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Countdown to War

Written by: David Elstein
Length: 1 hr and 55 mins
Categories: History, Europe
4.5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An audio dramatisation of July 1914 Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin.

'The story of the 37 days that led Europe to war after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914.'

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  • Overall
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  • Adam
  • 10-11-19

The dominoes fall

I can think of no better listen this Remembrance day than this audio dramatisation of "July 1914 Countdown to War" by Sean McMeekin.

It tells the story of the 37 days that led Europe to war after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914. Having dodged a bomb, the poor bugger drove onto to meet his death by assassins bullet. Austria feels its honour is at stake and delivers an ultimatum to Serbia to clamp down on the suspected terrorist organisation behind the assassination as well as other clauses that in effect amount of a surrender of Serbia's sovereignty. Accused of using the assassination as a pretext for invasion, Austria finds itself in the middle of a political storm in which various allies and antagonists form into their different power blocs. Diplomats, Kings and politicians and generals press for war or peace with equal fervour. But the war machine has been set in motion, and events develop a horrifying momentum of their own.

The dramatisation is a series of meetings and conversations in various centres of power. It is the performances and writing that gives this a sense of desperate humanity and urgency that conveys the weight and impact of the decisions made as well as any wide screen Spielbergian epic of the violence of battle could. The sound of signatures on paper here conveys the same dramatic power as the crack of a gunshot. The cast is uniformly excellent and includes Michael Mahoney and Bernard Cribbins.

So glad I found this. Already queued in my feed, "The Path to Peace."

6 people found this helpful

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  • Simon
  • 16-11-19

History Brought to Life

This was a simply incredible short period in world history. The complexities of human society have rarely been so starkly illustrated with the effect of unforeseen consequences allowing a world war to spiral from a local crisis. Portrayed as a series of meetings between the great and good of the key nations 'Countdown to War' cleverly details how the machinations of each of these great states and in many cases the best of intentions begat the worst of outcomes. Literally no-one really ended up with what they wanted out of those 37 days in the final analysis.

Hannah Gordon narrates well and the whole thing moves fast, perhaps requiring a little more than the average in terms of concentration as it zips from city to city.

Definitely well worth a listen.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Gkeaney
  • 22-01-20

Amazing stuff

Loved it, crazy how this all unfolds and great having detailed background on these key events building to war that’s broadly overlooked. We all know from school assassination led to war as the general lesson but how close it was to being so different.

This was the last time such a nonchalant approach to war has happened and this point was very well conveyed.

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  • peter mcphail
  • 17-01-20

very interesting

I learned much by listening to this so sad it did no good and ended in death for ten million people

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  • Jonathan
  • 10-11-19

A fascinating intimate account rarely understood!

Great selection of details that addresses the small number of key people, personal prejudices and and web of intimate relationships of the ancient regime.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Adam F.
  • 29-05-20

Good insight to the start of ww1

This was a good short insight into the start to ww1, i have never understood it prior so learnt alot.

I wish the actors voices where more clear to understand who was who maybe bit more of an accent for Russian etc but overall good listen

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  • Steven Sugden
  • 08-02-20

Hard to follow. ..so many names

Too many of the characters sounded like British diplomats. With so many characters and names a few strong French, German and Russian accents would have assisted the listener.

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  • Kevin
  • 30-01-20

Interesting and factual

School children should be made to listen to this for their history GCSEs to learn what happens when political egos cost millions of lives

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  • Lozzy
  • 29-01-20

fascinating and worrying

Brilliantly written and performed, it gives a fascinating insight into the attitude and motivations of the countries and personalities who started ww1, and the mistrust and misinterpretations that went into the decisions leading up to the war.

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  • WelshDanMan26
  • 27-01-20

Fascinating podcast serious

Really enjoyed this audio drama actors are fantastic and the political tension is cranked up to the max!