- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (29 April 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141041307
- ISBN-13: 978-0141041308
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
1939: Countdown to War Paperback – 29 Apr 2010
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Overy is one of the great historians of the second world war (Bryan Appleyard Sunday Times)
This country's most distinguished historian of the Second World War ... Overy's book is easily the best account of Europe's descent into the death and destruction that were Hitler's element (Michael Burleigh Evening Standard)
Nail-biting ... with rare narrative verve, he documents the ultimatums, emissaries, letters and increasingly desperate proposals that shuttled across Europe in the countdown to war (Ian Thomson Independent)
Even those who think they know it all about how war broke out will learn something from Richard Overy's book (Simon Heffer Literary Review)
One of the great historians of this conflict (Simon Garfield Observer)
From the Back Cover
'This country's most distinguished historian of the Second World War ... Overy's book is easily the best account of Europe's descent into the death and destruction that were Hitler's element' Michael Burleigh, Evening Standard
24 August 1939: The fate of the world is hanging in the balance. Hitler has ambitions to invade Poland and hopes Stalin will help him. The West must stop them. If they fail, the world will go to war.
Richard Overy's dramatic account re-creates hour-by-hour the last days of peace, as politicians and the public braced themselves for a war they feared might spell the end of civilization.
'A gripping analysis of the final days of peace ... indispensable' M. R. D. Foot, The Times
'Nail-biting ... with rare narrative verve, he documents the ultimatums, emissaries, letters and increasingly desperate proposals that shuttled across Europe in the countdown to war' Ian Thomson, Independent
'Even those who think they know it all about how war broke out will learn something from Richard Overy's book' Simon Heffer, Literary Review
'One of the great historians of this conflict' Simon Garfield, ObserverSee all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
Footnote: the Product Description claims that Poland was created in 1919. Strictly speaking this is untrue. Poland, as a nation state, came into being in 966 and flourished until the end of the 18th century when European politics saw it partitioned by three empires: Russian, Prussian and Austro-Hungarian. 1919 was not the year of a newly-created Poland but a newly-liberated Poland.
The book is only 124 pages long with the rest of the pages being notes and index. I did not pay attention to this fact so I was a little bit surprised and a little bit sceptic before starting reading the book. But is shows that one doesn't have to waste words.
In a very short book the author comes back to the very last days of August 1939 preceding the German invasion of Poland. This is quite a good idea as this short period of time has often been dissolved in the whole history of WW2 or even of the nazi era.
What I picked out of this book is that this "chapter" of the war was pure bluffing by Hitler. He did not believe in any French/British reaction in favour of Poland. However after years of appeasement the allies went to war amid a mix of reluctance and resolution as if past renouncement would justify it. Thus this was not very rational: why help the Pole and not Czech ? why stand with the Pole and not move a finger to help them?
Overy refreshingly bucks the trend of history books needing to be over-long and packed with incidental details. Here, he assumes enough intellgence on the part of the reader for them to fill in some of the context, and so concentrates instead on the analysis that was at the heart of the chaos and uncertainty that eventually led to the outbreak of the war.
There are some nice touches, with a few bits of detail here and there to really bring the diplomacy to life, and the run up to Chamberlain's announcement of war being declared on 3 September is genuinely exciting and atmospheric. Perhaps most impressive of all is the balance with which Overy tackles the subject. Chamberlain has received a raw deal in most appraisals of his handling of the situation leading up to war; but as Overy makes clear, hindsight is a wonderful gift to have afterwards - but at the time he was genuninely trying to achieve the best possible outcome for Britain and Europe.
A revealing insight into the mayhem and chaos that sits not too far behind the scene at diplomatic jockeying like this - and an exemplary example of the shorter history book that punches way above its weight. Recommended.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A new perspective on the last week of peace. You don't find it in any of the memoirs, eg Churchill, who was not in the government during those fateful days.Published 12 months ago by Christopher G. Smith
An extremely interesting insight into the road to war. The only pity is that it is so short. A nice days reading.Published 22 months ago by J. M. Curzon
A little bit short, but it covers all necessary bases. If you've ever read anything by R Overy before, you'll know what to expect - well up to his usual standards.Published on 5 Jan. 2015 by James Victor GRAY
Richard Overy is an acknowledge expert on Air Power. This book details the contribution of aircraft to the Second World War. It is densely written and contains brilliant analyses. Read morePublished on 13 Feb. 2013 by email@example.com
A superb and accessible recount of the days leading up to WWII. Well worth reading alongside AJP Taylor's seminal, The Origins of the Second World War. Read morePublished on 18 Jun. 2012 by Gully Foyle