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Book review

‘The Sleepwalkers’ by Christopher Clark

For a century the question of the origins of World War I has bedeviled historians, who have struggled to determine whether a conflict that claimed 20 million lives and prompted the death of three empires could have been avoided and, if not, who was to blame.

That question won’t be settled by the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand a year from this summer. There are too many factors, too many moving parts and, alas, too many (contradictory) documents to produce an ironclad answer. But no one who examines the question will be able to ignore “The Sleepwalkers,’’ the monumental new volume by Cambridge University historian Christopher Clark that addresses this issue.

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