Review: Volume 20 - Second World War

Review: Volume 20 - Second World War



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From Britain's answer to Michael Moore, Lobster's formidable editor Robin Ramsay brings you the JFK assassination, covert action, destabilisation, strategic theory, economics, politics, para-politics, Colin Wallace, Fred Holroyd, whistle-blowers, New Zealand, Australia, nuclear weapons, Blair, Brown, espionage, MI5, MI6, CIA, 9/11, conspiracy theories and the rise of New Labour.

The Independent Sector Treatment Centre programme has been presented to Parliament and the public as a way of helping the NHS cut waiting times for elective treatments such as hip and knee replacements and cataract removals. In reality it is a way of giving private companies access to the NHS budget for secondary clinical care. This book tells the story, first as the government presented it, then as the House of Commons Health Select Committee tried to assess it, and finally as it really is - a bridgehead for the private sector to take over NHS services and staff on a steadily-growing scale.

It shows how the real aims of the programme have been obscured and how information on it has been regularly massaged or withheld. All over the country NHS trusts are closing services as patient income is diverted to for-profit providers on highly advantageous terms. The aim is to make NHS trusts compete in a new healthcare market. The effect is to accelerate the fragmentation of the NHS into a series of unequal units, in which profitability takes priority over patient needs.

How can we ensure high-quality public services such as health care and education? Governments spend huge amounts of public money on public services such as health, education, and social care, and yet the services that are actually delivered are often low quality, inefficiently run, unresponsive to their users, and inequitable in their distribution. In this book, Julian Le Grand argues that the best solution is to offer choice to users and to encourage competition among providers. Le Grand has just completed a period as policy advisor working within the British government at the highest levels, and from this he has gained evidence to support his earlier theoretical work and has experienced the political reality of putting public policy theory into practice.He examines four ways of delivering public services: trust; targets and performance management; 'voice'; and, choice and competition. He argues that, although all of these have their merits, in most situations policies that rely on extending choice and competition among providers have the most potential for delivering high-quality, efficient, responsive, and equitable services. But it is important that the relevant policies be appropriately designed, and this book provides a detailed discussion of the principal features that these policies should have in the context of health care and education. It concludes with a discussion of the politics of choice.


20 Best World War 1 Books (2021 Review)

World war one remains one the most significant events in world history. Whether you are curious about learning more about the war the relative fought in or you would simply like to learn more about the generations that came before, World War I can be a fascinating and dark subject. Tens of millions of people throughout Europe were lost in the field entrenches a battle during this time. Studying World War I can help us to avoid repeating these mistakes from the past and make sure that we can study the evidence of the time that led up to the war to prevent the same conditions.

What are the Best World War 1 Books to read?

There’s a large number of books available on the subject of World War I. You might find it tough to narrow down the right books that you should be reading to further your knowledge. Here are some of the finest books that are currently available on the subject of WWI.


The Forgotten 500 tells a tale of one of the most heroic rescue missions that took place during this great war. One of the few rescue missions that often gets left out of history books and movies. It is a tale of sacrifice, of hope and of amazing men.

When hundreds of men were shot out of the skies, they were over Yugoslavia, a country occupied by the Germans. The towns people risked their own lives to hide the men, giving them shelter and food until they could escape. Cargo planes dropped them supplies, miracously not being shot down in the process. Airmen constructed a complete air strip with no supplies, all while not letting the Germans find out. This story was classified for many years after it happened, but now the story is being told a story of heroic men that made a marvellous escape.

  • Authors: Gregory A. Freeman (Author)
  • Publisher: Dutton Caliber Reprint Edition (September 2, 2008)
  • Pages: 336 pages

2. If You Survive: From Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge to the End of World War II, One American Officer’s Riveting True Story

If You Survive tells the story of one American Officer as he risks his life in one battle after another during this great war. He begins the story by telling of how he enrolled in college, thinking that he would automatically be rejected because he wore glasses. Then, he was drafted anyway. He was ordered to take an IQ test, and stationed in Georgia for five months.

After that, his tale tells of his experience in the field, where he was told that if he could survive for a single day that he might be up for a promotion. This soldier was one of the only men to survive out of his group and remains a national war hero. Learn what he saw, things he did, and how he managed to make it out alive.

  • Authors: George Wilson (Author)
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Reissue Edition (May 12, 1987)
  • Pages: 288 pages

Review: Volume 20 - Second World War - History

Deceptively thin, R. J. Overy's The Origins of the Second World War contains a great deal of material into its 145 pages. Overy's purpose in writing this book is to challenge the notion that World War II was "Hitler's War" and instead to draw attention to the larger political and economic factors that made the rest of the world equally involved. Many of the explanations in today's textbooks and classrooms take too much advantage of hindsight. Overy specifically challenges the argument that European democracies challenged Hitler on moral grounds after discovering his appetite for expansion was insatiable, or that Chamberlain and his cabinet were weak politicians, browbeaten by Hitler at Munich and determined to make up for it in Poland. The Second World War, like the first, was the result of "old fashioned balance-of-power politics." (2)

French and British inability to resume their pre-1914 dominance created global economic and political vacuums which Germany, Italy, and Japan were eager to fill. Emulating British and French examples, the rising fascist countries sought empires to expand their wealth and influence. Initially, Britain and France acquiesced because Axis expansion did not directly affect their spheres of influence and could be ignored while at the same time they maintained order at home and economic interests abroad. Additionally, Britain and France hoped that the time purchased with appeasement could be spent on rearmament as a deterrent to further expansion. In the end, the British went to war over Poland because losing another country to German demands signaled the decline of British and French authority on the continent.

After 1940 it was obvious that Britain and France lacked the ability to contain Germany and maintain status quo, thus leading to Britain's dependence on the United States. The developments in Europe encouraged Italy and Japan to pursue their own empires resulting in the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's full engagement in the war. When the war ended, the Allies had successfully re-established the balance of power, but the United States and the Soviet Union sat at the heads of the table instead of Britain and France.

Having previously written more narrowly focused (and much lengthier) studies of World War II, Overy is to be credited for the fact that he can to cover so much territory in so few pages. His brevity, however, is not without its drawbacks. In particular, Overy's focus on empires and economies leaves little room for social factors and particularly for German anti-Semitism. In his introduction he acknowledges that some interpretations of Hitler's war stress the importance of Nazi racism, but Overy neither confirms nor challenges these perspectives. Hitler's fixation on Lebensraum in Eastern Europe and the full impact of the Nazi-Soviet Pact cannot be fully understood without some mention of the role of Nazi racial policy. Overy does discuss the impact of social pressures on England and the United States, but he should have also done so in his discussion of other countries.

The book is well structured and includes a detailed table of contents, index, several maps, and a guide to major figures in the text. Overy's unusual method of citing sources (bracketed numbers in the text refer to numbered bibliographic entries) may confuse readers who jump right into the book and then wonder what "[84]" means. Citations referring to documents, collected in an appendix, are clearer. Some direct quotes are not cited, and, although, these many quotes are not essential to the argument it is frustrating that they are not properly documented.

Given the amount of detail and the level of familiarity with modern European history required to understand Overy's arguments, Origins of the Second World War is ideal for upper-division college and graduate seminars as well as for instructor preparation. Throughout the book, Overy poses many questions which can spark class debate or ideas for senior theses. The bibliography includes over 180 references to primary and secondary sources providing an excellent resource for students to begin their research. Most of the secondary sources are in English, although a few are in French or German. Some of the most important primary documents (or at least excerpts) are included in a separate section of the book instructors will find these useful in assigning smaller papers or presentations.

The Second World War is too often taught in a vacuum as an event that had a major impact on the future but whose ties to the past are little more than thin threads linkingt back to the Great War. Though few of Overy's conclusions are truly novel, his ability to place the war in its global economic and political context challenges what is taught in most undergraduate classrooms.


'The Storm of War' by Andrew Roberts: Best History of World War II

With his new book on the Second World War, British historian Andrew Roberts has not only written the single best history of that conflict but has also claimed his place as one of our top historians, says Michael Korda.

Michael Korda

Coventry Cathedral lay in ruins after a German air raid on Nov. 14, 1940. (AP Photo)

It is curious that the two best-known British historians in the United States are Andrew Roberts and Niall Ferguson, each of whom represents, in fact, a different school of serious historical writing, and both of whom seem to have gained for themselves, perhaps without intending to, a special reputation on the American right. Ferguson is the more “modern” of the two, a formidable compiler of facts and statistics, who tends to seek in the numbers the explanation for what happened, and to stress sociopolitical trends and economics rather than interesting “human” stories. This kind of “fact driven” history is par for the course in the American academic world, to which it migrated from Germany in the late 19th century, although Ferguson is a much livelier writer than most academic historians in this country, as well as being almost alarmingly prolific.

Roberts, on the other hand, who is as much a biographer as a historian, is much more interested in writing a coherent and lively story, in keeping with the more genteel, old-fashioned tradition of writing about history in terms of great men and dramatic moments. He has a certain affection for slightly reactionary figures, or, as we might put it in Britain, Tory icons. His biography of the Marquess of Salisbury, Salisbury: Victorian Titan, is a masterpiece about one of the greatest and most able Tory political figures of the Victorian age, and The Holy Fox, his equally masterly biography of Lord Halifax, explores that puzzling man, whose long career of public service was suddenly pushed unceremoniously into the shadow by his rival Winston Churchill’s overnight emergence as Britain’s war leader.

Although Roberts’ sympathies are clearly with well-established Tory figures—Salisbury, Halifax, Wellington—he is by no means a “reactionary” historian, despite claims to the contrary he is simply following the old-fashioned British tradition of “great man” history, of history told as an ennobling story, and of history told through letters, diaries, documents, and personalities, rather than through statistics or socioeconomic trends. Roberts is an elitist rather than a reactionary. He does not look down on good gossip, and in fact his Eminent Churchillians (which I published) is a model of witty and incisive writing about some of the comparatively minor figures around Churchill, which in the end succeeds in shedding more light on Churchill than a good many of the more lengthy biographies of the great man himself. That is not to compare Roberts with, say, Saint-Simon, but rather to praise him for his unrivaled ability to make even the biography of someone whom one does not at first think of as fascinating, like Halifax, into a thought-provoking and thoroughly readable book. One might not always agree with Roberts, but one never finds oneself skipping a few pages to get on with it—he writes with grace, elegance, and absolute authority, and makes the people he writes about seem far more interesting and sympathetic than we ever suspected they could be, no small talent in itself.

I would have said it couldn’t be done, to do the whole of World War II in 600 pages and get it right, not at any rate without leaving out great chunks, but Roberts has managed to do it, and do it superbly well.

Of course, since two of his early and most important books are on the subject of figures about whom very few people in America have the slightest curiosity, it has taken Roberts longer than he should have to gain a reputation here. The number of Americans who want to read about Halifax or Salisbury is approximately equal to the number of people in the United Kingdom who might read a long biography of George C. Marshall or Woodrow Wilson, which is a pity, since it has delayed recognition on this side of the Atlantic of just how good a writer he is, and what a pleasure he is to read. This perhaps explains Roberts’ careful but determined approach to subjects of a more general and more transatlantic interest.

Although his two major biographies are long and serious books, Roberts has been transforming himself steadily into a historian on a broader, wider, more “popular” and ambitious scale. He wrote a wonderful book on Napoleon and Wellington, a step back in time, but obviously a preparation for a career more oriented toward military history than Victorian or post-Edwardian British politics. His book on Hitler and Churchill was a big, full-scale advance toward positioning himself as a military historian, and after an ambitious pause to write A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900, he moved firmly on to seize the high ground with Masters and Commanders, an excellent book on the combination of political and military leadership that brought the Allied Powers to victory in 1945 and demonstrated that democracies were better suited to fight and win a war than a dictatorship, however fearsome.

Now, working at almost the same breakneck pace as Niall Ferguson, Roberts has written a hefty and highly readable history of the Second World War, and written it with a clarity, a gift of sustained storytelling that does not diminish the seriousness and authority he brings to the subject, and above all a fair-mindedness that is rare among historians of the war. For in general, histories of the Second World War in the English language can be divided sharply into those written by Americans, which downplay the British role in the war, and those written by British historians, which downplay the role of the Americans (and also give less space and attention to the Pacific theater than the European theater). Roberts has managed to write a book that both strives and succeeds in giving more or less equal time to both, and also manages to include enough about events in China and the war on the Eastern Front to give the reader a well-balanced and excitingly written account of the whole war. It is about as global a view of that great event as one can imagine, and anyone who has not been reading about the war from 1945 to today in one form or another (as most older people have) would find The Storm of War a remarkably good attempt to put the whole thing into just over 600 very entertaining pages, including a short but interesting and well-reasoned conclusion demonstrating that the person most responsible for Germany’s losing the war was the man who started it, Hitler himself, whose mistakes, delusions, exaggerated self-confidence, and system of government doomed Germany (and its allies) despite the excellence of the German Army and the inventiveness of technocrats like Albert Speer.

If you don’t know as much about World War II as you think you ought to, or if you want a good, clear picture of how and why it took place as it did, or if you would simply like to cut through the thicket of multivolume histories, biographies, memoirs, diaries, and letters and get the whole story in one book, this is it. Roberts’ chapter on the Holocaust, for example, is brilliant and harrowing, he leaves nothing out, but he manages to get it all into 30 pages: a miracle.

My hat is off to him. I would have said it couldn’t be done, to do the whole of World War II in 600 pages and get it right, not at any rate without leaving out great chunks, but Roberts has managed to do it, and do it superbly well. He is even fair to both Ike and Monty (usually a sure sign of whether the writer is American or British), and concisely gives the reader a good understanding of the German and Japanese commanders and strategy, as well as a description of events that are often given short shrift, like the Burma campaign or the importance of the Battle of Midway. Could one nitpick? Yes, and surely many will, but he has set a standard for concise one-volume histories of the war that will be hard to beat. His scholarship is superb, and the “packaging” of the book, with very good illustrations and ample first-class maps, makes it a real pleasure to read, as opposed to the chore this kind of thing so often is.

What is more, Roberts has succeeded in writing about terrible events with broad and tolerant sympathy. There is nothing “reactionary” about this book—it is the story of a necessary war fought at an unthinkable cost, in which the villains were clearly recognizable from the very beginning, a history that is, in the fullest and most old-fashioned sense of the word, “democratic.”

We are now 66 years away from the end of World War II, and therefore in the same relationship to it that people in the United States were to the Civil War in 1921 time, one might say, for a good account of what has become to most people a great event of the past. The number of people who remember it or experienced it is diminishing daily time, one might say, for a book like this that sums it up objectively with firm scholarship, a sense of restrained decency, a rare lack of national prejudice, and a determination to get everything into the right sequence so that it makes sense to the reader. Roberts has not only written a good book but performed a valuable service, and I hope it will be read by as many people and in as many languages as possible, whether in print or on a Kindle or its equivalents. The worst crime of the Second World War would be to forget about it, or to ignore what went on and why, or to preserve the mistaken ideas and folklore that have crept into people’s view of it through popular culture (movies, fiction, television) or by national prejudice. The idea that somebody has been able to approach objectively, in the round, as it were, and tell the whole story is amazing, and gives one, for a change, a hopeful feeling about the writing of history.

New York Times bestselling author Michael Korda's books include Ike, Horse People, Country Matters, Ulysses S. Grant, and Charmed Lives.


WWII Book Review: Winston Churchill

Churchill’s first love, Pamela Plowden (later Lady Lytton), once said of him, “The first time you meet Winston you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues.” However, in Christopher Catherwood’s Winston Churchill, very few of his virtues are in evidence.

Catherwood opens his book by claiming that it is “an unashamedly postrevisionist book” that “for the first time” balances where Churchill was right as well as where he was wrong. That Churchill was a flawed genius, however, has been well established in dozens if not hundreds of books. Most recently, historian David Reynolds revealed in In Command of History how Churchill manipulated his six-volume memoir of World War II to reflect his own version of events, which did not always square with the truth. Others, like Robert Rhodes James in Churchill: A Study in Failure, 1900–1939, have honestly and accurately depicted both his genius and his flaws. But Catherwood does not belong in their league: the flaws in his book are less Churchill’s than his.

Catherwood’s central assertion is that Churchill’s mistakes cost the Allies dearly and unwittingly perpetuated the problems of the postwar world. He points to Churchill’s obsession with fighting the Germans in the Mediterranean as obstructing Gen. George C. Marshall’s aim of carrying out the cross-Channel invasion of France in 1943—and adds that delaying the invasion to 1944 permitted the Russians to advance farther west and create the iron curtain. Conspicuously neglected, to take just one example, is the fact that further operations in the Mediterranean and Normandy’s delay had Roosevelt’s blessing as well.

Catherwood’s arguments that Operation Overlord ought to have been carried out in 1943 are not new and have been thoroughly discredited. Yet these claims persist (and not just in this book), even though, as desirable as it may have been, it was never feasible. Combat commanders like Lt. Gen. James M. Gavin, who have been there, done that, and have the T-shirt to prove it, scoffed at such notions for good reason. Overlord required an enormous and sustainable logistical buildup in place in Great Britain—nearly impossible in 1943, given the Battle of the Atlantic. A 1943 invasion would have had insufficient landing craft, lacked air superiority, and pitted inexperienced British and American troops against the Wehrmacht.

But what is most troubling about books like this is their ahistorical approach. They pontificate, making implausible, unproven arguments from the comfort of historical hindsight to second-guess difficult decisions made in the midst of war without the benefit of a clairvoyance that no one, not even Churchill and Roosevelt, could have possessed. While it is unquestionably true that some of Churchill’s wartime decisions hindered more than they helped, the author seems oblivious to another inescapable fact: without Churchill, Britain had little hope of survival.

Originally published in the July 2009 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.


The Second World War, By Anthony Beevor

Antony Beevor has done a great deal to popularise history. Having played a key role in convincing both public and publishers alike that the subject could be sexy, he has been at the forefront of history's much-vaunted boom of recent years.

Now, after a succession of highly successful books tackling aspects of the Second World War, his new book is a single overarching volume about the entire conflict, from the Battle of the Atlantic to Pearl Harbor from the first skirmishes at Khalkhin Gol to the grim denouement of Nagasaki.

The result is a handsome, yet rather daunting doorstop of a book. But happily, its 800-odd pages fly by with considerable speed, as Beevor warms to his task, being especially strong on grand strategy and on the experience of ordinary soldiers. The narrative never flags and the myriad pieces of this intricate kaleidoscope are pieced together with exemplary skill.

There are many memorable moments. Beevor opens with the astonishing story of a young Korean soldier taken prisoner by the Americans in Normandy, who had been dragooned by the Japanese before passing through Soviet hands and into Hitler's Wehrmacht. It's an example that seems to typify one of Beevor's leitmotifs: the utter lack of control that those affected by war – soldiers and civilians – had over their lives.

Throughout, he spares the reader little in his searing accounts of man's inhumanity to his fellow man, while simultaneously uplifting us with tales of stoicism or individual heroics. There are a few eye-opening revelations – not least that 60 per cent of Japanese military deaths were caused by disease and hunger, and that, in combating the latter, an organised policy of cannibalism of PoWs and native populations was carried out. The story was so gruesome that it was deliberately excluded from the war crimes trials that followed 1945.

Beevor does well to give due weight to the Pacific theatre, but he sensibly shies away from any spurious "holistic" approach, preferring to treat the Pacific and European theatres as almost entirely separate entities. Indeed, he tends to avoid modish novelties or grand reinterpretations of the conflict, presenting instead a lively, engaging and unashamedly narrative retelling of the vast, complex, global story of the war.

This is a splendid book, erudite, with an admirable clarity of thought and expression. For a summary of the Second World War – who did what to whom, when and why – the general reader would need look no further.

Given such praise, it is perhaps churlish to offer a note of criticism. Yet it is hard to escape the impression that, in tackling such a vast subject, Beevor has been obliged to sacrifice too much of the very aspect that had become his stylistic trademark: the telling anecdote, the poignant aside, the illuminating vignette. The result is that the book – for all its excellence – appears to lack some of the pizzazz of his earlier offerings.

Beevor's Second World War is sure to reach a wide and appreciative audience – and deservedly so. But, such are the stellar standards that Beevor has set for himself over the past decade or so, that one fears that there are a few of his most dedicated readers who might be just a tad disappointed.

Roger Moorhouse's Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler's Capital is published by Vintage (£9.99)


Understanding Western Society: A History, Volume Two

Understanding Western Society , Second Edition, features a brief, question-drive narrative that models for students the inquiry-based methods used by historians and helps students understand what’s really important to know about Western civilization. The second edition introduces LaunchPad.

Understanding Western Society , Second Edition, features a brief, question-drive narrative that models for students the inquiry-based methods used by historians and helps students understand what’s really important to know about Western civilization. The second edition introduces LaunchPad, an interface that combines carefully curated new content, assignments, and assessments integrated with an interactive e-book. With LaunchPad, students have the option of reading the book in print or online and you have the technology to make class preparation a breeze. LaunchPad includes all the primary sources from Sources of Western Society , as well as LearningCurve, an automatically graded adaptive learning tool that students love to use to cement their understanding of the text and instructors love to assign to prepare students for class. LaunchPad also has a wealth of activities and assessments that help students make progress towards learning outcomes: map and visual activities, auto-graded quizzing, guided reading exercises, and carefully developed Online Document Projects. LaunchPad is easy to use and can and can be integrated with your school’s course management system, giving you the tools for enhanced teaching and learning.

Save money with our loose, 3-hole punched pages.

Read and study old-school with our bound texts.

A western civilization text designed for understanding

Understanding Western Society , Second Edition, features a brief, question-drive narrative that models for students the inquiry-based methods used by historians and helps students understand what’s really important to know about Western civilization. The second edition introduces LaunchPad, an interface that combines carefully curated new content, assignments, and assessments integrated with an interactive e-book. With LaunchPad, students have the option of reading the book in print or online and you have the technology to make class preparation a breeze. LaunchPad includes all the primary sources from Sources of Western Society , as well as LearningCurve, an automatically graded adaptive learning tool that students love to use to cement their understanding of the text and instructors love to assign to prepare students for class. LaunchPad also has a wealth of activities and assessments that help students make progress towards learning outcomes: map and visual activities, auto-graded quizzing, guided reading exercises, and carefully developed Online Document Projects. LaunchPad is easy to use and can and can be integrated with your school’s course management system, giving you the tools for enhanced teaching and learning.

Chapter-wide pedagogical tools drive students to key developments. Chapter section headings, posed as questions, model how historians approach the past. Quick Review questions at the end of each section are answerable online in LaunchPad.

Innovative four-step chapter reviews help students build historical skills while retaining key content. In step one, students rehearse chapter content online with LearningCurve, an automatically graded adaptive learning tool. In step two, they identify the chapter’s key terms and explain their significance. In step three, they work on understanding the connections among the chapter’s major ideas. Finally, in step four, students answer analytical, synthetic questions and complete an active recitation exercise. The chapter study guide can be completed online using LaunchPad.

Assignable and assessable map and visual activities help students with geographic knowledge and visual literacy. These activities ask students to analyze the map or image and then make connections to the narrative content. Best of all, when assigned in LaunchPad, student work on these activities can be tracked and assessed in one convenient spot.

LearningCurve ensures students come to class prepared. Tired of your students not reading the textbook? Would you like to know what they read and how much they understood—BEFORE they come to class? Assign LearningCurve, the adaptive learning tool created for your survey textbook in LaunchPad , and the system’s analytics will show how your students are doing with the reading so that you can adapt your class as needed. Each chapter-based LearningCurve activity gives students multiple chances to understand key concepts, return to the narrative textbook if they need to reread, and answer questions correctly. Over 90% of students report satisfaction with LearningCurve's fun and accessible game-like interface. LearningCurve appeals to students so that they engage with the textbook, and it helps you to know what they know before class begins.

New assignable online document projects allow students to put interpretation into practice in LaunchPad . Each project prompts students to explore a key question through analysis of multiple sources. Chapter 14, for example, asks students to analyze documents on the complexities of race, identity, and slavery in the early modern era to shed light on the conditions that made possible the story of painter Juan de Pareja, a freed slave of mixed ancestry. Auto-graded multiple-choice questions based on the documents help students analyze the sources.

The most current scholarship shows students the dynamic and ongoing work of history. Drawing on their own research and that of numerous experts, renowned scholars and veteran teachers Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Clare Haru Crowston, and Joe Perry have incorporated the best and latest scholarship throughout. Wholly revised ancient chapters, from the earliest societies to the Roman Empire, reflect the very latest perspectives in the field.

A range of options offers convenience and value. In addition to the standard bound textbook, this edition is also available in convenient, discount-priced loose-leaf and PDF formats and in an interactive e-book format in the text’s dedicated version of LaunchPad, with all accompanying study resources fully integrated. LaunchPad is a complete course’s worth of material in a course space that makes everything assignable and assessable—and all for free when packaged with the textbook.

"This text really addresses important issues in an accessible and wide-ranging way. Students enjoy it and will read it."

—Carol Levin, University of Nebraska

"Perhaps the most comprehensive, most accessible, and most readable Western civilization textbook that I have encountered."

—James H. Adams, Pennsylvania State University-Abington

"Finally there is a textbook that presents a much fuller scope of the picture of Western civ."

—James Lenaghan, The Ohio State University

"Fine text, outstanding value."

—Peter G. Klem, Great Basin College

"The engaging, solid, and well-written narrative is very accessible for students and will promote their interest in the material."

—Rosemary Thurston, New Jersey City University

Community Reviews

Single-volume chronologies of WW2 seem to be all the rage of late, and this book must compete with such works as Max Hastings&apos "Inferno" and Gerhard Weinberg&aposs "World at Arms." Unlike the two mentioned, which take a particular unique vertical slice, Beevor just tries to tell a decade-long story about two theaters of war, and do it competently. In that he succeeds, for the most part.

While the writing is not the breathtaking sort often reached for by the likes of Weinberg, it is readable and enjoy Single-volume chronologies of WW2 seem to be all the rage of late, and this book must compete with such works as Max Hastings' "Inferno" and Gerhard Weinberg's "World at Arms." Unlike the two mentioned, which take a particular unique vertical slice, Beevor just tries to tell a decade-long story about two theaters of war, and do it competently. In that he succeeds, for the most part.

While the writing is not the breathtaking sort often reached for by the likes of Weinberg, it is readable and enjoyable for the most part. Like Thomas Ricks' new book, "The Generals," Beevor's history sets out to skewer many sacred cows. Some, like Bernard Montgomery, Mark Clark, and Douglas MacArthur, are easy targets, excoriated by everyone. But Beevor provides some deserving critiques of Eisenhower and Bradley, as well. And he holds Churchill's feet to the fire as well, giving the British prime minister his due where necessary, but denouncing Churchill not only for his outdated empire philosophy and his Africa-and-Italy-First plan for waging war, but also for silly plans to challenge the Soviets, such as Operation Unthinkable. And yes, FDR is placed under the microscope as well.

In short, Beevor's book is useful for its competent analysis of WW2, and for treating the war in a manner akin to "Game of Thrones." Yes, the Axis powers were terrible monsters that needed to be defeated. But no one on the Allied side was worthy of unabashed heroic praise, and Beevor avoids that. There are few heroes here. . more

Hard to give this anything other than 5 stars. Being an absolute novice on the subject, I found this book fascinating, horrifying, edifying, and generally mind-blowing. For anyone worried it will be too dry, it is roughly 25% politics and military strategy, and 75% excerpts from countless first-hand accounts by soldiers, civilians, leaders, and poets. For example:

"I saw a woman who&aposs dress and hair had just caught fire, she was trying to run from the inferno but the tarmac had melted and her fee Hard to give this anything other than 5 stars. Being an absolute novice on the subject, I found this book fascinating, horrifying, edifying, and generally mind-blowing. For anyone worried it will be too dry, it is roughly 25% politics and military strategy, and 75% excerpts from countless first-hand accounts by soldiers, civilians, leaders, and poets. For example:

"I saw a woman who's dress and hair had just caught fire, she was trying to run from the inferno but the tarmac had melted and her feet were glued to the road." - From the diary of a german soldier describing the firebombing of Hamburg

I'm not sure I've ever read anything quite so shocking. . more

"This was the murder of everyday traditions that grandfathers passed to their grandchildren, this was the murder of memories, of a mournful song, folk poetry, of life, happy and bitter, this was the destruction of hearths and cemeteries, this was the death of a nation which had been living side by side with Ukrainians over hundreds of years."

- Vasily Grossman on the Holocaust in the Ukraine

Warning: This review contains facts of the Second World War that some readers may find disturbing. Reader d "This was the murder of everyday traditions that grandfathers passed to their grandchildren, this was the murder of memories, of a mournful song, folk poetry, of life, happy and bitter, this was the destruction of hearths and cemeteries, this was the death of a nation which had been living side by side with Ukrainians over hundreds of years."

- Vasily Grossman on the Holocaust in the Ukraine

Warning: This review contains facts of the Second World War that some readers may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

This review is dedicated to all members of the Allied forces who served in the Second World War.

The Second World War is the most destructive and deadliest conflict in all of human history, killing between 70-85 million people, or approximately 3% of the 1940 world population. Historians generally agree the conflict started on September 1st, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, though some historians argue the war really started back in 1937 with the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, a conflict mainly between Japan and China that ended up killing between 15 and 22 million people. This conflict is also covered in the book, which I liked because I didn't know anything about it beforehand.

In The Second World War, Antony Beevor brilliantly combines the endless amount of facts one needs to convey to educate a reader on a topic as vast as the largest conflict in world history with firsthand accounts, diary entries, and even discussions and phone calls involving world leaders like Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler.

In a world where every movie and video game produced seems to only feature the contributions of the United States to the war, I thought Beevor did a superb job highlighting the unsung but immense contributions of countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. He also did a fabulous job of highlighting the heroic contributions of women throughout the war. People seem to think women only helped on the home front and as nurses and etc. Not true. There were female fighter pilots, female snipers, female anti-aircraft gun crews, and at Stalingrad, one of the most brutal battles in world history:

The bravest of the brave in Stalingrad were the young women medical orderlies, who constantly went out under heavy fire to retrieve the wounded and drag them back. Sometimes they returned fire at the Germans. Stretchers were out of the question, so the orderly either wriggled herself under the wounded soldier and crawled with him on her back, or else she dragged him on a groundsheet or cape.

Another thing I loved about the book is that, between all the different firsthand accounts, diary entries, discussions, and phone calls, the reader gets a very "behind-the-scenes" feel of the war. Beevor also tells you things like what the environment smelled like, looked like, and sounded like for the men and women who were really there, and this puts you into the battle in a way I've never read in a historical account before.

The author is also not afraid to pull any punches he tells things like they really were. He isn't afraid to tell you that someone generally admired like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was charming on the surface but "cold" and "manipulative" in private. Or that General MacArthur was "an egomaniac obsessed with his own inflated legend." This blunt honesty provides greater insight into some of the events of the war and the decisions made by these men.

I also loved what I call the "war stories" told in this book some of them are truly incredible. A journalist coming upon Leo Tolstoy's estate to find his granddaughter evacuating it to escape the incoming Nazis, the heroic story of JFK and his fast torpedo boat PT-109 in the Pacific campaign, Japanese soldiers charging Soviet tanks with samurai swords. the list goes on. There are tons of them, and they're amazing. They're worth the price of the book just in themselves.

If I could offer one criticism of the book it was that the sheer amount of facts became daunting at times. Some reviews I've read of this book say it mostly contains firsthand accounts, but that's simply not true. I'd say at best this book was 60% facts and 40% firsthand accounts. Though the facts are told in a very readable way that I didn't find boring and that flowed almost like a narrative, it's still a lot of information to take in. I wish there had been more firsthand accounts to supplement all the facts. Particularly, I found the section on the North African campaign somewhat lacking in firsthand accounts it was presented mostly as facts.

I want to take a few minutes now to talk about the parts of the book that are difficult to read.

The Second World War officially ended on September 2nd, 1945 with the surrender of the Empire of Japan to Allied Forces, but is this really when the war ended? For tens, maybe hundreds of millions of people across the globe, the effects lasted for years and even generations afterward. Among countless shockwaves caused by the war, the repatriation of millions of prisoners of war, refugees, and concentration camp survivors and the recoveries of the economies of nations broken by the conflict stand out. But most dramatic of all are the effects on the Jewish people. The effects of the Holocaust.

In 1939, the Jewish population in Europe stood at 9.5 million. By 1945, the population was down to 3.8 million. The Jewish population in Europe has not recovered to this day, and in fact it continues to shrink, recorded at only 1.4 million in 2010, 65 years after the Second World War ended. The suffering of the Jewish people is highlighted starkly in The Second World War, but this material is not for the faint of heart. I was reduced nearly to tears, and at times had to stop reading because I felt physically ill.

Some of it is just so hard to believe. It's unthinkable that human society could be reduced to such evil. The "sardine method" employed by the Nazis, where they dug trenches, laid a row of Jews facedown in the trench, shot them, and then brought in the next row of Jews and told them to lie facedown on top of the bodies, repeated as many times as they could to fill the holes, I found particularly disturbing. I doubt that such accounts will ever leave me.

One thing that became apparent to me as I read this book is that the Second World War was more horrific than any of us were taught in school. I knew a bit about the Holocaust, but I didn't know cannibalism was rampant throughout the war. Starved prisoners in the concentration camps were reduced to it. As were dehumanized Soviet prisoners during Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern front. As were Japanese troops in the Pacific campaign:

Japanese officers and soldiers resorted to cannibalism and not just of enemy corpses. Human flesh was regarded as a necessary food source, and 'hunting parties' went forth to obtain it. In New Guinea they killed, butchered and ate local people and slave labourers, as well as a number of Australian and American prisoners of war.

The atrocities of this war are the things nightmares are made of: the systematic Nazi program to exterminate the Jews, the mass rape of women and young girls by Soviet armies, Japanese piling their own rotting dead to use as sandbags in the Pacific campaign, German soldiers stealing winter clothing and the last food of Soviet civilians, leaving them to starve and freeze to death, Japanese using live Chinese soldiers for bayonet practice during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the firebombing of German cities that melted civilians where they stood. but perhaps most shocking of all, the Danzig Anatomical Medical Institute in Poland, where corpses from the Stutthof concentration camp were used in experiments by the Nazis to try to turn them into leather and soap.

In the end, war is hell. Antony Beevor doesn't sugarcoat it for you, and I won't sugarcoat this book either. This is a difficult book to read, and there isn't a lot of hope or joy to be found in these pages. That being said, I have never read a more powerful book in my life. Through his masterful command, omniscient presentation, and flawless writing, Antony Beevor has done a tremendous service to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, as well as the fallen soldiers and veterans of the greatest conflict in human history, by leaving behind a masterpiece for the ages that tells us all a story we must never, ever forget.

I will open by writing that I know very little about the Second World War. Well, I KNEW very little about the Second World War. After reading this book I now know a lot more. I&aposm not sure I&aposm happier for the knowing.

I did not sit down and read this book through in one sitting. To be honest I&aposve had it for several months and I read it chapter by chapter in between all of the other books I have read this summer. It was too much war for me to take all at once. That does not mean that it was a bad I will open by writing that I know very little about the Second World War. Well, I KNEW very little about the Second World War. After reading this book I now know a lot more. I'm not sure I'm happier for the knowing.

I did not sit down and read this book through in one sitting. To be honest I've had it for several months and I read it chapter by chapter in between all of the other books I have read this summer. It was too much war for me to take all at once. That does not mean that it was a bad book - not at all! In fact it read beautifully. I just could not take all of that war all at once. I had to pace myself. So pace myself I did and I am a bit later with this review than I promised and I do apologize for that. But this is the first time I've really gotten into the nitty-gritty of WWII and well, it was a lot.

The book discusses all of the battles on all of the fronts of the war. That is a LOT of battles. Mr. Beevor goes into detail about commanders, equipment and all that goes into what makes war and battles happen. I was woefully ignorant as to the Pacific end of WWII and now have a better idea of what the Japan/China side of the war was about.

The one thing that bothered me immensely though, was Mr. Beevor's treatment and descriptions of Hitler. He seemed to be treating him as a puppet rather than as the leader of the Reich. He never has Hitler fully taking charge of, or giving him responsibility for the Holocaust and to write a book about this war and to take Hitler off the hook for that horror is just egregious. I don't understand.

I can't begin to write as to whether this is a definitive work on WWII as I have minimal knowledge of the facts as I stated earlier. I can state that it was easy to read, albeit a bit slow at times. I liked that I was able to learn so much as I was reading the book chapter by chapter as to increase my knowledge of this pivotal time in modern history. . more

Every nation experienced and remembers the war in different ways. For the British, French and Poles, it began with the Nazi attack on Poland in September 1939. For Russians, notwithstanding their assaults on Poland, Finland and the Baltic States, the real war started in June 1941 with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. For Americans, it began with the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. For Japan, however, Pearl Harbor was the continuation of an expansionist military adventure th Every nation experienced and remembers the war in different ways. For the British, French and Poles, it began with the Nazi attack on Poland in September 1939. For Russians, notwithstanding their assaults on Poland, Finland and the Baltic States, the real war started in June 1941 with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. For Americans, it began with the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. For Japan, however, Pearl Harbor was the continuation of an expansionist military adventure that started with the invasion of Chinese Manchuria in 1931. A general history of the war needs to embrace this variety of experience and capture the interplay between the momentous events unfolding on different continents and the high seas.

Antony Beevor effectively meets this challenge. A former British army officer and author of admired works on Stalingrad and the Allied invasion of Normandy, Beevor is gifted writer who knows how to keep a good story rolling. "No other period in history offers so rich a source for the study of dilemmas, individual and mass tragedy, the corruption of power politics, ideological hypocrisy, the egomania of commanders, betrayal, perversity, self-sacrifice, unbelievable sadism and unpredictable compassion," he observes.

The brutality and courage of individual soldiers and civilians emerge in Beevor's powerful accounts of battles such as Kursk, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.

Mankind has never known a war as devastating in its violence and profound in its moral implications as the second world war. . more

List of Illustrations
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(The full and extremely extensive notes and bibliography for this book are available in the hardback edition and also on the author&aposs website at: www.antonybeevor.com. The sources have been omitted from the paperback to make it a more manageable and readable size.) List of Illustrations
List of Maps

(The full and extremely extensive notes and bibliography for this book are available in the hardback edition and also on the author's website at: www.antonybeevor.com. The sources have been omitted from the paperback to make it a more manageable and readable size.) . more

In the acknowledgements to his latest history, The Second World War, Antony Beevor says that he wrote this comprehensive tome on one of the biggest events in human history because he wanted to fill in the gaps to his own knowledge of the topic. But, he says, “above all it is an attempt to understand how the whole complex jigsaw fits together, with the direct and indirect effects of actions and decisions taking place in very different theatres of war.” In this, Beevor succeeds where no other hist In the acknowledgements to his latest history, The Second World War, Antony Beevor says that he wrote this comprehensive tome on one of the biggest events in human history because he wanted to fill in the gaps to his own knowledge of the topic. But, he says, “above all it is an attempt to understand how the whole complex jigsaw fits together, with the direct and indirect effects of actions and decisions taking place in very different theatres of war.” In this, Beevor succeeds where no other historian I have read has. Weighing in at 833 pages (with notes), Beevor deftly describes and analyzes the political and military strategic events, people, and decisions that started, fought, and ended World War II. Potentially more importantly, he debunks one myth after another surrounding this war.

Geographically and politically, the European and Pacific Theaters were fairly cordoned off from each other, outside of the involvement of the United States and the British, but not entirely. Beevor pulls the thread to examine how the Soviet victory at Khalkhin Gol in eastern Mongolia in the summer of 1939 ensured that the Soviets stayed out of the eastern war (Beevor is not, of course, the only historian to make this important point) and how that affected both theaters. As he pulls the thread further, the interactions of east and west, Axis and Allies, become more acute. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan have almost no strategic interaction (there are a handful of exceptions), but their actions on three or four fronts each create a strategic graph theory problem of biblical proportions for the Allies. As a big-picture example, the United States did not just face a Pacific versus Europe resource competition. The United States faced resource competition between Stillwell’s command supporting the Chinese Nationalists, MacArthur’s forces, Halsey’s forces, the preparation for an invasion of western France, operations in North Africa and then Italy, strategic bombing campaigns on both sides, and Lend-Lease to many a slew of locations. To compound this, American leaders needed to maintain support for the war at home and keep the Alliance together while trying to shape the post-war world through a political minefield of communists, socialists, fascists, colonialists, revolutionaries, and democratists. All while trying to actually win the war. If you consider the number of facets and decisions required in this complex world, multiply these considerations by the same problems with which all of the other Allies (and enemies) were forced to contend. The result is an exponentially large equation to determine the outcomes of a world in flux moving at the speed of a tank. Beevor is at his best in this work when he examines these interdependencies of these fronts, the Allies’ force structure to address them, and the inter- and intra-national political considerations. For students of strategy, this alone makes The Second World War worth reading.

Beevor is equally as good at myth-busting the saintliness of the war’s heroes, the competence of its tragic warriors, and the general sense that it was, in fact, a “good war.” Almost none of the major players of the war get a pass (more on an exception below). Montgomery was “egotistic, ambitious and ruthless, possessing a boundless self-confidence which occasionally bordered on the fatuous.” MacArthur receives even harsher treatment that includes accusations of gross corruption. Roosevelt, Churchill, Eisenhower, Patton, Brooke, Bradley, Stalin, Zhukov, Clark, Stillwell, Halsey, et al, are all described by their weaknesses and mistakes as much as they are by their strengths and failures. The sheer volume of egomania among these great captains significantly exceeded their capabilities, as Beevor explicitly demonstrates. That is not to suggest that these were not extraordinary men in extraordinary times - on the contrary. But none of these men were as idyllically competent as many histories would have us believe. The Axis powers are given the same treatment, if not more with rightful criticism focused on their general inhumanity. As a young Armor officer undergoing basic maneuver traing, a number of German officers were still considered gods of mechanized warfare: Rommel, Peiper, Guderian, von Rundstedt, etc. Further analysis, as done in this book, shows that these men were not nearly as good as I was taught. And those that were actually tactically or operationally superior, such as Peiper, were so ruthless with their own men and civilians that their tactics should hardly be extolled, never mind exemplified, by modern Western armies. It is well past time to end this infatuation with German maneuver exceptionalism as it never really existed. (As an aside, my experience has been that those who believe in this exceptionalism also believe, incorrectly in my opinion, in Israeli maneuver exceptionalism. The sooner we end these fantasies, the better for the education of the coming generations of maneuver leaders.)

Before I return to the myth-busting of the “good war” trope, I would be remiss if did not discuss this book’s shortcomings, of which I found two. Anyone who has read extensively on World War II, a population I consider myself a part of despite my just now revisiting the topic after many years, has a pet rock about this war: some issue or topic, preferably obscure and contrarian, which is used by its holder to judge all writing and analysis of World War II. I have one of these and his name was Major General Philippe Leclerc who commanded the French 2d Armored Division. Although Leclerc was a competent and brave commander, he had absolutely no regard for the Allied chain of command or unity of effort. He had a reputation for ignoring his orders and doing whatever he pleased for the glory of France and/or himself. There was an obscure incident that occurred in August 1944 towards the very end of Operation OVERLORD during the attempt to trap hundreds of thousands of Germans in the Falaise Pocket. The battle to close the gap and encircle the German forces inside the pocket was hard fought and in the end a victory for the Allies. But at least one Panzer corps (and most likely more) escaped. There were three reasons: Montgomery’s inability to drive his forces south fast or hard enough, Bradley’s indecision, and Leclerc disobeying orders. The really long-story-short is that Leclerc was so excited to end the battle so that he could turn south and spearhead the liberation of Paris that he exceeded his divisional boundary in the Foret d’Ecouves. This caused a massive traffic jam with the U.S. 5th Armored Division and provided the German Army defenders time and space to establish a defensive line that allowed more German forces to escape encirclement (see page 416 at this link). I find Leclerc’s actions unconscionable. In a book that aims to break down the many cults of personality surrounding the key characters of this conflict, Beevor misses this opportunity and gives Leclerc a pass. I will grant the author some forgiveness in that if he picked on the foibles of every division commander in the war (even if this particular one was a prominent player) then this book would expand to be many volumes. But this is my pet rock and I am miffed that Leclerc’s egomania likely led to the deaths of many soldiers and Beevor did not take a written hammer to him for it.

Some readers will complain that the Pacific Theater receives short shrift in this book. Many of the battles are not detailed, but that is true of most battles in both theaters. This book was not intended to be a comprehensive analysis of the fighting, but rather of the strategic decisions and actions that comprised the whole of the war. Tactics are rarely discussed anywhere unless they are needed for the larger analysis, such as in Stalingrad where the type of fighting played a role in the Red Army’s ferocity in the outbreak that in turn had a number of strategic implications through the end of the war. So yes, Midway gets all of two pages, but that is all that particular battle warrants when not examining the tactical situation of the battle that was irrelevant to strategy in the Pacific. Rest assured that the major strategic concerns of the Pacific are addressed in detail as well as relevant tactical analysis.

No, the second major issue with this book, besides some redundancies, is sloppiness in editing. There are too many sentences that do not make sense because of various errors. Thankfully the errors do not create ambiguity and thus confusion, but they are irritating and interrupt the flow of the book. They also increase in number near the end. It is a rather large book so some errors are expected, but the publisher would do well to give it another scrub before a second printing. Related to this is the index, which is a mess. For example, there you will find in order: Cholitz, Chungking, Chou, Ciano. There is the obvious problem that Chou should precede Chungking, but more importantly is that “Churchill” is not to be found between “Chungking” and “Ciano”. Winston Churchill is not in the index. That is a major mistake if I have ever seen one.

These problems are overwhelmed by this book’s positive contribution to the study of World War II and military history and strategy in general. Beevor attacks the “good war” campaign and stops it dead in its tracks. The incomprehensible costs of this war should cause anyone about to describe it as “good” to pause. Indeed, fascist and imperialist aggressors and mass murderers were defeated and there is no denying that was a good thing. However, the Western Allies were hardly angels themselves if potentially lesser devils. Atrocities on the ground in the Pacific and western European fronts are detailed and are comparatively benign. But the strategic bombing campaign conducted against civilians on both sides of the war with no tangible military objectives should be viewed through a realist lens. If the Allies had lost the war, its leaders would have been tried for war crimes. And these crimes pale in comparison not only with Nazi and Japanese atrocities, but also with Soviet atrocities and later Chinese crimes. Beevor is also quite harsh on the Western leaders for acquiescing to Stalin on Eastern Europe, saying that they sold out half of Europe to save the other half. He is not wrong in this. It is important to note that Beevor does not suggest that World War II was an unjust war, he in fact says that is (from the Allied perspective, naturally), but rather that we should remove our rosy glasses on the West’s activities during the war and understand analysis of the war and its events for what they are and why “good” is not a descriptor of this war. He describes the war as “so rich a source for the study of dilemmas, individual and mass tragedy, the corruption of power politics, ideological hypocrisy, the egomania of commanders, betrayal, perversity, self-sacrifice, unbelievable sadism and unpredictable compassion.” Indeed this is true. Beevor’s account of it sets a high bar of scholarship and unprejudiced perspective for such study.


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