THE SECOND WORLD WAR: An Illustrated History by A. J. P. Taylor
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THE SECOND WORLD WAR: An Illustrated History

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Taylor's The Origins of the Second Worm War published in 1962 provoked a furor among historians on both sides of the Atlantic. At the time Taylor's thesis was considered subversive, ""perverse"" and ""flawed from top to bottom."" By treating the outbreak of WW II as a series of diplomatic blunders--he called it ""the unwanted war""--Taylor challenged the most cherished assumption of WW II historiography: the war had been started by Hitler, an evil genius, a madman bent on conquering the world. Thirteen years later Taylor hasn't reneged: ""Hitler lost, as someone has to do in war, and has therefore been written off as a psychopath."" In this brilliant new account of the diplomatic and military course of the conflict Taylor again insists that both Hitler and the Japanese rulers ""far from planning a world war. . . were convinced that a world war would be their ruin."" In this of course they were right. But, as in his devastating account of WW I, Taylor again shows that almost all the logistics and strategies of combat were improvised, and miscalculations abounded. On the much-vaunted British Mediterranean campaign and the grandiose theory that through Italy the Allies were striking at ""the soft underbelly"" of the Third Reich, Taylor comments wryly: ""The British were in the Mediterranean because they were there. They fought there because there was nowhere else for them to fight. This simple fact determined the main weight of British, and later American, strategy until the last year of the Second World War."" From Chamberlain's idiotic guarantee to Poland to the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Taylor spares no one as he masterfully draws together the separate campaigns and theaters of action. The photographs and captions, though excellent, lack the grim irony of the justly famous pictures in his illustrated history of the First World War.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1975
Publisher: Putnam