Customer Reviews


32 Reviews
5 star:
 (18)
4 star:
 (7)
3 star:
 (5)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Origins Of The Second World War, A.J.P. Taylor - A masterwork of historical research
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...
Published on 28 Sep 2009 by Victor

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed classic and a must read to understand the origins of the war and post-war debates
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...
Published on 19 Dec 2011 by Carl


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Origins Of The Second World War, A.J.P. Taylor - A masterwork of historical research, 28 Sep 2009
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed classic and a must read to understand the origins of the war and post-war debates, 19 Dec 2011
By 
Carl (U.K. & U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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. For example in both Gordon Martel's and Esmonde Robertson's collection of essays, several historians note how Taylor misused evidence or interpreted it a way that could not be supported, ignored information that was readily available at the time of him writing that contradicts points he made, or simply missed the point why events happened. This creates the impression that Taylor's work is deeply flawed and Martel makes the point that an undergraduate student, or anyone for that matter, let loose on the book will be left with the revelation that no one inside the Nazi regime was to blame for the events that took place, that appeasement was not necessarily a bad thing (not to mention how Taylor does not really explain the point of it) and that fascism had no impact on the interwar years.

Regardless for anyone studying the origins of the war or needing to contrast the differing opinions that have been made since, this is a must have book. For general reading or personal study, that does not want to completely engage in the debate, I would suggest looking elsewhere; PMH Bell's The Origins of the Second World War is an excellent book covering the competing theories as well as tackling the issue of why the war broke out.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating but not as radical as many think, 19 Aug 2013
By 
N. Ravitch (Savannah, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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. Most Germans, certainly the elites, after WWI were horrified that they had lost a war they considered theirs, and a war that they had won on the eastern front and only came to a stalemate on the western front owing to American intervention. The Versailles treaty offended them by blaming Germany for the war, when all the Great Powers and Serbia were equally guilty, and by destroying their hope for hegemony in eastern Europe. Hitler shared these views, with of course a bitter Austrian touch which made him hate Czechs and generally dislike all eastern Europeans to some extent. As long as France and Britain were willing during the 1930's to entertain revisions to Versailles Hitler was willing to go along. He knew that Britain and France had no will to fight and felt guilty, Britain more than France of course, about the territories populated by Germans which were now in the Czech state and Poland. The diplomacy about the Sudentenland was Hitler's strong point and he allowed Chamberlain and Daladier to give him what he wanted, remaining seemingly reasonable. The subsequent absorption of Austria and the destruction of the Czechoslovak state was also reasonable to the West. But when Hitler thought he could play the same game with Poland -- to get the city of Danzig and some territory linking Germany to East Prussia the Poles didn't play the game. Arrogant and stupid, the Polish military dictatorship thought they could stick it to Stalin and Hitler simultaneously and get away with it; it also thought the French and British would defend Poland according to their treaty obligations, but France had no intention of aiding the Poles with whom it had gotten tired and Britain had no means of helping the Poles even had it wished to. When Hitler's reasonable approach got him nowhere with the Poles (despite British attempts to compel the Poles to yield) he resorted to war. Nobody could help the Poles and he had already arranged an alliance with Stalin to divide Poland. So angry was Hitler with the Poles that he treated them brutally in comparison with his easy-going attitude towards the Czechs once they had surrendered. So Hitler was, as long as it was possible, a reasonable foreign policy player. With Poland his harsh, messianic, utopian side came to the fore and no longer could he or would he be reasonable. Taylor deals with Hitler's reasonable period. He did not mean to write that Hitler was not brutal, genocidal, and destructive. He only meant that until WWII Hitler behaved himself diplomatically like any German nationalist. His Austrian roots made him a but more violent at times, but this was verbal -- until the Second World War began. Had Hitler focused not on Poland but on attacking Russia the West might have continued to appease him, since they also feared Bolshevism to a lesser extent. A Nazi-Bolshevik war might have been preferable to WWII. Had the Poles cooperated with Hitler he would have made them into a satellite and they would have not suffered as they subsequently did.

Taylor therefore has written a fine book and made a good contribution; not his fault many have misunderstood him.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Controversal and thought provoking .. read around..., 5 Mar 2012
By 
os - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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.

Secondly,Germany had considerable sympathy in Britain and elsewhere for it's territorial losses in the Versailles treaty,in fact the British often had more time for German concerns then those of it's supposed ally, France.In a sense he says, Britain, France , Russia and Italy although wary of Hitler could see him as useful- either as a bulwark against Communism, or as a guardian of mutual security or helping to fulfill specific territorial ambitions that particular countries might have had themselves.So as long as Germany didn't get too powerful or greedy,she could be a way of maintaining peace in Central Europe. This too is persuasive - leading us to consider that unlike in conventional histories, no-one was innocent in all of these political manoeuvrings.

Thirdly that the Poland issue was simply a mistake.Hitler did not want a World war, but given his character,once forced into one (as he saw it), Germany could and would take on all comers.This proved true even to the extent of declaring war on the USA in 1941.He was slow for instance unlike the British to turn the whole economy over to war production,his hope was to quickly defeat his enemies rather then get into a never-ending slug-fest.

So, whether you agree with Taylor or not - his book is a rattling good read,and he keeps up a steady pace and allows us to see the various threads of activity clearly, despite the complexity of the diplomatic situation.However, there are a few negatives to consider: most importantly- where is Japan in all this?

I think also that Taylor underplays the economic situation -given that Germany was running large balance of payments deficits with its trading neighbours and the expansion of the military must have been costly,it must have been the case that Hitler had to find a way to pay for increased state spending - hence the toadying up to the major industrialists,the removal of the trade unions and the fleecing and eventual displacement of the Jews in German economic life.In short,once he had done all he could do bleed the domestic front dry whilst at the same time trying to remain popular, annexation and sequestration by whatever means-even war, was the only way Hitler was going to pay for his ambitions. He took a gamble and in the end lost.

I also found after awhile Taylor's lofty tone somewhat irritating.Given the lack of trust,information and common policy amongst the various countries concerned, was it any surprise that a focused and ultimately unknowable individual such as Hitler could play divide and rule for so long without being caught out? Taylor shows I feel insufficient understanding of how difficult it must have been to deal with Hitler, a man who many of the statesmen involved often had admiration and sympathy for, despite his foibles.

'The Origins...' remains an important book, even if as a work of scholarship it is somewhat limited. Recommended,despite its shortcomings.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A provocative, enthralling account of excellence., 6 Jan 2000
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Taylor's most controversial work, a book which should not be ignored, 2 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Origins of the Second World War (Kindle Edition)
Taylor was perhaps the first celebrity historian and in his lifetime was known to a huge audience. This was as much because of his communication skills and an awareness of how to present himself as for his gifts as a historian, prodigious though these gifts were. He had an uncanny ability to present complex arguments in a way which allowed a general audience to understand the arguments and a wonderful literary style which was very tight, fluid and concise or what might be called very readable. Taylor was passionate that the word history included "story" and that his books should present this story in a way which encouraged people to read it. That another highly regarded historian could write a biography of him entitled "Troublemaker" in itself is a good indicator of his impact as a historian and also his ready willingness to court controversey. This book remains controversial even today, over half a century after it was published and even those who criticise the book would have to concede that it has left a lasting impact.
Taylor's essential argument is that the fundamental issue was the position of Germany within Europe and how the other powers of Europe would accomodate this. Starting with the defeat of Germany in 1918 and the settlement of Versailles the book moves through the Weimar Republic, hyper inflation, the diplomacy of Stresemann and the great economic depression before examining the role of Hitler. This sets a context which is essential and often ignored as whilst Hitler's methods and beliefs on issues such as anti-semitism were clearly appalling his determination to restore Germany to the position of being a great power and to reverse the settlement of Versailles were no more than a continuation of those who had gone before and were certainly not the policies of a lunatic fringe bent on war. Once Germany was restored as a great power then it was almost inevitable that the existing order of Europe would have to be revised with Germany again developing a dominant position over much of the continent. Taylor believed that whilst Hitler's methods were reprehensible, his ambitions to restore Germany to this position of dominance within Europe were both rational and consistent with German history. He upset many by his comments that Germany was no more wrong in pursuing such ambitions than other powers such as Britain and France were in denying them. At a time when the consensus of opinion was that Hitler was a demonic mad man who deliberately wanted war Taylor presented a human picture of a rational man who was an opportunist and who wanted the fruits of victory but who wanted to achieve these fruits without a great war. Many words have been written about the arguments around opportunism and planning, and in some ways this is an argument over nuances and what is understood by the word "plan". Taylor took a very narrow view that "plan" indicates something which has been worked out in detail, his critics have pointed towards various speeches, writings and diplomatic records to present these as plans. Tellingly, after the book was published the concept of consistent aims achieved through flexible means became widely accepted as a way of describing Hitler's career, which in effect is a way of reconciling both positions and recognising that whilst Hitler had a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve his execution was opportunistic. Perhaps one of Taylor's weaknesses was an adherence to official records, his insistence that for meetings to be considered as actal events that formally recorded, agreed and archived minutes were needed is questionable given the ad-hoc nature of Hitler's methods and his methods of giving subordinates broad outlines ideas to implement. There is a sense that Taylor should have been more receptive to less official records, although the flip side of this is that his adherence to a strict methodology did help to debunk records such as the Hossbach memorandum. His opinion that the record of German re-armament and economic policy shows that Hitler did not want a general war was lambasted at the time (it should be noted Taylor was not the only person to present such a view at the time, nor was he the first) yet it is inarguable that if Hitler was really determined to fight a great war then this is not supported by economic planning and armament. The German armed forces re-armed in breadth but not depth and this itself indicates that whilst Hitler may indeed have wanted short, sharp victorious limited wars he was not planning a general war against the great powers, at least not a war in 1939. He does appear to have dreamt of a war of conquest in the East and he greatly underestimated Soviet power, but he was hardly alone in either sense. Turning away from Hitler and Germany, Taylor stimulated a re-appraisal of appeasement and showed that far from being a small clique acting against public opinion that appeasement represented the consensus position and further courted controversey by presenting appeasement as considered and well intentioned efforts to avoid war. Hindsight has made appeasement a dirty word but those who attack appeasers should first consider the alternatives, was a European war really justified as a response to the Anschluss, or the re-militarisation of the Rhineland, or of Hitler's claims on behalf of ethnic German's in neighbouring countries when many in the rest of the world felf that these minorities had justified grievances?
The book maybe described as revisionist, but it could more accurately be described as one of the first attempts to step outside simplistic assumptions of war guilt and demonic representations of Hitler and to try to understand Hitler as a deeply unpleasant man who implemented the most appalling crimes against humanity yet who was (at least in the 1930's) a rational and considered human being who whilst possessing some hideous views such as his anti-semitism was also representative of a wider German tradition in foreign policy. I certainly would not advocate that this book be read in isolation or accepted without reading other views but the book cannot be ignored. Those who argue that Taylor was just being wilfully contrarian and causing mischief just to generate book sales do the book a huge disservice. The book made a lasting impression and one of the principal reasons it was so controversial was precisely because Taylor presented an argument that cannot just be dismissed lightly. He challenged perceptions and the book created a historical debate with lasting consequences (such as the shift towards a centrist idea of consistent aims achieved by flexible means to reconcile the arguments over opportunist vs. planner) and if nothing else made people re-think the causes of the second world war. Very highly recommended and quite simply an essential book for anybody with an interest in the subject.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Detailed Analysis of the Events Leading to World War 2., 2 Mar 2014
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me think?, 23 Mar 2013
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 revealed over the years than critics were prepared to admit at the time. It examines critically the myths often associated with hitler and his so called 'grand plan'. An excellent read. Recommend it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars A great work of scholarship by a master historian., 11 Mar 1998
By A Customer
Dubbed as a "revisionist history" when the book was first written, A.J.P. Taylor's scholarship has withstood the test of time and a fresh reading is testimony to his prophetic skills. Mr. Taylor's work demonstrates that there are no blacks and whites but only grays in the world of realpolitik. His work is both for the casual reader as well as for students of history. (Naushad Shafkat)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but narrowly focused, 18 April 2006
By 
G. Thulbourn (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Fascinating book which broke down a lot of the myths I had learnt about the 2nd World War. However, it looks at the situation purely from a political point of view and covers little background as to: the economy, the public, the USA and the preparations for war.

If you're after a casual more rounded read I'd look elsewhere, but as a focused 'text book' this is pretty definitive.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 4 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Origins of the Second World War
£5.03
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews