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June 10 , 2009

The Winter Before the War


No one, it seems, was expecting a massive war that, by the end of the year, would kill or wound five million. In the winter of 1914, Britain was preoccupied with the possibility of civil war over home rule in Ireland. Kaiser Wilhem of Germany wanted to boost his naval power but wasn't keen on fighting. Russian Tsar Nicholas II was celebrating three centuries of his dynasty. Austria-Hungary was concerned about its restive ethnic Serb subjects. But as Hamida Ghafour writes in her panoramic new ebook, The Winter Before the War, decisions made by those rulers and others meant that only a fuse was needed to bring on the First World War. Ghafour, who writes on foreign affairs for the Toronto Star, takes a fascinating and intimate look at the major players -including Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife -and recreates a time not unlike ours. It was an era of globalization, technological breakthroughs and faith in progress, but with simmering hostilities and military expansion in the shadows.

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