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Valentini Vincenzo "frontovik1" (Italy)
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The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, 1898-1918
The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, 1898-1918
by Sean McMeekin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant with a few minor flaws, 3 Sep 2014
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A fitting tribute in this centenary year to a less known but nonetheless very important theatre of operations of the Great War. An authoritative contribution to balance the undoubtedly more popular and widely discussed Western front narrative. What I particularly appreciated in this outstanding book is the wide use of Turkish and German sources, often interspersed with Russian studies, providing a less slanted view of the events in the Middle East, in comparison with western studies almost invariably centred upon T.E. Lawrence’s exploits. In view of the amplitude of this study, the title is somewhat misleading, as the mentioned railway line does provide only a loose thread for the narrative that encompasses events taking place from Costantinople to Kabul to Baku. The focus of this book is the jihad waged by Turkey and Germany against British and Russian possessions alike and its abject failure with the consequent series of political earthquakes that still reverberates on us a century later, additionally with no prospect for a satisfactory solution in the foreseeable future. Personally I found however the last chapter Epilogue, less convincing in its efforts to derive the current jihad waged against westerners by Sunni Islamists as a consequence of the hazardous opening of the Pandora’s box of extremism by the German Empire. Even the massacres against Armenians according to the author’s are finally to be ascribed to the Germans’ meddling with fatwas against infidels, that had escaped their intentions, but some pages before he himself did point out at the Russian support for Armenians and the widespread killing of Muslim civilians and soldiers by Armenian fighters. A willingness to try to absolve and diminish the responsibilities of Turkey and simultaneously to blame Germans for almost everything went wrong on the Middle East front is noticeable and is responsible for the less convincing assumptions of the book, that in spite of this remains an excellent read on the subject. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everybody wishing to know more about the South Eastern front of the Great War.


The State of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence
The State of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence
by Martin Meredith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

4.0 out of 5 stars a never ending litany of greed, murder, foreign aid and corruption..., 15 May 2014
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“struggle for survival”, these are the dismal closing words summing up the current state of Africa 50 years after its struggle for independence started. The picture is not just bleak but horrible, every year new tribal wars condemn to death, famine and genocide thousands of Africans, hundred of thousands, dispossessed of everything become refugees and survive just because of Western aid. Chinese investors are committed to an unprecedented land grab that could rival or even exceed the XIX century colonial one, natural resources are exploited senselessly and are becoming scarce as they are the only remaining asset for rapacious national governments hellbent in enriching themselves at all costs. Millions of refugees are pushing at the borders of Europe, testifying once more the failure of self-government and entitlement process that brought just despair, violence and declining life standards to millions of Africans. Rare are the success stories, Botswana is usually singled out as the only example of a democratic country, where the government actually spends money wisely for the advancement of its country. South Africa after a promising start, is now turning into a country with limited political freedom, where a ruling party effectively occupies for its cronies all industrial and political institutions, progressively reducing the role for skilled white people in the name of entitlement. In other potentially wealthy countries, Nigeria for example, , religious and tribal wars fought by proxies, destroy all prospects of improvement of life standards. Rather than recurring to the usual, false stereotypes of African failure as the outcome of Western powers interference or the heritage of colonialism, this book proves boldly how pathetic mismanagement, brazen corruption and sheer disrespect for human rights are really to blame for the plight of Africans. It is undeniable that Western countries have found a way to profit from the greed of African rulers and are exploiting their hunger for luxury, but the fact remains that, when given the power and the resources, 850 billions of USD of foreign aid is no little money, the black leaders invariably chose to steal this money and throw their own people into the throes of famine and death. Reading this book is a sobering experience that represents an effective antidote against the Third World pap that has been the staple diet of every self-righteous, well-fed western lefty. Highly recommended.


Beyond The Blue Horizon
Beyond The Blue Horizon
by Alexander Frater
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but lacks empathy, 23 Jan 2014
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I must admit that I was expecting a much larger part of the book to be devoted to the actual history of Imperial Airways and not the sprinkling here and there of notes, in any case very interesting. Having said this, what I found mostly missing in this travel books is empathy. In the first part especially, the European and Middle Eastern arms of the trip, stereotypes flow abundantly and the author does not seem to be able to connect on an emotional level with foreign people he meets. This is a tract I find quite often in the book. Perhaps the author was not interested in anything more than a cursory glance as his schedule was very tight and he preferred to present a sketchy description of locations and people. Whatever the case I am afraid I cannot join the overwhelmingly positive note of comments here.


The Battle For Singapore: The true story of the greatest catastrophe of World War II
The Battle For Singapore: The true story of the greatest catastrophe of World War II
by Peter Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and authoritative., 5 Dec 2013
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A fine book of one of the most impressive feats of the latest world war, an event that, besides marking the weakness of the foundations of the British Empire, started a process of awareness amongst Asian people that brought to independence and self government after Indochina wars.
After the fall of the city of the lion and even if the war was won, Great Britain and France had to come to terms with a completely different situation, one where all the assumptions that were at the basis of their colonial power, were no longer accepted and led to the dismemberment of their old empires. It is very ironic that this process was started by a war of aggression from Japan that at the end just wished to replace the old powers and proceed to a ruthless exploitation of other Asian countries, considered as inhabited by sub-humans.
The book provides a convincing and well documented picture of the state of unpreparedness and the general underestimation of the strength and willingness of Japanese armed forces that was prevalent in the colony and that played a great role in setting wholly inadequate defences in front of General Yamashita's troops. This underestimation was a trait that continued all along ww2 bordering into open racism but at the end of the day stereotyping was widespread in those years. When it combined itself with arrogance, it brought to unprecedented disasters like the sinking of two British battleships on December, 10 1941.
There is a remarkable change of pace in the book between the pre war situation, where the description of stylish colonial life is vividly rendered and the subsequent grittiness of the Malayan campaign and the siege of Singapore. The passage from the golden days of colonial rule to the horrors of war is perfectly expressed.
One aspect that I found not wholly convincing is the description of fighting as usually one sided, with Empire troops always heroically confronting much superior Japanese troops and inflicting grievous losses to them, but at the end of the day the body count tells a different story and Empire troops had twice the amount of casualties of General Yamashita's troops.


Hitler's Death's Head Division: SS Totenkopf Division
Hitler's Death's Head Division: SS Totenkopf Division
by Rupert Butler
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but uneven., 3 Sep 2013
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The story of 3. SS Division is a story of a rise from a bunch of thugs guarding concentration camps into a ruthless and respected war machine, destroyed as many other top quality German units on the Eastern Front. As such its story is representative of political intrigues, personal ambitions and petty rivalries that were characteristic of the Third Reich. The author conveys quite well the atmosphere of continuous struggle between Wehrmacht and SS in order to get the needed manpower and equipment and the efforts, paid in blood, of the division commanders to get full recognition from Heer top brasses. The only part I found rather imprecise and superficial concerns its tank equipment, the author states that Tiger I was not equipped with a bow MG, whilst this was the case of the Ferdinand tank self propelled gun, when discussing the preparation of Kursk offensive... In general this can be considered as an introduction about this crack unit rather than the definitive history, it is a quick and easy read with some brilliant stories like the exploit of the dashing Skorzeny in Budapest. I found rather biased other parts of the book as it glanced quickly over the massacres of Soviet troops against Totenkopf surrenders.


Italian Medium Tanks (New Vanguard)
Italian Medium Tanks (New Vanguard)
by Filippo Cappellano & Pier Paolo Battistelli
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent primer on a neglected topic, 26 Feb 2013
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This is by far one of the best efforts amongst the most recent New Vanguards. This book represents a logical follow-up of the previous book by the same authors on Italian light tanks, but seems to be better written and better organised in its contents. As a person with more than a passing interest in the subject of this book, at first I was quite pleasantly surprised by the very high quality of illustrations, both in pictures and artwork. The text is authoritative being based as it is on the best books on this topic by the best Italian authors,amongst which the late Pignato figures prominently. The authors, providing a vivid picture of the employment of these tanks, try hard to somewhat dispel some of the most die-hard prejudices on Italian tanks and tankers, describing convincingly the (few) successes and the (many) failures of Italian tank design and manufacturing in the thirties and forties. It is a work that can be unconditionally recommended to anybody interested in WW2 warfare.


The End: Germany, 1944-45
The End: Germany, 1944-45
by Ian Kershaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Detailed but not wholly convincing picture, 19 Sep 2012
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While this book provides a detailed, often convincing portrait of the last months of Hitler's Germany, for several reasons it cannot be considered as the definitive study on the fall of the Third Reich. This failure can be attributed to a certain lack of understanding of some undercurrents of NS Germany that often causes the author to repeat worn clichés and to dismiss altogether facts that might have helped in better analyzing the stubborn, staunch resistance of Germany, when everything was clearly lost and the final outcome of the war was no longer in doubt. This is the case for instance of his dismissal of the clause of unconditional surrender, that was instrumental for the regime to justify the continuation of a lost war and strengthened the resolve of the Party and the Armed Forces to continue fighting. It could be argued that if the Allies had accepted the belated efforts at negotiating an exit strategy from the war involving and supporting Army conspiracies, instead of sabotaging or ignoring them, some million lives might have been spared. Unless the real aim of the western allies was the utter destruction of Germany as a world power and the total enslavement of Eastern Europe as a collateral result, as it finally was the case. Some passages seem also to denounce a certain inability of the author to show some empathy, even perfunctorily, with the plight of the Eastern Germans. There were numerous cases of ethnic cleansing that took place in many areas of Europe with the active support of the western Allies, eager to turn a blind eye to the denunciation of war crimes and peace crimes committed against German civilians. In general the author's treatment of the many instances of war crimes committed by the winners appears to be very dismissive and devoid of any human sympathy for the victims. I found this made the reading somewhat disturbing.


The Many Not The Few
The Many Not The Few
by Richard North
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive and totally convincing, 2 Sep 2012
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This review is from: The Many Not The Few (Hardcover)
To say that I was impressed by this book is something of an understatement... In short the author has been able to weave together in a very convincing and documented way a series of threads that did not completely fit in the canonical version of the Battle of Britain. Yes because, when reading most of the books devoted to the BoB, a series of ill-fitting events continuously and annoyingly pop-up: the limited extent of Luftwaffe raids for instance, the lack of German narratives of the BoB as an organised attempt to destroy RAF air power, the lack of conviction from OKW and Hitler himself about Seeloewe, the Germans'supposed mistake of devoting themselves to bombing London after having almost succedeed to smash RAF. In this excellent book all these issues find finally a convincing explanation, that some people may find disturbing our not acceptable at all, as it diverges and conflicts widely with the official narrative of the BoB.
I find this a courageous book as I can imagine that the Guardians of the Memory, as we call in my country people refusing even to consider that events might have been different from what they have been traditionally told, must have risen up in arms to defend the official view of the BoB. Their problem is that this version is perfectly plausible and makes everything click together wonderfully.
Unfortunately it seems like modern nations and governments and often the majority of official historians are ill at ease with any attempt to provide original interpretations of problematic occurrances, choosing instead to consider them as challenges to their long accepted version of events.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 23, 2013 1:49 PM GMT


Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean
Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean
by Philip Mansel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful rendition of a fascinating tale., 2 Sep 2012
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Being an avid traveller and a lover of historical books, this opus magna detailing in a compelling and engrossing way the history of three capital cities of the Mediterranean, was ideally suited for me, and definitely I was delighted by it.
Izmir, Alexandria and Beirut are important names in our minds of Mediterranean peoples and for some uncanny reasons all these three cities seem to be possessed by a similar genius loci, capable of instantly telling something even to the casual traveller. Their histories are masterfully narrated by the author, that often does not refrain from political comments and references to the contemporary age, that I found always to the point. A particular mention must be made of the author's style that, while quite dense, is always readable and logically organised. This is one of the rarest books that I found 100% in agreement with, as the events that shaped up often dramatically the lives of these three cities are always presented in a very convincing way, that leaves very little to different interpretations. I especially liked the easiness with which Mansel managed to describe a confused little war like the Balkans Wars of 1912-13. No mean feat at the light of the importance of this conflict as the catalyst of the Great War. A gorgeous book that must be recommended to everybody with an interest in the history of human endeav


The Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (New Vanguard)
The Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (New Vanguard)
by David Fletcher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too little on WW2 usage, 8 Jun 2012
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Unfortunately I cannot give full marks to this nice booklet as I am afraid that its WW2 contents is not satisfactory, at least for me. I was expecting a detailed coverage of these armoured cars epics against the Italians in the first stages of the war but the space devoted to it is on the verge of being irrelevant whilst the text appears sketchy and far from conclusive. Though I understand that there are space constraints in this kind of booklets, on the other hand I just wish to warn potential buyers interested like me in WW2 that they might not find what they are looking for.


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