Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Book Review - "War By Timetable". AJP Taylor

Or, to give it its full title, War by Timetable: How the First World War Began.

I've been in London all day at a security conference, and like an idiot I forgot to stick a book in the bag (alongside the two laptops, iPad mini and notebook). So I figured it was about time to catch up on the collection of assorted free Kindle books I've been picking up on the iPad.

Wasn't sure what to expect of this, having not read anything by AJP Taylor before, but it was fairly short, so I figured I could get through it easily enough. Very pleasantly surprised - it's a fascinating discourse on the progression of actions from the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (an event that one of my favourite books calls 'a cloud, no bigger than a man's hand') through to the British declaration of war (which will be 100 years ago just before my birthday next year). Very clearly written, with some intriguing insights into what was going on behind the scenes, and I learned a lot.

It was free when I got it, but with hindsight? I'd have gladly paid the £1.99 it is now, brief though it is.


  1. I used to watch Taylor's lectures on TV - classic stuff! I wonder if they're on You Tube?

    The cloud the size of a man's hand is a Biblical reference from the story of Elijah and Ahab.

    1. Indeed - using it to describe the killing of Archduke Ferdinand is where I came across it first, thjough....

    2. Does that mean it is time to Run

  2. Mike, "War by Time-Table" is a magnificent little book. It was a great choice by you!! The MacDonald version of the physical book is lovely, with lots of great photographs. AJP Taylor was a fine historian, and pretty radical in his day in some of his ideas. Reading "War by Time-Table", "The Pity of War", and Fritz Fischer's "Germany's Aims in the First World War" and you have a great bed-rock for almost all of the arguments about why on earth the War broke out. A really endlessly fascinating, nightmarish historical disaster.

  3. AJP Taylor's writings have to be repected, but I'm not sure I always agree with him. However, I've not read this particular book. However, I do know that the topic of it was on the New Zealand secondary school History curriculum 20-odd years ago. Apparently the 'hook' was having to transport a whole bunch of schoolkids to some venue or other, given a limited number of buses. Then one of the buses breaks down, a driver calls in sick... How to adapt?

    Whatever, I should not be surprised if AJP Taylor's conclusion includes confirmation of the dictum: no plan survives first contact with the enemy.


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