When Barbara W. Tuchman wrote The Guns of August in 1962, her main intention was to detail and describe the causes of World War I and how it was carried out during the first month of insurgence. In this book, she provides the military history in response to the first month of the war in a manner that entices the reader to be interested in it because of the detailed events it incorporates. In a summary, this book gives explanation on why each country associated with World War I was involved in the war, the opinion of Czar that presided over his decision during that time, and Germany’s preparedness towards the war. In essence, the book illustrates how a local war escalated and became a European struggle against Russia. This paper reviews and analyzes the book.
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From the chronological setting of events that took place at various stages of the battle as established in the book, Tuchman wanted to pursue the theme of decision making especially in the war. In capturing this, she presents misconceptions and poor decisions made by various armies which prolonged the war instead of making it last for a few weeks. In illustrating these misconceptions, Tuchman divides the book into two sections: the outbreaks and the battles. In the outbreak section, the writer through the first few chapters of the book discusses some of the events which were related to decision making process and which eventually led to the outbreak of the World War I. These events included the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the declaration of the war by Serbia, the inclusion of central powers and allies into the war, and more significantly, the start of France offensiveness (Tuchman 91-157).
On the other hand, the battle section which covers the major part of the book outlines the characteristics, strategies, and outcomes of this particular war. By this, Tuchman discusses battles strategies of the Front of France, Flames of Louvain, and the Front of Russia. She does this especially by highlighting the consequences of German’s military when attempted to cross through France (Tuchman 229). In this regard, Tuchman argues that it is the action and wrong decision made by German military in trying to cross on the borders of its enemies that was not rightly executed thereby leading to their retreat from France.
By the author discussing the Flames of Louvain that highlighted German’s reaction especially to Russia, she concurs with the general opinion formed by people around the world that, for this war, Germany was an aggressor nation. It is this misconception that affected the way other nations involved in the war, among them the United States, participated in the same. Therefore, by Tuchman introducing misconceptions and weaknesses related to various strategies employed by various armies in the war, she brings out both the strongest and the weakest point of the book.
Tuchman’s book presents strong views of assessment of the war highlighting how the inability to evaluate and assess opponents’ war strategies was an advantage to the other. She argues that those countries which lost in the war had poor economic calculation and outdated war strategies, they did not consider political inclusiveness of the enemy, and more so, had miscalculated the period for which the war would last (Tuchman 199). These components are essential in any battle front as they assist any army in strategizing itself prior to entering into a war with another country. This is because it enables a country to better understand both the strengths and the weaknesses of its opponent. This book therefore helps in understanding how to develop a military plan that can ensure victory.
While the book ends with the unification of British and French army who consolidated efforts to repel German forces, it does not cover other battles which were fought in the First World War. Since the book periodically focuses on events that occurred in August, 1914, it leaves the reader to speculate on the consequences and strategies that had been deployed by various armies in the course of the war. As a result, the book has not effectively analyzed and detailed the history of military especially in the First World War.
In terms of methods of analysis, Tuchman’s account on various events during the First World War is only based on research and reconstruction of the previous events. In this regard, the details of actual events as she outlined in the book are deemed factual since such incidents are obtained either from records or historical literatures. For instance, the chronological events that took place during the First World War, as outlined by Tuchman, concur with what is being discussed by other historical literatures. This is another strong aspect of this particular book.
However, Tuchman has managed to give both chronological narration and analysis of events that took place during the war. For instance, she analyzes the strategic miscalculation and misconception of German military army when it attempted to cross Belgium (Tuchman 157). In so doing, the author presents her opinion and subjective reasoning about the effects which may result from covering the war in a different manner as illustrated by other historical literatures. Additionally, while there is no reported biasness on Tuchman’s opinion and analysis, this can lead to speculations of the events thereby forming one of the weaknesses of this book.
In conclusion, The Guns of August is an essential book that gives the reader an account of events that occurred during the First World War and contributed to it. However, it is imperative for writers not to be subjective and biased when detailing such events. This would ensure that all the provided literatures both historical and modern have the same view towards a particular event.
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