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The Origins of the Second World War [Paperback]

A.J.P. Taylor
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
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Book Description

31 Oct 1991

A.J.P. Taylor's bestselling The Origins of the Second World War overturns popular myths about the outbreak of war.

One of the most popular and controversial historians of the twentieth century, who made his subject accessible to millions, A.J.P. Taylor caused a storm of outrage with this scandalous bestseller. Debunking what were accepted truths about the Second World War, he argued provocatively that Hitler did not set out to cause the war as part of an evil master plan, but blundered into it partly by accident, aided by the shortcomings of others.
Fiercely attacked for vindicating Hitler, A.J.P. Taylor's stringent re-examination of the events preceding the Nazi invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939 opened up new debate, and is now recognized as a brilliant and classic piece of scholarly research.

'Taylor's most perfect work of art, a miracle of proportion, language and insight'
  Robert Skidelsky

'A dazzling exercise in revisionism which summed up Taylor's paradoxical, provocative and inventive approach to history'
  The Times

'Taylor was a lifelong dissenter ... at his best - as in The Origins of the Second World War ... he shifted the ground of major debates'
  Ben Pimlott, Financial Times

'No historian of the past century has been more accessible'
  Niall Ferguson, Sunday Telegraph

'An almost faultless masterpiece'

'Highly original and penetrating ... No one who has digested this enthralling work will ever be able to look at the period again in quite the same way'
  Sunday Telegraph

A.J.P. Taylor (1906-90) was one of the most controversial historians of the twentieth century. He served as a lecturer at the Universities of Manchester, Oxford, and London.

Frequently Bought Together

The Origins of the Second World War + The First World War: An Illustrated History (Penguin Books)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 357 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; New Ed edition (31 Oct 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014013672X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140136722
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 30,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
History is always being rewritten.Yesterday's perspective is no longer 'correct' or more evidence has come along to challenge the previously held majority view: either way views change and interpretations vary,allowing us to see the past in a new way.Hence every generation will have it's 'take' on the past.Even so 'The Origins...' is still an absorbing and largely persuasive piece of work,despite it's venerable age.

Taylor makes three central points - firstly that Hitler despite the rhetoric was really a 'chancer' who distinguished himself from his counterparts by his steely nerves and willingness to ask for more, just when the other side thought they had done enough to pacify him.Hitler played his hand brilliantly but only because he was allowed to by the French, British and Russians. This goes against the idea that Hitler was bent on World or at least European domination, simply because he much prefered to get what he wanted through threat rather then force -so much easier,especially as the German military was not really up to a prelonged campaign as in the First World War. He was happy to have client states like Romania or lap dogs like Italy to do his bidding rather then conflict, as this would inevitably bring Britain and France to bear in his direction. His motive was to expand into the East-where the pickings were much easier and richer,rather then get involved in a draining war with Britain and France.This seems a very convincing argument,although somewhat nullified by Hitler's own ramblings in 'Mein Kampf'. The coming with war over Poland then according to Taylor was a classic example of over-stretch by Hitler- now he was forced to use force where previously intrigue and power politics -as in Austria had done him handsomely.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Carl
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
'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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written read
AJP never disappoints. Written before the revisionists got their way he xplores the origins deep into the end of WW1. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Portlander
4.0 out of 5 stars A Detailed Analysis of the Events Leading to World War 2.
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... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nicodemus
3.0 out of 5 stars book for college
this book was brought for a particular reason for my daughter to be used for her work. no further comments
Published 4 months ago by kizzy Sherman
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Jubbly
The book was in good condition; great for studying
For the price I bought it for, t'was definitely worth it. Overall, a good buy!
Published 5 months ago by Rumana
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating but not as radical as many think
Taylor's thesis that Hitler was a typical German statesman in his foreign policy has been shocking to many but it is not so radical at all a view. Read more
Published 8 months ago by N. Ravitch
4.0 out of 5 stars AJP Taylor, history at its best
AJP Taylor always writes with wit and clarity, envents unfold rapidly,history comes alive, a conducter/guide on the journey to September 1939.
Published 10 months ago by MR J R THOMPSON
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me think?
A provocative account of the subject matter. Controversial at the time of writing. But I believe it has been proved more correct by subsequent revelations from documentation... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Barry
5.0 out of 5 stars The Origins of the Second World War
Would recommend this book to the history buff and ordinary reader. It details why appeasement was even considered as an option.
Published 15 months ago by Kermit
5.0 out of 5 stars A ground-breaking interpretation of events
Essential reading for anyone interested in the topic. This is historical analysis that is accessible to the non-historian. A truly rare feat.
Published 22 months ago by Gully Foyle
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Well written, well argued and authorative. If you buy only one book on WW2, make it this one. Don't be dissuaded by the whingers the book offended by its bravery.
Published on 19 Mar 2012 by Peter Hodgson
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