Christopher Clark

'1914 Revisited: How Europe went to War’ Abstract:

In his talk, Professor Clark's talk will draw on The Sleepwalkers to retell the story of the outbreak of the First World War and its causes:

The moments that it took Gavrilo Princip to step forward to the stalled car and shoot dead Franz Ferdinand and his wife were perhaps the most fateful of the modern era. An act of terrorism of staggering efficiency, it fulfilled its every aim: it would liberate Bosnia from Habsburg rule and it created a powerful new Serbia, but it also brought down four great empires, killed millions of men and destroyed a civilization. What made a seemingly prosperous and complacent Europe so vulnerable to the impact of this assassination?

Drawing on many fresh new sources, Clark reveals a Europe very different from the familiar picture, putting Serbia and the Balkans at the centre of the story. Starting with the brutal assassination of Alexander I of Serbia in 1903, Clark shows how, far from being the place of enviable stability it appears to us, Europe was racked by chronic problems: a multipolar, fractured, multicultural world of clashing ideals, terrorism, militancy and instability, which was, fatefully, saddled with a conspicuously ineffectual set of political leaders. He shows how the rulers of Europe, who prided themselves on their modernity and rationalism, behaved like sleepwalkers, stumbling through crisis after crisis and finally convincing themselves that war was the only answer.

 Christopher Clark is a Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914 (2013); Iron Kingdom: the Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947 (2006); and Kaiser Wilhelm II (2000). Iron Kingdom won the prestigious Wolfson History Prize in 2007. The Sleepwalkers is a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee and was one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year in 2013