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The Origins of the Second World War Paperback – 31 Oct 1991

4.3 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 357 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; New Ed edition (31 Oct. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014013672X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140136722
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

Taylor's most perfect work of art, a miracle of proportion, language and insight (Robert Skidelsky)

A dazzling exercise in revisionism which summed up Taylor's paradoxical, provocative and inventive approach to history (The Times)

Taylor was a lifelong dissenter ... at his best - as in The Origins of the Second World War ... he shifted the gorund of major debates (Ben Pimlott Financial Times)

No historian of the past century has been more accessible (Niall Ferguson Sunday Telegraph)

An almost faultless masterpiece (Observer)

Highly original and penetrating ... No one who has digested this enthralling work will ever be able to look at the period again in quite the same way (Sunday Telegraph)

About the Author

A.J.P. Taylor (1906-1990) was one of the most controversial historians of the twentieth century. He served as a lecturer at the Universities of Manchester, Oxford, and London.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The reviewer who has read the book in the English Penguin edition of 1991 was surprised to note that while the book was translated into German soon after its first British edition some 50 years ago the Germans never seem to have given it much attention, in spite of the fact that what the author has to say about Germany is much more positive than historiography in general and German historiography in particular would have it.

By now, the book is some fifty years old and one wonders whether it is still an interesting read. In a foreword ("Second Thoughts") to the 1991 edition, the author takes up this question and does not significantly alter his views; on the subject of the 'Austrian Anschluss' of early 1938 (p. 8), he says: "the Austrian crisis was launched by Schuschnigg, not by Hitler" he muses about the German occupation of the Czech lands a year later (p. 9) and says that for many years he had been under the impression that Hacha, the president of Czechoslovakia had been ordered by Hitler to come to Berlin, whereas the files available at Prague document that the trip was undertaken at Hacha's initiative who was wondering what to do in the face of the obvious break-up of the country once Slovakia had claimed independence and unrest was brewing among the Hungarian and other minorities.

Taylor also raises the question why Hitler, if he did have the intention to secure living space in the East should go to war against Britain and France and discards the idea that Hitler was nothing but a power-hungry maniac. He rather considers Hitler to have been a politician who, whenever new situations arose, would rely on his instincts to profit from a given constellation.
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Format: Paperback
'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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Taylor's authority is etched on each page, the master of his craft as he weaves the endless bickerings, jealousies, vber-strident pride and posturing of politicians and leaders between the two world wars. Though he does appear to err on the side of British thinking, this is understandable for a man of his time and with more opportunity to study primary and other historical records. In this he is helped by being a contemporary of the events, and therefore armed with his own observations pertinent and undiminished by the passage of time.

I really appreciated a one volume history purely about the origins of the war. Too many histories of the Second World War dwell briefly on the road to war, peddalling the same 'truths' with too little regard for the thought processes and frailties of the powers concerned. Here we have a version that ascribes, not carefully planned assaults on The Versailles Treaty by Hitler, but opportunistic leaps and bounds opened by events and taken advantage of.

I would recommend this book and a thoroughly informative and compelling read in its own right, but also to those interested in the two wars and would appreciate a fifferent perspective at odds with received history.
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Format: Paperback
When I took history 'A' level in the late 1970s, Alan Taylor's books were very much on the reading lists, if only to provide an 'alternative view' to the generally accepted interpretations of the various periods and topics covered in European history. Interestingly, when reading history at University, the tutors took a more unsympathetic view of Taylor's works. Even the mention of his name would result in deep sighs and the shrugging of shoulders by some, and consequently Taylor's works did not receive the degree of attention they deserved.

How wrong they were then, and how wrong they are now. Taylor's 'Origins' has gained increasing prescience over time, and today stands as one of the most, if not the most important, work on this very important topic in history. The historian Kathleen Burk has suggested that 'Origins' is the most important work of history of the second half of the twentieth century, but I would go further and say it is the most important work of the entire twentieth century.

It's insightful 'balancing of the books' with regard to political and diplomatic history of the period places many of the events covered in a much clearer and more convincing context. To start with, Taylor was not an 'apologist' for Hitler. Taylor recognises the evil barbarity of the National Socialist regime, and makes no apology for the virulent anti-Semitism which provided one of the energetic 'engines' for National Socialist success. But what Taylor also emphasises is the opportunistic nature of Hitler's rise to power, the opportunistic way in which he achieved his aims and ambitions through the 1930s, leading up to war declared by the western powers (and not Germany) in 1939.
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