Alan John Percivale Taylor FBA (25 March 1906 – 7 September 1990) was an English historian who specialised in 19th- and 20th-century European diplomacy. Both a journalist and a broadcaster, he became well known to millions through his television lectures. His combination of academic rigour and popular appeal led the historian Richard Overy to describe him as "the Macaulay of our age".
Taylor graduated from Oxford in 1927. After working briefly as a legal clerk, he began his post-graduate work, going to Vienna to study the impact of the Chartist movement on the Revolution of 1848. When this topic turned out not to be feasible, he switched to studying the question of Italian unification over a two-year period. This resulted in his first book, The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy, 1847–49 published in 1934.
During the Second World War, Taylor served in the Home Guard and befriended émigré statesmen from Eastern Europe, such as the former Hungarian President Count Mihály Károlyi and Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš. These friendships helped to enhance his understanding of the region. His friendship with Beneš and Károlyi may help explain his friendly portrayal of them, in particular Károlyi, whom Taylor portrayed as a saintly figure. During the same period, Taylor was employed by the Political Warfare Executive as an expert on Central Europe and frequently spoke on the radio and at various public meetings. During the war, he lobbied for British recognition of Josip Broz Tito's Partisans as the legitimate government of Yugoslavia.
In 1961, he published his most controversial book, The Origins of the Second World War, which earned him a reputation as a revisionist. In the book Taylor argued against the widespread belief that the outbreak of the Second World War – by which Taylor specifically meant the war between Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and France that broke out in September 1939 – was the result of an intentional plan on the part of Hitler. He began his book with the statement that too many people have accepted uncritically what he called the "Nuremberg Thesis", that the Second World War was the result of criminal conspiracy by a small gang comprising Hitler and his associates. He regarded the "Nuremberg Thesis" as too convenient for too many people and claimed that it shielded the blame for the war from the leaders of other states, let the German people avoid any responsibility for the war and created a situation where West Germany was a respectable Cold War ally against the Soviets.