Sample Book Review on The Guns of August


The Guns of August can easily be compared to a novel, owing to the fact that it has been written in a creative way. The long history book is based on evidence and it has a way of bringing the past back to life. Throughout the entire book, the reader is made aware of the corroborative details, which have been used to bind every piece of history, in the primary month of the 1st World War in order to create a long lasting effect that is informative and rich in providing details through the lens of international relations.

Moreover, it is impressive, how the author of the book surpasses some of the detailed studies by other authors, which explain much about the type of guns and the movements of specific regiments, but fail to explain how it was like on the battlefield. Readers can visualize long lines of Germans who travelled to Paris, through Belgium and the Northern part of France. The author also provides a detailed account of the foul smell that lay on the destroyed cities and village towns. Even though Barbara Tuchman is prone to weird overstatements, she convincingly gives a detailed account of the primary month of the 1st World War, in a clear and concise manner.

Summary of the book

The primary Thesis in, The Guns of August is that France and Germany were on a major collision course for the purpose of war, irrespective of the things that happened. The book asserts that the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand stopped the justification for the establishment of another war. In the beginning, the burial service of the British King, King Edward VII is explained. The burial service was held in 1910. The significance of this funeral is the fact that it symbolized the end of the Anglo-French rivalry. Several years down the line; after the funeral, Edwards’s nephew Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was not able to assume the monarch position. Other monarchies, which were in various countries, for example, Austria, Hungary, and Russia, vanished as well. After the war, the European map was recreated and several empires began to crumble.

The initial couple of sections of the book have concentrated on the war arrangements of the nations that took part in the armed struggle. These nations included; Britain, France, Russia, Germany together with their allies. The cardinal focus of The Guns of August is the analysis of the month when World War I broke out. This took place in August of the year 1914. During this time, Germany had become a country that was motivated by the desire to assert its hegemony on the continent of Europe. Germany was immensely encouraged by the accomplishment that it had in the famous Franco Prussian battle. As a result, the country had developed the schlieffen plan; the major objective of this plan was to envision an encirclement of the French army by going through Belgium, which was considered to be a neutral country.

The French people had developed towering bitterness on the account of their prior misfortunes. They were unhappy because of the annexation of Alsace Lorraine. France was particularly active in lobbying for Britain to become involved, however, the major disadvantage is the fact that Britain was affected by political paralysis over sending troops to fight in Europe. After the Germans invaded Belgium, Britain was convinced and for this reason, they sent four divisions of the British expeditionary force commonly called the BEF across the channel. The Belgium’s; contrary to what the Germans expected, fought back using forts which were later destroyed by the powerful Germans Artillery guns.

The Russians were urged to join the war and to make an Eastern front with the trust of pushing the German troops far from France. Even though Russia was a big country, its military capability was in disarray. Their top commanders were monstrously overwhelming; their military instruments were feeble contrasted with those of the Germans. The military logistics of the Russians were not superior, for example, their railroad had a different gauge compared to that of the Germans; this significantly slowed the invasion. Some of these variables made massive difficulties for the Russian intrusion into Germany.

The book innovatively investigates the significant scenes of World War 1and the main players on the principal month of the war. It is during this time that the German Army came across the French and the BEF along the border in a series of battles that contributed to many casualties. The major month of the war can be subdivided into three parts, namely; the battle of the frontiers, during this period the German violated the Belgium territory. The second stage is the Turn South and the German walk to Paris. The disappointment of this walk prompted the foundation of the third stage, commonly referred to as the trench fighting.

The primary month of the war turned out to be a major calamity. Many generals held on to plans that were made in the abstract, they did not work using facts. The disarray made every player in the war to engage in moronic activities in the middle of war. The essential element in the war was the presentation of dread against the standard individuals. In case of resistance, the Germans used to take any town and suppress the general population.

The Germans invaded soldiers, sabotaged roads, cut communications, and destroyed food supplies. Many people were killed as examples of the German’s brutality and power, others were held hostage and were eventually made to fight other people who tried to resist. The will of the Belgian individuals was expanded; notwithstanding, the fact that the world was frightened by the events. The Russians went into war without certainty. England was adamant to join the war because it did not want to lose the sea superiority that it had created.

Many players who took part in the war had inferior weapons, for this reason, machine guns, as well as giant cannons often challenged them. With the coming of September it was now clear to the French that an attacking position was insane and if they did not change their war strategy to a defensive posture, then Paris would fall under the hands of the Germans. General Gallieni was the person who settled on the trench fighting, he was immensely determined in his efforts to safeguard Paris. After a definitive fight at the Marne, a French counter assault drove the Germans back. A dominant part of the French individuals subsided into the cautious trenches. Gallieni established twenty miles trenches around Paris; the trenches were effective as the Germans were unable to capture Paris.  For a long time, the War was known as the German war. In spite of the arrangement by the Germans, which was to begin the war before September 1914, the war started after June 18, 1914 when the Serbian patriots killed Franz Ferdinand.


  1. Importance of the book’s subject to the study of international relations.

The Guns of August establishes an open door for a critical exchange of the normal obstructions that point to the confinement of mankind. The book is significant in understanding global conflicts and co-operation. The book’s detailed and elaborate account of the primary month of the 1st World War outlines factors that may contribute to strife in the international community. Conflict between different nations is a topic that can be analyzed under the lens of international relations, for this reason, understanding factors that contribute to conflict is important as it helps nations to avoid these conflicts. As evidenced by the 1914 war, conflict can often result in a gradual development progress in many nations.

  1. Completeness and thoroughness of the authors’ coverage

In her analysis, the author of the historical book sees the part as well as the whole. Tuchman presents plausible explanations, which have complete evidence; this makes her presentations thorough and complete. For instance, Tuchman portrays conceivable clarifications, for General John French’s absence of fighting enthusiasm in the barrier of Belgium (218). She also elaborates how the disintegration of plan 17, in the primary week of the war created a way for the long as well as brutal struggle. She demonstrates the last disappointment of the Germans arrangement for a twofold envelopment of the adversary. It is evident that the ensuing dreadlock determined the future course of the war and eventually brought peace, the state of the interwar period and the states of the second round.

Tuchman’s examination is in concurrence with the book; Understanding Global Conflicts and Cooperation by Joseph Nye and David Welch (Welch and Nye 79). According to this book, the Germans plan of war was basically motivated by the Schlieffen arrangement. The plan rested on several different assumptions, one of the assumptions is that the huge Russian army would be very difficult to defeat. What the Germans hoped for was the ability to keep the Russian army from defeating them. According to Joseph Nye and David Welch, the Germans had technological superiority, in particular, the power to mobilize quickly. Their technological superiority made them assume that they had the power to mobilize their army within two weeks (Welch and Nye 83).

  1. How careful, is the author’s analysis conducted

Tuchman’s analysis is carefully conducted. In her book; the allies are presented as being on a better position. The author creatively combines the adroit depictions of character with an extraordinary close thoughtfulness of the strategy that is attempted by every person. The book creates an unmistakable picture of the way distinctive men impacted the result of the main definitive month of the war. It narrates the life of the unafraid and imperturbable General Joffre; he was the president of the French armed forces. Tuchman asserts that it was very hard to envision men who might bring the French armed forces out of retreat (Tuchman and Massie, 487) In contrast to Joffre is the British Commander, Sir John French, who redeems himself during the last minute and assists the French against the Germans.

A person can contend that Tuchman may have used the new financial history to create a decent impact in her examination of the economic concepts, which the academicians and the strategy creators of that day felt would prompt an unfeasible long war. Like in numerous different examples, Tuchman passes on the unpleasant weight of the choices that the above people made. She also points at the sadness of that time from which the individuals resolved to act.

In her analysis, Tuchman does not at any point flinch from exposing the vacillations of different individuals. The vacillations included jealousy, ineptness and myopia, but even as she does this, she does not fail to narrate of the individual’s humanity. Contrary to Tuchman McMeekin; in his book the Countdown to War, is immensely intent on indicting the men and the nations that he perceives as guilty. The author argues that trying to fix guilt on a single leader or nation assumes that there must be a guilty party (McMeeking 143). He insists that this aspect is historically destructive because it limits history into a prosecutorial narrative that essentially misses the multilateral nature of the exchanges. McMeekin’s objectivity does not equate with the brand neutrality, Clark destroys the view that Austria was immensely harsh and that Serbia humbly complied.

Despite the strength of her analysis, Tuchman makes some weird overstatements, which poke holes in her argument, for example, she claims that the German people were overly overwhelmed with the idea that divine providence has made them the superior race on earth. The author’s view that the Germans wanted to impose their culture on the world is a reflection of the great ideological struggle during her time. Tuchman asserts that the entangling alliances, as well as the rigid military plans, made Europe fall into a grip that created disaster. This school of thought is no longer accepted by a majority of Historians who argue that the war was initiated by Germany in an effort to control Europe, even though this argument has been challenged, it is evident that Tuchman’s ideology is not in line with many present historians.

  1. Strengths and limitations of the author’s methodology

Throughout the book, Tuchman uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to explain her assertions. She imaginatively uses measurements to demonstrate that the cause is sufficient enough to bolster her points without impeding the account. For instance, she portrays the inconsistencies in the railways between Russians and Germans (Tuchman and Massie 58). She asserts that this is what contributed to the Germans ability to mobilize swiftly compared to the Russians. At the Battle of Mons, the author describes the superiority of the German numbers, which was significant in surprising the resistances of the different players in the war (Tuchman and Massie 259). Even though the Cold war by John Lewis does not talk about the World War, the book’s approach is similar to that of Tuchman’s. However, the methodology used is not as precise as that of The August Gun, which incorporates both the qualitative and the quantitative methodologies, for example, when Lewis describes the destruction of the Russian cities after World War II, he does not give exact figures (Gaddis 14)

  1. Quality of the writing

In writing the book, Tuchman depends on facts that have been scoured carefully from a plenty of both primary as well as secondary data sources. The writer inventively holds a story from the exchange of the realities contained in the two sources. She explores the roles of different people and an awareness of the sophisticated elements that motivated them to make the choices that they made. The author does not impose her own interpretations of what the players were thinking, however, she advocates for facts to lead the way. The structure of the book is descriptive as opposed to being analytical. Its main focus is on man and not circumstances, it poses a theme as well as an argument; how World War I began and the negative consequences that the war had on Europe.

The historical book is characterized by factual story telling. Step by step, the author goes from the tensions that culminated in the outbreak of the war to the initial battles which contributed to the stalemate on the western front and the inconclusive struggle that was evidently present in the east. Her use of words in a creative way holds the leader’s attention.

Compared to Christopher’s Clark, The Sleepwalkers, The guns of Augusts is detailed; it provides a comprehensible and readable account of Europe polarization. Christopher Clark does not give a rundown of players and the war sequence   (Clark 238).  Even though Tuchman’s uses a descriptive style to narrate the events unfolding World War I, she does not let the reader down in her analysis of the contributing factors of the war, starting with the war. It is apparent through the book that the best known fleeting reason for the start of war, was the death of the Austrian beneficiary; Franz Ferdinand, he was killed by the Serbian patriots (Tuchman and Massie 71). This single fact created a domino effect of some related courses.

As a result of the intense web of treaties, which were created in the late 19th century, when the Austrians exploited the assassination to assault Serbia, Germany was expected to bolster her, even as Austria’s animosity carried her into a serious clash with Russia. Russia had set up her own unions with both England and France; the two nations were seen as threats by Germany   . Germany felt jealous and scornful towards England and France, France for the splendor of her way of life and the excellence of progress and England for her predominant maritime force (Tuchman and Massie 311).  As Thomas Mann suggested, Germany had a right be the most influential nation on earth.


The Guns of August is truly a holding and remarkably satisfying book. Despite the fact that the book is not a scholastic book in essence, the writer of the book has commanded a critical faculty from the book readers. Tuchman gives a detailed record of the major month of the 1st World War in a reasonable and exact manner.  The Guns of August is immensely significant in learning about the causes of conflict in the international arena. The book’s coverage is complete and thorough; it provides plausible explanations with evidence, which helps to create a powerful analysis. However, despite the strength of the book’s analysis, the author makes some weird statements which slightly discredit his cardinal argument.  The author’s methodology is based on both the qualitative and quantitative analysis, besides giving a detailed account of the events that unfolded during World War 1, the author provides statistics to show that the course is enough to make her point without being authoritative or commanding, when using narratives.


Work cited

Clark, Christoper. The sleep walkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. Los Angeles: Harper Perennial, 2014.

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Kennedy, Paul. The Rise and Fall of the Great Power. New York: Vintage Publishers , 1989.

McMeeking, Sean. July 1914: Countdown to War. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

Tuchman, Barbara W and Robert M Massie. The Guns of August: The Pulitzer Prize Winning Classic About the Outbreak of World War I. New York: Presidio Press, 2004.

Welch, David and Joseph S Nye. Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation: An Introduction to Theory and History. New York: Pearson Publishers, 2010.