By now, you should have a copy of Guns of August. As you read Tuchman, bear in mind that her purpose is to craft a well-written and engaging narrative that draws you into the time period under consideration. Tuchman is not going to impose a systematic interpretation on the past. Instead, her interpretation of why the First World War began, how it developed in the fall of 1914, and why it is important will become clear as the story advances. Therefore, the book needs to be read thoughtfully, and with an appreciation for Tuchman as a storyteller. Pay special attention to her characterization of figures such as Wilhelm II, whom she describes brilliantly.
As you read, consider why she begins with the funeral of Edward VII, and how she uses that as a springboard to describe the web of alliances in Europe on the eve of the war. How and why are these alliances forming, and with what effect? Tuchman goes on to discuss the war plans of the various powers. How and why do Germany, France, and the British Empire develop their respective war plans? What is the role of Belgium and its neutrality in each war plan? Why are the war plans important? What are Figures to pay attention to include Norman Angell, Alfred von Schlieffen, Wilhelm II, Joseph Joffre, Ferdinand Foch, Henry Wilson, and Winston Churchill.