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Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941 (Allen Lane History) Hardcover – 7 Jun 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (7 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997125
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 4.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 525,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ian Kershaw was Professor of Modern History at the University of Sheffield from 1989 - 2008, and is one of the world's leading authorities on Hitler. His books include The 'Hitler Myth', his two volume Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris and Hitler 1936-1945: Nemesis, and Fateful Choices. He was knighted in 2002.

Product Description


Fateful Choices is an immensely wise book -- Anthony Beevor, author of STALINGRAD

On almost every page, it sparkles -- Robert McCrum, The Observer

'A scholarly analysis of the Second World War's key turning points
... on almost every page, it sparkles' -- Robert McCrum, The Observer

'Compelling, and chilling ... Fateful Choices shows how the Second
World War could have turned out very differently ... required reading' -- Independent

`Hats off to Sir Ian Kershaw, whose magisterial Fateful Choices, written with typical wisdom, skill and insight, takes a close look at the 10 key decisions that shaped the Second World War'
-- Dominic Sandbrook, Telegraph Books of the Year

`How fortunate that it is Ian Kershaw bringing his immense
knowledge and clarity of thought to the task ... brilliantly explained ...
an immensely wise book'
-- Anthony Beevor, author of STALINGRAD

`Powerfully argued ... important ... this book actually alters our
perspective of the Second World War' -- Andrew Roberts

From the Publisher

~ I ~ Great Britain Decides to Fight On ~ II ~ Hitler decides
to Attack the Soviet Union ~ III ~ Japan Decides to Seize the 'Golden
Opportunity' ~ IV ~ Mussolini Decides to Grab His Share ~ V ~ Roosevelt
Decides to Help Britain ~ VI ~ Stalin Decides to Trust Hitler ~ VII ~
Roosevelt Decides to Wage Undeclared War ~ VIII ~ Japan Decides to Go to
War ~ IX ~ Hitler Decides to Declare War on the USA ~ X ~ Hitler Decides on

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
'Future generations may deem it noteworthy that the supreme question of whether we should fight on alone never found a place upon the War Cabinet agenda. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 May 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kershaw examines ten choices that changed the world between the spring of 1940 and the end of 1941. Each of them could have been different (though Kershaw shows that the alternatives, usually lengthily and therefore somewhat repetitively rehearsed, were not very appealing, and sometimes not even sensible), and had they been different, the history of the Second World War and of the world following it would of course have been very different, too.

The first choice Kershaw examines is that of Britain refusing to negotiate with Hitler after the fall of France. The decision to fight on alone was taken by the inner war cabinet of only five men. Among them only the Foreign Minister, Lord Halifax, argued strongly for exploring possible peace terms. The others (and the members of the outer cabinet whom Churchill briefly addressed rather than consulted) were won over by the new prime minister's charisma.

The British refusal to negotiate surprised Hitler. He believed that the British were holding out only because they hoped that the United States would eventually come into the war (which Hitler also believed) and that the Soviet Union might act against Hitler. The second of the choices was Hitler's conclusion that therefore he needed swiftly to attack and defeat the Soviet Union (which he thought would be `child's play') before he could force Britain to make peace and thereby also prevent US intervention. Kershaw stresses that Hitler had no cabinet meetings after February 1938, and all major decisions were essentially his own, often in defiance of even his military advisers. The plans of the German navy to force Britain to make peace by attacks in the Mediterranean were briefly considered by Hitler as a supplement, but not as an alternative, to the invasion of Russia.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 July 2007
Format: Hardcover
is due largely to the fact that the by-products of a human process are more fateful than the product". Eric Hoffer

Ian Kershaw's "Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940 - 1941" is an elegantly-written masterful work of history. In "Fateful Choices" Kershaw cast a critical eye over ten decisions taken during a 19-month period at the beginning of the Second World War that, according to Kershaw, determined not just the outcome of the war but also (in good part) the structure of the post-war world.

Taken as a whole, the greatest value in Kershaw's book is to be found in his comparison of the decision-making process engaged in by the five nations involved. Three of those nations (Germany, Italy, and the USSR) were totalitarian states where decisions were invariably made by Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin with little input other than sycophancy from those around them. Collective decision-making was the norm in the United States and Britain. Both Roosevelt and Churchill (more so during the early months of Churchill's leadership) had cabinet members who were not afraid to speak up and challenge their President of PM's approach to a specific issue. Japan's decision-making process was also a group process but Kershaw does an excellent job of explaining how the dominance of Japan's military created a very different decision making dynamic than that found in the U.S. and Britain. Kershaw advances a compelling argument that the dysfunctional decision-making methodology found in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the USSR led to some disastrous choices.

In each chapter, Kershaw starts with the decision in question but leads the reader back to a logical starting point and then through the series of events leading up to that decision.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Eric Schallenberg on 7 Nov 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very well-written narrative that you will find hard to put down once you have started reading. At the same time, those already fairly familiar with the history of WW II will find much that they already knew. For them it is hardly a surprise that Hitler reached his decisions without consulting anyone, that Stalin refused to believe that Russia was about to be attacked, that Mussolini was obsessed with the fear of being left out of the glory and spoils of the war that Hitler seemed to be winning hands down, and that it took Rooseveld a lot of cajoling to get his isolationist country into the war. But these are stories very well told, to the extent that you are annoyed that the story simply stops once the decision has been reached. But of course that is the point of this book.
Certainly for those who only know the big picture on WW II-history, this book provides valuable insight in how its major developments came about.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Ian C on 17 July 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who has considered WWII would have thought "Why did they do that?" about some of the choices made. Ian Kershaw's book answers that question for 10 of the most important decisions, each of which shaped our world today.

He does so with a rigour that fully gets to the heart of each decision from the perspective of those making it, without the knowledge (that we have) of what the other side was thinking.

He also writes in a style that brings the reader along through complicated events with a wide range of players, many of whom will be unfamiliar except to scholars of the period.

I have read no other history that has left me with such a clear understanding of the why, and not just the what.
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