Book Club: The Sleepwalkers Discussion Questions

Here are some ideas to think about while reading this book. Use them to guide your thinking as well as the discussion during your book club meeting.

  1. How would you define a nation state during the early 20th century? How does nationalism cross borders? How did nationalism contribute to the crisis of 1914?
  2. What impact did the periphery have on the multi-polarity of Europe?
  3. How can we compare current events to the events occurring before 1914? Is the international system different now or much the same?
  4. What impact did the press have on the escalation of events leading up to WWI?
  5. What sort of impact did 19th century imperialism in Africa have on the events leading up to WWI?
  6. Did one nation’s actions stand out to you in their influence on WWI? Was one nation more belligerent than the other? Who and how so?
  7. Who had more control over political decisions: the monarchs or the cabinet members? How is this indicative of the changes to the political system in Europe in the early 20th century?
  8. How did the alliances or ententes play a role in kicking off WWI?
  9. Clark indicates that there were many instances in which war could have been avoided? Which ones can you remember and do you think he is correct?
  10. Do you agree with Clark’s assessment that Europe “slept-walked” into war, or do you believe it was something else entirely? Was it a conscious decision on the part of belligerent states? Did the periphery force the hand of the larger nations? Were the leaders of each nation overly suspicious of their neighbors or too naïve? Or is it somewhere in between?

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