Catastrophe (Enhanced Edition): Europe Goes to War 1914: Enhanced edition
Best viewed on a tablet, includes exclusive audio and video.
The special edition of Max Hastings’ magisterial chronicle of Europe in 1914. Explore the position of armies in detail. Search the timeline for the ultimate overview. Watch footage of the protagonists, battlefields and wartime cities. Hear an exclusive author interview.
In 1914, Europe plunged into the 20th century’s first terrible act of self-immolation- what was then called The Great War. On the eve of its centenary, Max Hastings seeks to explain both how the conflict came about and what befell millions of men and women during the first months of strife.
He finds the evidence overwhelming, that Austria and Germany must accept principal blame for the outbreak. While what followed was a vast tragedy, he argues passionately against the ‘poets’ view’, that the war was not worth winning. It was vital to the freedom of Europe, he says, that the Kaiser’s Germany should be defeated.
His narrative of the early battles will astonish those whose images of the war are simply of mud, wire, trenches and steel helmets. Hastings describes how the French Army marched into action amid virgin rural landscapes, in uniforms of red and blue, led by mounted officers, with flags flying and bands playing. The bloodiest day of the entire Western war fell on 22 August 1914, when the French lost 27,000 dead. Four days later, at Le Cateau the British fought an extraordinary action against the oncoming Germans, one of the last of its kind in history. In October, at terrible cost they held the allied line against massive German assaults in the first battle of Ypres.
The author also describes the brutal struggles in Serbia, East Prussia and Galicia, where by Christmas the Germans, Austrians, Russians and Serbs had inflicted on each other three million casualties.
This book offers answers to the huge and fascinating question ‘what happened to Europe in 1914?’, through Max Hastings’s accustomed blend of top-down and bottom-up accounts from a multitude of statesmen and generals, peasants, housewives and private soldiers of seven nations. His narrative pricks myths and offers some striking and controversial judgements. For a host of readers gripped by the author’s last international best-seller All Hell Let Loose, this will seem a worthy successor.
”'Magnificent … Hastings writes with an enviable grasp of pace and balance, as well as an acute eye for human detail. Even for readers who care nothing for the difference between a battalion and a division, his book is at once moving, provocative and utterly engrossing” - Sunday Times
”'Masterly … Hastings is a brilliant guide to that strange, febrile twilight before Europe plunged into darkness. Writing in pungent prose suffused with irony and underpinned by a strong sense of moral outrage, 'Catastrophe’ is a frontal assault on what Hastings calls the 'poets’ view” - … This is history-writing at its best, scholarly and fluent … for anyone wanting to understand how that ghastly, much-misunderstood conflict came about, there could be no better place to start than this fine book’ The Times
”'One could scarcely ask for a better guide to these horrors than Max Hastings … he is a superb writer with a rare gift for evoking the rhythm, mood and raw physical terror of battle … If you are looking for a humane and compelling interpretive chronicle of the formative months of this horrific conflict, you will find none better” - Mail on Sunday
”'Very readable. Character, pace, sense of landscape, battlefield detail - all are superbly done … it's a splendid read” - Observer
”''No part of the Great War compares in interest with its opening’, wrote Churchill, and Hastings does full justice to its appalling drama … Catastrophe is rich in unexplored sources from every side of the conflict and every theatre of the war” - David Crane, Spectator
”'Vigorous and readable, making good use of the worm’s eye-view … Engaging, well paced and, despite the grim subject matter, often entertaining” - New Statesman
”'Vivid and compelling … superbly detailed and nuanced … Hastings is a master of the pen portrait and the quirky fact … yet his greatness as a historian - never shown to better effect than in this excellent book - lies in his willingness to challenge entrenched opinion” - Saul David, Evening Standard