Author Examines Month That Shaped War

Article excerpt

It has been a landmark summer for commemorating the history of war in the 20th century.

In early June, Canada took part in ceremonies on the beaches of Normandy, marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion that marked a turning of the tide in the European phase of the Second World War.

The invasion came almost exactly 30 years after a frantic summer of failed diplomacy that ended with the beginning of The War to End All Wars.

There are several new books out to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, including this volume by Canadian war historian Gordon Martel.

Martel argues that the conflict may well have been avoided, and millions of lives need not have been lost, between 1914 and 1918.

For decades after the conflict, most historians accepted the notion that the war was inevitable because of the forces of nationalism, particularly in Germany. The spark that ignited the powder keg was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28 in Sarajevo.

In his book The Month That Changed the World, Martel makes a compelling case that had things gone differently in July 1914, there might have been a very different outcome.

Martel says far too much investigation of the root causes of the war have taken place over the years "under a dark cloud of predetermination, of profound forces having produced a situation in which war was inevitable." His book takes an exhaustive and painstaking look at primary and secondary sources, and he puts together a day-by-day summary of the decisions that were made by the European powers. …