Dance of the Furies
Europe and the Outbreak of World War I
Harvard University Press 2011
As we close in on the centennial of the First World War, no doubt there will be a flood of new interpretations and “hidden histories” of the conflict. Many books will certainly promise much, but in the end deliver little. Fortunately this is not the case with Michael Neiberg‘s latest book Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I (Harvard University Press, 2011).
In this important new view of the opening months of the war, Neiberg offers a fresh look at the July Crisis, how it was perceived across Europe, and the first two months of the war. Rather than focusing on the same old voices of the European literati and political elites, Neiberg shows us how the average person considered the march to war. In the process he reveals a number of startling insights that challenge the war’s standard historical orthodoxy, revealing that many of our assumptions about the collective and individual responses to the July Crisis are based on misperception and poor assumptions. Rather than a continent primed for war through a network of military alliances, unfettered military bureaucracies, and a cultural predisposition that viewed war as the great test of nations and men, he reveals a society that genuinely believed peace was possible until the very last moment, and which only accepted war as a last alternative, and which would be defensive in nature. This insight and so many others earn Dance of the Furies the label of “revisionist history” in the best possible sense.