Stealing Horses to Great Applause

Stealing Horses to Great Applause:The Origins of the First World War Reconsidered

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Stand-out theoretical and empirical explanation of the origins of the First World War by one of the great historians of international diplomacy

Stealing Horses presents arguably the finest considerations yet of the origins of the First World War. Breaking with accounts which focus on the actions of a single state or the final countdown to hostilities, Paul W. Schroeder describes the systemic crisis engulfing the Great Powers. They were more interested in colonial plunder overseas ('stealing horses to great applause', in the old Spanish adage) than the traditional statecraft of European peace-making. Preserving the balance of power required preserving all the essential actors in it, including a tottering Austria-Hungary. This the British in particular failed to recognise. The Central Powers may have started the War but that does not mean they in any real sense caused it. In the end Schroeder recalls the verdict of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: 'All are punished'.

Stealing Horses includes appraisals of Niall Ferguson and A. J. P. Taylor, and an extensive unpublished final paper re-thinking the First World War as 'the last 18th-century war'.

With an Introduction by Perry Anderson.


  • He has made as good a case as has been made in recent years for treating international history as an important discipline in its own right

    Times Literary Supplement
  • Probably the foremost expert on the history of international politics in the world

    Lothar HöbeltInternational History Review
  • A powerful intellect, a meticulous and innovative researcher who transformed his field

    Katherine AaslestadPerspectives on History, the news magazine of the American Historical Association