THE WAR LORDS by A.J.P. Taylor


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In 1976, this eminent British historian delivered a series of BBC lectures on WW II leaders, ""making things up as I went along""; abundantly illustrated with photographs, this is a handsome transcript of the brief, necessarily rather superficial broadcasts. On the Axis side, Taylor finds Mussolini a bluffer, ""a man doomed to failure."" Hitler's overriding concern with German national power -- a familiar Taylor theme -- is reaffirmed, and the Fuehrer gets high marks as both a military strategist and a military propagandist before he sank into fantasy. Japan, Taylor finds, had no single war lord: seeking compromise from the outset, its leaders floundered in ""administration without direction."" As for the Allies, Churchill was indeed ""the saviour of his country,'"" but it is often forgotten, Taylor notes, how often he was bucked by both his chiefs of staff and party colleagues. Skirting the disputes over the Normandy invasion, the book concludes that the high point of the Prime Minister's career was his collaboration with the US and USSR. Taylor tends to disparage Roosevelt as shallow, casual, and pragmatic, and devotes undue space to the Lucy Mercer affair; most memorable is his view of Stalin as exercising unique personal control of the war effort and devoted--like Churchill--not to political designs, but to beating Hitler. Unabashedly simplified, this is basically an intelligent picture book with an efficient organizing principle.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum