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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, indepth anaylsis of the Second world war, 19 Dec 2000
This review is from: The Penguin History of the Second World War (Paperback)
Not for the faint hearted, this 1224 page volume is perhaps the definitve work on the second world war. Focusing on the political and military aspects of the war, a proffesional and dignified view is mainted throughout, rarely straying into personal views or mini-biographies. If you are looking for a book about why Hitler did what he did this is not it. If you are looking for a book which fits all the pioeces of the jigsaw of the second world war together, this is DEFINETELEY it. taking a grown up view of the British Empire, German forgein policy, Japenese aggression in the pacific, American involvement, and all the other issues of the war, this book deilvers an uncompasionate, proffesional overview of the conflict with great style.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, 1 Dec 2004
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David Poulet (U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Penguin History of the Second World War (Paperback)
I wanted a single volume of the second world war and was glad I got this one. It's well written, objective and concentrates more on the geo-political and strategic overview of events rather than the minute detail of individual military actions. There's plenty of coverage too of the social aspects of the war, the affect on occupied countries and the "home front".
I've only read the first part so far - the European theatre - but I feel already I've learnt a lot more about the how and why of it all, and now have a jumping-off point for reading around particular events or campaigns. I'm taking a breather for a couple of weeks now before I start the 700 odd pages on the Pacific campaign.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Microscopic look at WW2, 26 Jun 2002
This review is from: The Penguin History of the Second World War (Paperback)
An excellent book which breaks down the war in the west and the war in the east. The narrative is unbiased and goes into the minute details of the economic, social as well as militaristic factors involved the beginning, duration and end of the war. A particularily good insight to the working of the Japanese regime and the governments relationship with the Emperor and Amred Forces.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive and comprehensive, 15 Oct 2008
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This review is from: The Penguin History of the Second World War (Paperback)
This thorough and concise volume documenting the Second World War is essential for anyone wishing to exapnd their knowledge of the great conflict. Usefull equally as a reading book and as a reference text it is as valuble to students as it is to someone wishing to expand their general knowledge.

The text is split into two parts, the first concerned with the European arm of the conflict and the second with the greater Asian conflict. Each section initiates with a concise analysis of the causes of the respective conflicts and continues to their end.

The second part of the text is more readable as a book than the first, perhaps due to the seniority of authors Calvocoressi and Wint in the first compared with Pritchard in the second.

Overall thoroughly enjoyable and very detailed, the text is excellent value for money and one invaluable as a reference.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 5 July 2011
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Arjun Sen - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Penguin History of the Second World War (Paperback)
I have just finished reading this superb one-volume history of WWII. It is excellently written, thoroughly researched, balanced, analytical and complete. Highly recommended for anyone wishing to gain a start into the detail of WWII. The book focusses heavily on the why and how and provides detail on what went on in the corridors of power. This is precisely what I was looking for in this book. In addition it lays out staggering statistics concerning the war effort, the broad military strategies and economic conditions. Also, it is brilliantly organised with Western and Eastern theatres cleanly separated.

However, as you may have noticed, I docked one star. The following are my reasons:
- The maps need to be revised. They are difficult to read and often the places mentioned in the text were not referred in the maps. The next edition should have neat colour plates with modern graphics
- The Eastern theatre is not as well written as the Western. Given that a large number of readers will be English-speaking and may not be as familiar with the Japanese and Chinese names. I expected a little more introduction on the persons involved and better organisation of the information. The non-chronological approach was, at times, haphazard.
- I found it difficult to keep track of the Asian names when referred to by their first names. (Whereas the westerners were referred to by surname). Perhaps this is convention, but I found it distracting
- Some key events were wrapped up too quickly such as the Normandy landings. I expected a bit more detail. Also I found in both Western and Eastern sections, the endings were raced through.
- Finally, I think Amazon's pricing of the Kindle edition is unjust. It costs next to nothing to produce a Kindle version, yet costs a prohibitive 20. If they want to promote the Kindle, then the ebooks need to be priced attractively.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two for the price of one, 25 Jun 2010
By 
John Ferngrove (Hants UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Penguin History of the Second World War (Paperback)
This volume is really two distinct books in a single cover, the first devoted to the War in Europe, the second to that of the Pacific. The writing styles are fairly distinct, but even more so are the historical approaches. Considering the first section on Europe then, my first observation is that this is above all a political history. Having opened the first paragraph with a statement that wars are not waged by individuals but by peoples, it then goes on to describe the war in terms of the attitudes and reasoning of its significant individuals. So much so in fact that one has to constantly remind oneself that, alongside this certainly absorbing psycho-political drama, there is unfolding a parallel thread of death, mayhem and agony. What military content there is presented in terms of a handful of very high level maps. For a history that is first and foremost military, with the political, economic and social aspects woven into the narrative, but kept subservient, then I can thoroughly recommend Weinberg's A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. An aspect of the Penguin history that I did find slightly perplexing was Peter Calvocoressi's approach to the timeline. The broad structure of chapters and sections is presented chronologically, but he tends to spur off for particular themes or locales into non-chronological perspectives. This can lead to s slightly muddled perception of the big picture and serves to highlight that aspect of Weinberg's account which makes it all the more masterly. Weinberg's strict adherence to chronology, across all theatres, enables one to construct a big picture in the mind's eye of the unfolding of events in their broad totality. For all that though, this is a very interesting and entirely valid perspective, that makes a fascinating adjunct to Weinberg, though I would recommend reading Weinberg first. Of particular interest for me was the coverage of Britain's wartime administration and how its command economy enabled a logistical and economic miracles entirely out of proportion to its size and resources. Also interesting was the examination of the manner in which the conditions for the subsequent welfare state were established by the wartime exigencies, and how many ordinary people in Britain were so much better off, in so many ways, than they were in the very grim thirties that preceded them.

Entirely different is the second book on the Pacific campaign, which is somewhat larger than that on Europe. At first this seems anomolous, until one understands that Wint and Pritchard, co-authors of this section, take the Pacific war to be the story of Japan's quest for economic hegemony in East Asia. This account begins in the early twentieth Century with the Chinese Treaty ports, and with the Pacific war starting, as far as Japan is concerned, with the annexation of Manchuria and foundation of Manchukuo in 1931. The Pacific war, as understood from the Anglo-centric point of view, commencing with Pearl Harbour in 1941, only picks up at about halfway through this section. For me this was the strongest part of the book, and a truly fascinating read. Some of what was related I was somewhat familiar with having read Niall Ferguson's contentious but fascinating analysis of 20th Century geopolitics, The War of the World: History's Age of Hatred. Also, I had become acquainted with the machinations of the Japanese court and government through Toland's magnificent drama, Rising Sun (Military Classics), but this places them in their wider global context. All in all, we are told the tragic tale of a war, or series of ever more rash wars, that was forced upon a passive people and a reluctant government, by an army that ever more out of control. A situation arising from the culture and the linguistic subtleties of a people who were unable or excused from saying exactly what they mean. It also shows us an inherently insane society in the grips of a death cult and one in which political assassination was deemed acceptable if the motives of the perpetrator were shown to be sufficiently selfless and patriotic, no matter how catastrophic the consequences. Above all, the book emphasises that in terms of the military and economic logic of the imperial politics that governed world affairs in that day, Japan's goals and intentions were no more reprehensible than those of the other great players on the global stage. Indeed, in many respects, Japan was obliged by this logic to undertake what it knew to be a desperate adventure in order to secure its very survival as a power. However, it is the appalling brutality, arising from the death obsessed sub-culture that dominated Japan's military, that roused the entire world in an avenging apocalyptic fury against it. We are caused to consider that if Japan had conducted itself according to its avowed intentions of creating an East-Asian co-prosperity sphere, freed from the hegemony of the Western powers, then history might have taken a very different course, and its project proved ultimately successful. If it had behaved towards its subject peoples accordingly, it could so easily have found welcome and co-operation, and posterity might have delivered a very different judgement on the record of its conduct. But the Japanese culture of that day was inherently schizophrenic, convinced of its holy mission to emancipate the peoples held in thrall by the West, but entirely unable to control or restrain the ferocity and depravity of its brute and brutalised soldiery. Other aspects of this part the book that were of great interest included an analysis of the role of India. In this the significance of its various independence movements is considered, and how the outcome of the total conflict might have been entirely different if Indian agitation had been just a little more acute, or a little less divided.

So, in summary, the War in Europe would get four stars, and I would recommend that Weinberg be read first before filling in some of the political details with this. But the Pacific War account gets a full five stars, being hugely informative, superbly structured and rather well written.
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The Penguin History of the Second World War
The Penguin History of the Second World War by John Pritchard (Paperback - 2 Sep 1999)
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