The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914

The Sleepwalkers by Sir Christopher Clark

2015 Award in History & the Social Sciences

Author: Sir Christopher Clark
Publisher: Harper (2013)

Jury Statement

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is an amazing work of history writing. Uncommonly insightful, it combines fresh and thorough research in the primary sources, complete knowledge of the secondary literature, and a sure-footed ability both to analyze complex events and set them out in a compelling narrative. The book adds greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the war’s origins, keeping the focus initially on the Serbian question, which gives the story a sense of locality and contingency. With an impressive range of linguistic skills, Clark brings out the complexity of how momentous foreign policy decisions were reached in Austria, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, France, Serbia, Hungary, Italy, and the Ottoman Empire. In the end, The Sleepwalkers reveals how the particularities of politics and other structural factors are not isolated and merely contingent but, like what Machiavelli called Fortuna, combine and interact to produce large events in history like the First World War. It is not merely the best account we have of the event it explores, but a model for historical explanation altogether.

About the Author

Sir Christopher Clark is Regius Professor of History at St. Catharine’s College at the University of Cambridge (U.K.).


2015 Jury

Doris Bergen
Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Professor of Holocaust Studies
University of Toronto

Archie Brown, CMG, FBA
Emeritus Professor of Politics, St Antony’s College
University of Oxford

Anna Grzymala-Busse
Ronald and Eileen Weiser Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

John Van Engen
Andrew V. Tackes Professor of Medieval History
University of Notre Dame

Michael Zuckert
Nancy R. Dreux Professor of Political Science
University of Notre Dame