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Moral Combat: A History of World War II Hardcover – 29 Apr 2010


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition edition (29 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007195761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007195763
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 267,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Burleigh was born and educated in London. He was an academic for eighteen years before deciding to write full-time in 2001. He has won three major film awards for television documentaries (including 'Selling Murder' which won a BFI award) as well as the 2001 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. He is married and lives in central London although he travels extensively, particularly in Asia. In 2012 he won the Nonino International Master of His Time Prize. His new book, Small Wars, Faraway Places: The Genesis of the Modern World 1945-1965 will be published in 2012 by Macmillan.

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Review

‘Michael Burleigh has long been one of our foremost writers on the importance of ethics in history, and in this deeply researched, closely argued and well-written analysis of the moral issues thrown up by the Second World War he has reached the zenith of his career.… Burleigh takes strong stances on almost every controversy of the war…This book is full of poignant nuggets of information…but easily its greatest strength lies in the wise, civilised but unshakeable moral certainty of its author.’ Andrew Roberts, Sunday Telegraph

‘Burleigh’s book is infinitely better than the usual tiresome trudge through the battlefields of North Africa or rose–tinted retrospective of the Battle of Britain. More than any book I have read on the war, it confronts us with the ethical questions millions of people faced in their daily lives… Perhaps the most impressive thing about Burleigh’s book is that, unlike so many historians, he has a refreshingly realistic, clear-eyed view of human nature.…One of the strengths of Burleigh’s analysis, however, is that while he is well aware of allied atrocities, he never loses sight of the basic moral difference between the warring parties.… Although Burleigh leaves us in no doubt that the Second World War was a just conflict, he simultaneously leaves us under no illusions about the horrors of modern warfare. This is a book in which heroism is inevitably flawed and tempered; in which the choice is always between two evils.…if we are to avoid repeating such horrors in our own lifetimes, then, as Burleigh’s outstanding book reminds us, some things should never be forgotten.’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

‘powerful and timely…This is one of the most important books on the Second World War to be published in recent years’ Evening Standard

About the Author

Michael Burleigh is Distinguished Research Professor in Modern History at Cardiff University. He is the author of nine well-received books, including ‘Earthly Powers’, ‘Sacred Causes’ and ‘The Third Reich’, for which he was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2001.


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77 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Bobby Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 May 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a lot of books on WW2 - approaching one thousand as a conservative estimate. However, this is currently occupying number one place in my library - it is that good.
Burleigh manages to merge the readability of Niall Ferguson with the cool, calm analysis of Robert Kershaw or John Keegan in his prime. Although the subject matter has been covered before, Mr Burleigh adds the crucial moral debate to all aspects of the war - from the RAF bombing campaign, through to the Holocaust (not that the two should be linked morally together). What I found fascinating, in reading this military/political history, was that Burleigh's arguments come from a right of centre perspective; for instance, he rightly asks the question why the Soviets have not been blamed for bombing the railway lines to Auschwitz - given that they were far more easily reached via the Ilyushin Sturmoviks than the hordes of RAF Lancasters. A question completely ignored by the media in this country (and in Russia).
Frequently the author goes off on tangents, giving the book a fresh feel and adding the human dimension amid all the suffering so eloquently described. In short this is a book that anyone with an interest in history will enjoy. Mr Burleigh, I take my hat off to you for your work of genius.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Toby Frith on 20 Jan 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One can sense that many historians of the 20th century want to grapple and grasp with the Second World War, the conflict that defined the way we live our life today. There's a sense of completeness about the subject, from the way that we see the rise of a vagabond to the most powerful man in the Europe to the unusual synchronicity of the two main totalitarian regimes involved. Add the end of Empires and the dramatic rise of the USA bookmarked at the end by the Atomic Bomb and you have all manner of historical themes that start, intertwine and end within this relatively short period of six years.

Michael Burleigh's book takes a different stance to such recent studies of the period as Andrew Roberts' "The Storm of War" or Norman Davies "Europe : Divided" which look to provide a grand overview. Neither does it seek to mark or bullet point turning points or strategic decisions taken by the military, like in Ian Kershaw's "Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941". Instead, applying the forensic historical research that made his 2000 book "The Third Reich" such a powerful read, Burleigh takes this conflict and the actions contained therein to an atomized, human level.

This isn't a book primarily about strategy, equipment or economic decisions made by the political and military commanders on the battlefield, it's principally about the business end of war, namely the horrendous killing and its consequences. That ranges from the gut-wrenching experiences of combat troops, to resistance under foreign occupation, the systematic death brought by ideologies to their enemies via death camps and the long-range destruction wreaked by bombing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dimitrios Siountris on 28 Jun 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I started reading Moral Combat, I was tempted to put it down after the first 50 pages because it was overloaded with so many details and facts. I'm glad I gave the writer the benefit of the doubt because this preliminary information is necessary to understand the intricate politics behind WWII. Studies of WWII seem to obsess over battles and the upper echelons on power. Moral Combat explores the reasons behind many of these policies.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 50 REVIEWER on 16 May 2010
Format: Hardcover
Michael Burleigh has achieved a virtual miracle by finding a new slant on the Second World war that he manages to extend into a fascinating and important new book. Sure loads of other authors have touched on the moral issues around war and WWII in particular, but to my knowledge no one has managed to put together such an all encompassing and engrossing book which deals solely with such a sensitive subject. The great success of this book is that it treats an often harrowing and potentially divisive subject with care and compassion, making few judgements, offering a few potential explanations but on the whole just reporting the facts as they were at the time. This is an important point as it is easy to look back with rose tinted glasses and wonder where to draw the moral line.
The overall feeling I had when finishing this is that the war is often not as futile as we would like to think, many so called atrocities are committed by scared young men (predominantly) fighting for their lives but that some atrocities are indeed unforgiveable in any context and such lessons from WWII have still to be learned.
It may seem a strange thing to say given the subject matter but this was a genuinely enjoyable read and I feel relieved that I haven't yet and hope never to have to meet some of the moral challenges faced by the protagonists in this book. If you are fed up with Gung Ho accounts of "The War" then this book will redress that balance in a big way
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jeff on 31 Jan 2012
Format: Hardcover
Not in to writing lengthy reviews of books, but for anyone wanting a good overall read on World War II, this book is excellent. I, like some of the previous readers am an avid reader of Second World War non fiction books. This books rates very highly as being one of the most interesting well written ones I have read. Easy to read with a wealth of informative and interesting information.
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