 and details the mutual misunderstandings and unintended signals that drove the crisis forward in a few short weeks. How did the Balkans—a peripheral region far from Europe’s centers of power and wealth—come to be the center of a drama of such magnitude? How had European nations organized themselves into opposing alliances, and how did these nations carry out foreign policy from their tangled leadership structures? Clark reveals a Europe racked by chronic problems—a fractured world of instability and militancy that was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. These rulers, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, stumbled through crisis after crisis and finally convinced themselves that war was the only answer.
Meticulously researched, masterfully written, and illustrated with dozens of black-and-white photos, The Sleepwalkers is a magisterial account of one of the most compelling dramas of modern times.