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Top 5 World War I history books

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This June 28 marks the grim centennial of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, which led to the outbreak of World War I. The Austrian Archduke was heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His assassination in Sarajevo by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip touched off political and diplomatic repercussions that culminated in the declaration of war on July 28, 1914. Here are five books exploring the history of the outbreak of World War I.

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"The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World" by Greg King and Sue Woolmans focuses on the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Princess Sophie. Royalty and romance collide with history in this look at the couple who married for love and were later struck down by an assassin's bullets. Spoiler alert: After seeing his wife shot dead instantly, and though mortally wounded himself, the Archduke's last words were, "Sophie, Sophie, you must live for the children."

“The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914” by Christopher Clark examines the peaceful decades before the war and the events and misunderstandings that hastened the nations of Europe to conflict. A professor at Cambridge University, Clark presents a well-written history of the outbreak of the war. Published in 2012, the book offers insights and new research into the conflict that was once called the "war to end all wars."

“Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War” by Max Hastings focuses on the diplomatic failures in the months before the war and the first battles fought in that fateful year. Military historian Hastings assesses the generals and politicians and colors his book with accounts from all levels of society. From soldiers and housewives to statesman and generals, the war affected everyone.

“The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914” by Margaret MacMillan explores Europe from 1900 up to the start of World War I. From the relatively peaceful 19th century to the chaos of war, MacMillan highlights the economics, politics and people of the early 20th century. In this well-researched work, the author presents the people who warned about the coming storm and those who undermined efforts for peace.

“The Guns of August” by Barbara W. Tuchman won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction in 1963. First published in 1962, the book takes an in-depth look at the first month of the war. Dramatic and evocative, this must read book brings history to life.

These books are all available online, in bookstores and at your local library.

For more information on World War I, click on the First World War Centenary website and the United States World War I Centennial Commission website.

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