HOW WARS BEGIN by A. J. P. Taylor


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One of the most prolific of contemporary historians, Britain's Taylor made a big splash with his book The Origins of the Second World War, where he treated the Nazi regime much as any other and. looked for more ""objective"" causes in Europe-wide history. This picture-book never gets nearly as serious; distilled from a BBC lecture series, this is pablum history--easy to swallow and insubstantial. Taylor surveys seven wars--the French Revolutionary Wars, the Crimean Wars, the wars of Italian and German unification, World Wars I and II, and, curiously, the Cold War--but never rises to a general theory or set of propositions about origins. Taylor starts out by declaring the Revolutionary Wars to be the first modern wars because they involved conflicting political ideologies, but this criterion would make Bismarck's wars with the French and Austrians pre-modern, and would even cast doubt on World War I. Other observations concerning the constraints on national leaders in facing crises--from the rigidities of train time-tables to the problems of war mobilization--may account for some aspects of specific wars, like World War I, but don't go very far beyond. Taylor's inclusion of a chapter on the Cold War is bizarre, since he calls it merely a ""period of tension"" which never erupted into a war, but it gives him the opportunity to predict a third world war as a ""personal hunch."" Flimsy all the way.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1979
Publisher: Atheneum