Pandora’s Box

Montag, 17. November 2014 | 

Schlagwörter »  |  Thema: englisch

Professor Jörn Leonhard has held the Chair for the History of Romance Western Europe at the University of Freiburg since 2006. He has received numerous awards and honors in the course of his academic career, including the Baden-Württemberg State Research Prize and selection as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London. On 12 November, his latest work, Die Büchse der Pandora, will receive the 2012 Prize for Nonfiction from the regional broadcaster NDR Kultur.

Die Büchse der Pandora
Jörn Leonhard: Die Büchse der Pandora. Geschichte des Ersten Weltkriegs, C.H. Beck, 2014, 38.00 €

Published in the spring of 2014, the book Die Büchse der Pandora – Geschichte des Ersten Weltkrieges (“Pandora’s Box – History of the First World War”) has caused a sensation and received outstanding reviews. It might be characterized best as a general introductory work on the topic. The main section describing the war years is flanked by chapters on the long series of events leading up to the war, reaching from the 16th century all the way up to the July Crisis of 1914, and on the direct consequences of the war for nations and societies, individuals and ideas.

Leonhard does not see any of the protagonists as being truly at blame for the war’s outbreak, but he does emphasize the especially great responsibility of Germany and Great Britain. These two nations could have played a role in a possible de-escalation of the conflict after the assassination in Sarajevo. However, Germany took on an impossible risk by giving Austria a “carte blanche,” thus minimizing its own scope for action. Great Britain, on the other hand, raised the hopes of France and Russia that it would enter a potential war on their side while at the same time leading Germany to believe that it would remain neutral. This intensified the readiness for war on both sides.

Leonhard succeeds in the balancing act of painting a broad panorama of the First World War from an international perspective that is at once marked by in-depth analysis and packaged in readily understandable language. The book will thus appeal to both casual readers and historians – a clear recommendation for anyone interested in the history of World War I.

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