‘The greatest catastrophe the world has seen‘, New York Review of Books, 6 February 2014
Extended review of six books on the beginnings of World War I. The authors are Margaret Macmillan, Charles Emmerson, Sean McMeekin (two titles), Christopher Clark and Max Hastings. The books taken together underline how well-developed is the study of this historical period outside Australia but how relatively weak Australian history is in the field. (Clark is an Australian but has lived and taught overseas for many years. Robin Prior is an exception.)
While a key part of the reality of wars is how they begin, Australians seem to be wary of the subject. The title of the review is from a remark attributed to the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, remembered also for the doleful quip about the lights going out all over Europe. For another review essay, covering some of the same books, see Simon Heffer.