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The Games of July

Explaining the Great War

Frank C. Zagare

Publication Year: 2011

Frank C. Zagare combines a deep command of historical scholarship and the sophisticated skills of an applied game theorist to develop and test a theory of why deterrence failed, catastrophically, in July 1914. . . . Zagare concludes with sage advice on how to avoid even more cataclysmic breakdowns in a nuclear world. ---Steven J. Brams, New York University "Zagare's deft study of the origins of the First World War using his perfect deterrence theory uncovers new insights into that signal event and shows the value of formal theory applied to historical events. A must-read for those interested in security studies." ---James D. Morrow, University of Michigan "Through an exemplary combination of formal theory, careful qualitative analysis, and lucid prose, The Games of July delivers important and interesting answers to key questions concerning the international political causes of World War I. Its well-formed narratives and its sustained engagement with leading works in IR and diplomatic history . . . make it a rewarding read for security scholars in general and a useful teaching tool for international security courses." ---Timothy W. Crawford, Boston College Taking advantage of recent advances in game theory and the latest historiography, Frank C. Zagare offers a new, provocative interpretation of the events that led to the outbreak of World War I. He analyzes key events from Bismarck's surprising decision in 1879 to enter into a strategic alliance with Austria-Hungary to the escalation that culminated in a full-scale global war. Zagare concludes that, while the war was most certainly unintended, it was in no sense accidental or inevitable. The Games of July serves not only as an analytical narrative but also as a work of theoretical assessment. Standard realist and liberal explanations of the Great War are evaluated along with a collection of game-theoretic models known as perfect deterrence theory. Frank C. Zagare is UB Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Cover illustration: Satirical Italian postcard from World War I. Used with permission from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The First World War is doubtless the seminal event of the twentieth century. It is safe to say that had it not occurred, the history of the past hundred years would have been dramatically different. Had major-power war been avoided in 1914, it is likely that there would have been no Soviet Union, no Hitler, no Second World War, no Cold War, no nuclear arms race, and no post--Cold War...

Part One: Theoretical Underpinnings

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Chapter One: Purpose and Method

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pp. 3-18

Until Germany invaded Poland in 1939, it was known simply as the Great War. The label was an understatement. The carnage, both human and political, was unprecedented. According to one estimate, more than 9,000,000 lives were lost: 1,800,000 Germans and 1,700,000 Russians died; France lost 1,350,000 of its citizens, Austria-Hungary more than 1,200,000; Great Britain lost almost...

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Chapter Two: Theories and Explanations

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pp. 19-38

The earliest attempts to "explain" the Great War were virtually coterminous with its outbreak. In fact, some of these efforts preceded the hostilities, as many of the involved powers, but Germany in particular, tried to avoid being held responsible for the looming escalation of the crisis. Shortly after the fighting started, each of the five major European powers released a colored book...

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Chapter Three: Perfect Deterrence Theory: An Overview

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pp. 39-57

To this point, we have seen that extant explanations of the Great War fall short of the mark. Historical narratives fail to provide the element of necessity essential to a satisfying explanation,while studies that focus on long-term or underlying determinants are hard put to establish a causal connection between these background factors, some of which are near constants, and the specific...

Part Two: Explaining the Great War

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Chapter Four: Bismarck's System

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pp. 61-89

The European state system was in crisis for most of July 1914, but only on August 4, when German troops, heading toward the French border, invaded Belgium, did the system's collapse become all but inevitable. For the first time since 1870, a war between the great powers of Europe was about to break out. Great Britain's foreign secretary, Sir Edward Grey, was among those who recognized...

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Chapter Five: Vienna, Berlin, and the Blank Check

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pp. 90-109

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. At 11:00 PM on August 4, Great Britain declared war on Germany.What transpired in between has come to be known as the July Crisis. It is something of a misnomer. The July Crisis should not be thought of as a singular event. During this interval, a number of distinct decisions were...

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Chapter Six: La Guerre Europ

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pp. 110-143

To the casual observer, not much of note seemed to be happening in Europe immediately after the meeting of the Austro-Hungarian Common Ministerial Council on July 7, 1914. The kaiser, intent on not tipping Germany's hand, had the day before departed on a planned cruise aboard his private yacht, the Hohenzollern. And other leaders, in both Berlin and Vienna, acted as if nothing...

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Chapter Seven: Britain's Strategic Dilemma

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pp. 144-167

Under considerable pressure from his political and military advisers, Czar Nicholas II finally consented to a full mobilization of Russian armed forces against both Austria-Hungary and Germany on Thursday, July 30, 1914. The czar's decision clearly placed Germany's policymakers in an untenable position, for the Russian army vastly outnumbered its German counterpart...

Part Three: Endgame

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Chapter Eight: Questions, Answers, Implications

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pp. 171-193

The Great War was clearly a turning point in the history of Europe. Not only did this hegemonic struggle bring "to a terrible end an extraordinary period of a great civilization" (Kagan 1995: 81), but it also "changed everything" that followed (Andelman 2008: 3). So profound was its impact that it is almost impossible to imagine what the state system would look like today had the war...


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pp. 195-208


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pp. 209-214

E-ISBN-13: 9780472023707
E-ISBN-10: 0472023705
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472051168
Print-ISBN-10: 0472051164

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 14 Figures, 12 Tables
Publication Year: 2011