"She was not a guilty woman, neither was she a saint; she was an upright, charming woman, a little frivolous, somewhat impulsive, but always pure; she was a queen, at times ardent in her fancies for her favourites and thoughtless in her policy, but proud and full of energy; a thorough woman in her winsome ways and tenderness of heart, until she became a martyr."
"We have followed the history of Marie Antoinette with the greatest diligence and scrupulosity. We have lived in those times. We have talked with some of her friends and some of her enemies; we have read, certainly not all, but hundreds of the libels written against her; and we have, in short, examined her life with– if we may be allowed to say so of ourselves– something of the accuracy of contemporaries, the diligence of inquirers, and the impartiality of historians, all combined; and we feel it our duty to declare, in as a solemn a manner as literature admits of, our well-matured opinion that every reproach against the morals of the queen was a gross calumny– that she was, as we have said, one of the purest of human beings."
"It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely there never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like a morning star full of life and splendor and joy. Oh, what a revolution....Little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fall upon her, in a nation of gallant men, in a nation of men of honor and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look which threatened her with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded...."
~Edmund Burke, October 1790
A Note on Reviews
Unless otherwise noted, any books I review on this blog I have either purchased or borrowed from the library, and I do not receive any compensation (monetary or in-kind) for the reviews.
The 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I is upon us. Well
we should mourn this cataclysmic event and continue to draw lessons from
As a former soldier and military historian, I’ve always felt that WWI
was the most tragic conflict in modern history: a totally avoidable
madness that wrecked Europe’s glittering civilization and led directly
to World War II, Hitler and Stalin.
This mournful anniversary has reopened fierce debate over who was responsible for the Great War.
On one side of the debate is historian Margaret MacMillan, whose new
book “The War That Ended Peace,” lays primary blame on Germany’s
military and commercial ambitions. MacMillan is a nice lady – I’ve
debated her on TV – but her tedious new book is so steeped in
traditional British/Anglo-Saxon bias against Germany as to be of limited
On the other is “The Sleepwalkers – How Europe Went to War in 1914” by
Cambridge professor Christopher Clark. This brilliant book is the
finest, most instructive, best balanced book ever written on the origins
of the Great War.
I say this as holder of a degree in the diplomatic history of World War
I, and as one who has walked most of the battlefields of the Western
Prof. Clark deftly and elegantly weaves a tapestry of events that
conclusively shows that Germany’s role in the conflict was no greater
than the other belligerents, and perhaps less than commonly believed.
Starved into submission by Britain’s naval blockade, Germany was
unfairly and foolishly saddled with total war guilt, and saw 10% of its
territory and 7 million of its people torn away at Versailles by the
war’s rapacious victors.
Adolf Hitler rose to power on his vow to return Germany’s lost lands and
peoples who had been given to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
Stalin was determined to regain Russian territory lost at the 1918
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
Most of today’s Mideast’s problems flowed directly from the diplomatic
lynching of Germany at Versailles led by France and Britain. Both of
these imperial powers feared Germany’s growing commercial and military
power (just as the US today fears China’s rise). Germany’s vibrant
social democracy with its worker’s rights and concern for the poor posed
a threat to the capitalists of Britain and France. Britain’s
imperialists were deeply worried by the creation of a feeble little
German Empire based in Africa. At the time they controlled a quarter of
the globe and all of its oceans.
Clark’s book shows precisely how Serbia’s
militarist-nationalist-religious cabal, known as the Black Hand,
carefully planned and provoked the war by assassinating
Austria-Hungary’s heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his
wife at Sarajevo, Bosnia, on 28 June, 1914.
The Serb ultra-nationalists objective was to annex Bosnia, Macedonia,
Albanian Kosovo, and northern Albania to create a Greater Serbia. The
Serbs sought to provoke war between Russia and the decrepit
Austro-Hungarian Empire in order to drive Vienna’s influence from the
Balkans and allow the creation of Greater Serbia. The first two Balkan
Wars, 1912 and 1913, expanded Serbia but failed to give it control of
the entire Balkans and the strategic Albanian ports of Durres and Vlore
on the Adriatic. Serbia remained landlocked.
In the late 1980’s, the Serb extremists, led by Slobodan Milosevic, who
attempted ethnic cleansing of the Muslims of Bosnia and Kosovo, were
carbon copies of the Black Hand with the very same racist-nationalist
geopolitical goals. (Read more.)
The fact that a link is provided here in no way constitutes an endorsement of everything on the other end of the link.
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