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The Origins of the Second World War Mass Market Paperback – 22 Feb 1973

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (22 Feb. 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140021280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140021288
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,048,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan John Percivale Taylor FBA (25 March 1906 - 7 September 1990) was an English historian who specialised in 19th- and 20th-century European diplomacy. Both a journalist and a broadcaster, he became well known to millions through his television lectures. His combination of academic rigour and popular appeal led the historian Richard Overy to describe him as "the Macaulay of our age".

Taylor graduated from Oxford in 1927. After working briefly as a legal clerk, he began his post-graduate work, going to Vienna to study the impact of the Chartist movement on the Revolution of 1848. When this topic turned out not to be feasible, he switched to studying the question of Italian unification over a two-year period. This resulted in his first book, The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy, 1847-49 published in 1934.

During the Second World War, Taylor served in the Home Guard and befriended émigré statesmen from Eastern Europe, such as the former Hungarian President Count Mihály Károlyi and Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš. These friendships helped to enhance his understanding of the region. His friendship with Beneš and Károlyi may help explain his friendly portrayal of them, in particular Károlyi, whom Taylor portrayed as a saintly figure. During the same period, Taylor was employed by the Political Warfare Executive as an expert on Central Europe and frequently spoke on the radio and at various public meetings. During the war, he lobbied for British recognition of Josip Broz Tito's Partisans as the legitimate government of Yugoslavia.

In 1961, he published his most controversial book, The Origins of the Second World War, which earned him a reputation as a revisionist. In the book Taylor argued against the widespread belief that the outbreak of the Second World War - by which Taylor specifically meant the war between Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and France that broke out in September 1939 - was the result of an intentional plan on the part of Hitler. He began his book with the statement that too many people have accepted uncritically what he called the "Nuremberg Thesis", that the Second World War was the result of criminal conspiracy by a small gang comprising Hitler and his associates. He regarded the "Nuremberg Thesis" as too convenient for too many people and claimed that it shielded the blame for the war from the leaders of other states, let the German people avoid any responsibility for the war and created a situation where West Germany was a respectable Cold War ally against the Soviets.

Product Description

About the Author

A.J.P. Taylor (1906-1990) was one of the most controversial historians of the twentieth century. He served as a lecturer at the Universities of Manchester, Oxford, and London. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Victor HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 28 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Intensely controversial in its day, this book is now recognised as being an important piece of historical research which lay bare the reasons for the cataclysm that defined the twentieth century.

It suited those involved to present the 2nd world war as a result of the evil machinations of Hitler, a view reinforced in the public's mind by Churchill's own account of the war. In this book Taylor presents the alternative view that it wasn't pre-planned, but we fell into it almost by accident. At the time of publication the war was still a raw memory and Churchill was a public hero, lauded for his prescience before the outbreak of war and leading the nation through its darkest days, so this view which directly challenged the great man and brought back so many bad memories was controversial.

In this book we are presented with a wealth of evidence to support this radical view, a careful evaluation of all the available evidence, presented in a clear and readable fashion. The research is authoritative, but the real joy of this book is its readability. Unlike some accounts of tangled world affairs, this is incredibly accessible, and not just for scholars.

A must read for anyone interested in this era of history. 5 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicodemus on 2 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback
A J P Taylor's analysis of the events prior to the outbreak of war is a masterful piece of work. The political machinations and his presentation and interpretation fills out our understanding of a complex period. It also looks past the hype that we have been fed regarding how war came about.

The saying "war is diplomacy by other means" certainly holds true here in that with the evidence Taylor has presented the Germans were in no more a state to begin a war than any of the allies France, great Britain or Poland. The Soviet Union had the largest armaments program whilst the German one was comparable to the British and French.

Some of the information is dated. Taylor does write off the Polish effort in a way which was typical of historians of his generation. The Poles were behind in re-equiping with modern arms, but the Polish 7tp tank was a match for the Panzer iv, though only available in limited quantaties. The Polish airforce also acquited itself well during the opening week of the campaign as did Polish armed forces at some moments during the campaign and in some instances inflicting severe reverses on the German effort. German tank losses in the Polish campaign were comparable to that in the assault on the West in 1940.

This work was published in 1963 and would have been highly provocative in those times to present this view of the facts, though it is highly plausible that Taylor's view which is that the war came about after diplomatic and political manouvers failed and partly through accidents or mistakes is in large measure correct.

This is not to say that the German's are less guilty of starting the war just that in Taylor's view there was not in 1939 the grandiose scheme in place - or the war resources - in place for a conquest of Europe.

One of Taylor's chief evidence for this is the German armaments industry figures which continued to show lower output than his protaganists for much of the war.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Carl on 19 Dec. 2011
Format: Hardcover
Taylor attempts to do what Fritz Fisher did to the study of the origins of the First World War, to the study of the Second World Wars origins. His work has generated controversy, spurred on countless historians to engage his work, but more importantly has made everyone take another look at the evidence to establish what happened and why. Taylor attacks what he describes as the myths that, by the 1960s, had been built up and the accepted view of what happened in the years following the Treaty of Versailles and the start of fighting in 1939.

Taylor's work is very accessible and easy to read, riddled with jokes and sarcastic remarks, he makes his way through the relevant events and treaties that took place between 1919 and 1939 that created the mosaic, which are the origins of the war. In places this paints a very depressing picture due the failure of the statesmen on all sides to resolve the issues created by the First World War and the Treaty of Versailles; in two lines Taylor sums up the interwar period and his work: "The purpose of political activity is to provide peace and prosperity; and in this every statesman failed, for whatever reason. This is a story without heroes...".

While dated, with numerous works authored with the sole object of debunking Taylor's, or actually relooking into the subject; the book is still a classic, a must read to understand the post war debates that are still taking place. Taylor makes some excellent points however I do not agree with all the issues raised by Taylor siding mainly with his critics who highlight, in issues on inter-war Germany and reparation payments to name a few areas, how wrong he was.
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 6 Jan. 2000
Format: Paperback
'The Origins of the Second World War' is one of the finest works of modern revisionism in European History. The controversial ideals propounded therein contiue to cause consternation among many academics. It is, to a degree, the continuation of his previous volume in the Oxford History of Europe (The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918), perhaps a criticism of 'Origins' is that it centres on Europe. But 'Origins' became his apotheosis vis-a-vis revisionism: questioning the apparently sacrosacnt ideal that Hitler had single handedly planned and caused the War. He blamed the controversy the book caused for his 'removal' from Oxford. Whether or not this is the case, one cannot say. 'Origins', however, will an important historical for years to come.
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