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The Battle for History: Re-fighting World War Two Hardcover – 2 Nov 1995

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (2 Nov. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091792290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091792299
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 1.5 x 25.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 333,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"John Keegan - dapper, lantern-jawed, a man who pounds facts into place as if with a sledgehammer - is the military historian's military historian... If he did not exist, the History Channel would not be able to invent him."

Book Description

A guided tour of the controversies surrounding the history and interpretation of World War 11 from this century's most distinguished military historian. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Format: Hardcover
For the best books, recommended by the best military historian, look no further that this little volume. Here presented are the books John Keegan thinks we should read for a well rounded understanding of WW2. As one who has read a good few of them, I have to agree with him.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars 30 reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Bibliographic Survey Of World War Two Titles! 4 Dec. 2000
By Barron Laycock - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In a manner that will surprise few of his faithful readers, historian and writer John Keegan turns what one would expect to be a dry bibliographic survey of what this noted scholar believes to be the seminal and meaningfully works on the subject of World War Two into a fascinating and sometimes provocative survey into the subject of not only that most fateful of conflicts, but also of war itself. As has recently been proven through the edifying work of other authors such as Ian Kershaw with his brilliant two volume study of Adolph Hitler (see my reviews) as well as books by Michael Burleigh's "The Third Reich: A New History", Daniel Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners", and Williamson Murray and Allan Millet's "A War To Be Won", the field of investigation is hardly complete.

Indeed, given the fact that the integration of all the relevant information concerning the war remains such a daunting task based on its size, complexity, and the fact that it is found in a plethora of languages and dialects, one has to admire Keegan's admission that his own work as well as that by notable others such as Sir Martin Gilbert, Gerhard Weinberg's mammoth "A World At Arms" (my own personal favorite) do not represent anything close to definitive histories of the Second World War. Instead, he insists with both energy and enthusiasm that such a definitive work is yet to be written. Moreover, as anyone familiar with works ranging from Hugh Trevor-Roper's early masterpiece on Hitler's final days in the Berlin bunker to the recent short overview by Richard Overy (see his wonderful short essay and overview in "The Origins Of The Second World War"), arguments regarding the etiology and progress of that war are hardly settled beyond the point of argument or discussion. So while one might think that some half century after the fact the dust of truth would have settled over the subject, Keegan insists the quite the opposite is the case.

In my opinion, this book is an essential read for anyone who seriously attempts to study the most amazing string of historical events we now refer to as comprising World War Two. Keegan threads his way through a pile of titles, many of which the serious student of 20th century history will be familiar with, but also including a number of titles I am now scurrying to find or order in order to further my understanding of this endlessly fascinating time period. By the way, by providing such an authoritative survey of all these works, he of necessity must provide a kind of unifying narrative that amounts to one of the most concise and immensely readable histories of the war I have yet seen, including all of Professor Keegan's other works.

This may not be the first book on WWII you want to order, and in fact few of us finding this book would expect to approach it as anything like a comprehensive history. But it is at once both an engaging and entertaining read as well as an intelligent guide through the virtual briar patch of the hundreds and hundreds of titles still in print on the subject of the single most important historical event of the 20th century. I highly recommend this book. Enjoy!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 22 Aug. 2002
By Christopher J. Martin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I generally don't like Keegan, I can't dispute the fact that he is usually very well researched. This book is absolutely essential for anyone wishing to begin a thorough study of WW II. Unfortunately it is a bit dated now, especially with the explosion of WW II material published since Saving Private Ryan. So I do wish Keegan would take the time to update and rerelease this wonderful volume.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just a reading list... 12 April 2009
By Gary D. Douglass - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With a title like "The battle for..." you might expect an authoritative overview of various viewpoints regarding some of the contentious and even elusive events and actions of World War two. This ain't that. John Keegan is the best military historian I know, and I've read about a dozen of his books. But this is just a list of suggested reading and would've made a useful appendix to one of his other wonderful books.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Bibliographic Essay 13 Dec. 2007
By John P. Rooney - Published on
Format: Paperback
"The Battle For History" by John Keegan.
Subtitled:"Re-fighting World War II".
Vintage Books, Random House, New York. 1996.

If you have ever taken a course in History, you know what a bibliographic essay is. The professor assigns an obscure episode in the events of some small country and then you have to "research" the events, find credible references and write a literate paper telling all about it. You think that you're done when you hit "Return" on the computer and the paper is complete. Or is it? Nope, the prof wants a bibliographic essay, which is a list of books and articles consulted, and your estimation of the "correctness" or value of each reference. I think that the teachers thought up bibliographic essays so that the student could not plagiarize just one book and submit it as the student's own paper.

So, with this preamble, you can see that I would be apprehensive when I picked up John Keegan's little book, (only 128 pages), which is fundamentally a bibliographic essay on the Second World War. But, this book is a wonderful bibliographic essay. The author jumps right into the heart of the matter in Chapter 1, which is entitled, "Controversy And The Second World War". In this small chapter, Keegan deals with the works of the controversialist, A.J.P. Taylor, as to the origins of the War, then Keegan goes on to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union (22 June 1941), and who know what about when and how. Did Stalin really expect Hitler to leave Russia in peace? The next controversy handled was whether or not F.D. Roosevelt knew in advance that the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor. Then, a portion of this chapter deals with the effectiveness of the bombing campaign is alone worth the price of the book. Excellent work on controversies.

The book then treats the different histories that have been written about World War II, and it is up to you to agree or disagree with the author. There is a chapter on biographies, with an emphasis on the important personalities, ranging from Hitler and Stalin to Churchill and Roosevelt. Of course, De Gaulle and Truman are mentioned.
Page 60: Montgomery " unarguably one of the war's great generals".

Keegan dismisses the revisionism of authors such as David Irving and James Bacque. Keegan states that the best thing that James Bacque, (author of the book, "Other Losses" which disparaged General Eisenhower's reputation), could do was to remain silent. With David Irving, on the other hand, Keegan just shakes his head.

All in all, Keegan's work," The Battle For History", is worth reading and re-reading; the book is a wonderful reference work on the Second World War.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction to WWII Historiography 13 Sept. 2006
By Publius - Published on
Format: Paperback
Keegan's "Battle" is a great starting point for any reader that wants to have a more scholarly appreciation for World War II literature. This reviewer should caution however, that readers should not expect a long involved historiographical discussion of the major trends in WWII scholarship since 1945. Instead, what this book presents is a long bibliographical survey of the major books, and at the same time Keegan's reviews what he surmises as the best effort in any one category. It is true Mr. Keegan ignores the revisionist wing of WWII scholarship such as Gar Alperovitz, but does caution his readers that there is an emerging trend towards conspiratorial theses, especially involving foreknowledge of a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Two weak points are that Keegan sometimes confuses his books, and his mistake on the starting date for Operation Barbarossa is surprising, to say the least. Nevertheless, what Keegan presents here is a great starting point for an upper level World War II, or military history class.
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