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The Second World War Paperback – 6 Nov 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New Ed edition (6 Nov. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712673482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712673488
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 4 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 344,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"[John Keegan] has a remarkable capacity to appreciate both the political context of the war and its immediate meaning for those caught in the heat of battle... Lucid, informed and authoritative" (Sunday Times)

"In this magnificently illustrated volume, our most original military historian gives the whys and wherefores of war as well as the blood and guts." (Mail on Sunday)

"John Keegan's history of World War II stands above the competition" (Preview)

"A graceful writer as well as a knowledgeable student of martial history, [Keegan] enlivens his chronicle with wry wit... An informed and informative accounting of a horrific war" (Kirkus Reviews)

Book Description

An outstanding history of the Second World War by one of our most distinguished historians.

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By M. G. Tokyo on 28 July 2008
Format: Paperback
The thing to remember first and foremost with these books is that it's a memoir. If you are looking for a balanced overview of the events of World War II this book is not for you. It's written from his point of view based on what he did at the time. His correspondence form the backbone of the narrative. As a result, other interpretations of events are not featured in the story and it is told from a very British angle.

That said, what a story! Volume One deals with the inter-war years. He describes the rise of fascism in what would become the axis countries and the rise of pacifism/neutralism in what would become the Allies. At times it's a bit I-told-you-so but he did tell-us-so so I guess that's his perogative. This takes us up to him becoming Prime Minister with Britain in its darkest hour.

From then on the volumes describe the prosecution of the war. The fact that it's written from his point-of-view, although the books biggest drawback, is also its biggest strength. The events are told plainly and in these parts the scenes leap from the pages. When he talks about his letters to Mussolini and Matsuoka; his meetings with Stalin, Roosevelt and Truman: the series of conferences between the war-leaders, we realise that there is only one man that could write like this. It's Churchill at his best.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Oct. 1998
Format: Paperback
It was surely the most significant period in modern history and to tackle such a subject, to try and put across its full significance, a monumental task. John Keegan's fascinating book not only manages this but more impressively presents it in such a fashion that it keeps the reader riveted whether he be exposing the political malfeasance and crulety of the Third Reich or the ruthless battle tactics of the Red Army. Keegan has broken the story of the war into three main portions: the wars in the East, West and Pacific, each in itself in two parts. This enables the reader to be led chronologically through the War itself as it developed throughout the world, spreading like a cancer. The real sense of this escalation is one of the book's strongest features. One can almost 'feel' the growing crisis afflicting our entire planet and the scale of the conflict is simply stunning. The focus on the battle in the Pacific was a particular revelation to this reader as Keegan explains how Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbour effectively committed Hitler to declaring war on America, something he had avoided at all costs up to that point. It is difficult to do justice to the entire volume in the space of this short review but a particular fact that stuck in my mind was that the German U-boat crews, despite their infamous reputations, had the highest casualty rates suffered by any arm of service in the navy, army or air force of any combatant country. Furthermore, the photographs included are often breathtaking (of particular note is one of a horrific Bergen-Belsen mass grave and another astonishing shot of a B-52 bomber with a tail wing cleanly broken off by one of the bombs dropped by its companion craft flying above it). In summary, if you wish to read a full history of this most fascinating and tragic period of our history, presented in a logical and gripping fashion, John Keegan's book can not be bettered in terms of detail and insight.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TimH on 30 April 2011
Format: Paperback
Comprehensive in scope, if not detail, and very readable. Great narrative energy. Necessarily for a one-volume history of WW2, some battles are dealt with abruptly, so any serious student of the war may be disappointed. But for an overview of 6 years of intensive war, crammed into 600 pages, it is an admirable work.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
Anyone wanting to find a concise overview of World War II that puts every major event into an overall context should look no further. This book is an astonishingly complete account of the hostilities from start to finish. Every significant battle is included together with an incisive summary of why it was important or memorable. The deep knowledge of his subject demonstrated by the author is complemented by a lucid and engaging style. Keegan manages to combine an economy of words with a depth of insight that conveys information without sentimentality or detachment. As a result the facts speak for themselves, often with a devestating effect. Where Keegan provides deeper analysis, his arguements are structured with precision and clarity. You immediately sense that the more detailed observations provided are not one man's subjective view but the result of academic study across a wide range of other accounts. What Keegan has managed to pack into a book of such size is as remarkable as the events he describes. Any serious student of 20th Century warfare should read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. T. Rogers on 10 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover
John Keegan's 'The Second World War' is the pre-eminent military history of the war that, for better or ill, shaped our times. Written in a concise and innovative style, the book is an essential starting-point in understanding the military (and some of the political, diplomatic and socio-economic) aspects of the conflict. The strategic points of view of each of the combatants are studied in some detail and the analysis of key battles and campaigns is incomparable.

One of the things I like about this book is that it serves a dual purpose for the reader and researcher. It's compact enough to be read cover-to-cover, if you like, but at the same time it is also worthy as an authoritative reference that you can dip into from time-to-time for key facts and for insights that you will find nowhere else.

The Second World War still casts a shadow over our society and, even today, discussion of the subject has the power to incite great emotion. Keegan's perspective is uncontroversial and conventional. He delivers his subject in an academic but accessible prose that only serves to underline the disturbing picture presented. This was a world literally gone mad. Here was a brutal war waged by four ruthless political leaders in which up to fifty million souls would perish. Usually the passage of time serves to afford the comfort of distance, and with it, a greater objectivity, and that is indeed the case with these events. Yet Keegan's calm, relentless understatement is akin to a quiet hymn and as we read, our fear, shock, astonishment and incredulity at the cruelty and inhumanity of these events grows.
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