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on 23 November 2005
Due to the attributed authoritativeness of author Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart a presumably simple question needs to be asked and answered from the outset: Does this history of the Second World War give an exact account of the global war between the Axis Powers and The Allies from 1939 to 1945?
The answer is very emphatically yes, but a distinction must be made. This book took me two months to read, taking into account its length (700 pages) this was not especially poor for a general history reader. But I believe the reason behind the prolongued read is precisely because it is not an account for general readership but for the reader of military history. It is, in short, a military and strategist's view of the Second World War. An important categorization that I hope informs potential buyers.
This does not mean however that its worth is negated for the general reader. Liddell Hart's history is as thorough and epic in scale as the war itself An experienced military strategist who bore witness to its prosecution, he held unique and valuable insight. Of particular value is the inclusion of German accounts of the war from interrogations and interviews made by Liddell Hart himself.
Great eruditeness is also shown in describing the varying campaigns, invasions, battlefields, and military plans from all sides. The sheer detail he offers is immense and because of this nothing is gleaned over, which I felt was of considerable use in gathering a full account of the actual fighting. In addition, something of the art, if not essentially chaotic nature of the war and indeed warfare as a whole is infused into the reader's mind.
Yet, all this could have been achieved with much greater effect and with less long-winded and relentless detail if it had contained more frequent accounts from the protagonists involved. Indeed if the participants in the theatre of operations were taken account of at all, this history would have added a worthwhile human dimension above the confusing tactical and strategic aspects which tended to dominate the retelling. But as I've already stated, this is a military and strategists' history
If it had, this account would surely have become an unsurpassable tome leaving fellow historians of WWII to fight it out for the scraps of academic esoteric obscurity that is Hitler's dietary needs.
Yet despite my craving for some sort of personal narrative, which is probably unfair in view of Liddell Hart's obvious interest and authority on strategic and military matters, this book did provide me with the knowledge of the Second World War that I had sought from the outset. It is so thoroughly detailed that it covered all of the theatres of war with particular emphasis on the campaigns in North Africa, Italy and the Battle of Britain/Atlantic.
Readers from the United States may be disappointed however at the focus of the war upon British and Soviet battles in contrast to their own vital contribution to the Allied victory, namely in the Pacific Ocean, which I might point out in mitigation was one of the strongest sections imparted. But I consider that Liddell Hart has emphasized overall fairness, the Allies together defeated the Axis powers, it was not one partner exclusively, although the Soviet Union's all-important recoiling of Hitler's invasion has been given deserved focus in the book.
I would also put forward certain caution if any readers approached this conflict without any prior knowledge of its main events, you will undoubtedly lose track of any timeline, as I occasionally did. The narrative swerves from North Africa to the Russian Steppes and the Burma jungle, with no clear indication of its importance in relation to other theatres of the war.
My judgement upon this book ultimately has to be that of conflicting middle ground however. As an account of any war it has to be regarded as a classic. As a military history of the Second World War I doubt whether the understanding of Liddell Hart or his analytical brilliance shall be surpassed, and as an historian of the Twentieth Century he is rightly regarded as amongst its most esteemed.
This book however does not fully meet the requirements of modern and younger readers like myself to understand the Second World War beyond the concept of armies, war production figures and "losses". It rarely goes beyond a history of the conflict that is simply one of strategic/military problem and solution. Indeed, it neglects to emphasize at all that the war involved massive human taking up of arms with the expected consequences. A history of war without human context bears no resemblance to the actual war itself and thus I believe this book is not as authoritative as it once seemed.
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on 8 May 2015
It's probably a super book BUT I actually received a different one, where Liddell Hart was simply some kind of Series Editor, and 90% of the material was authored by other people. Having said that, it was a pretty good thing to have anyway. I may have another attempt to get the Liddell Hart book shortly, when I feel lucky . . .
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on 24 June 2010
The attraction of this is that Liddell Hart was a leading strategic thinker between the wars: he invented the tactics that became known as Blitzkrieg. But he was sidelined, the British military didn't pursue his ideas but the Germans did. So, perhaps inevitably, there's a thread of 'I told you so' running through it. He has a tendency to reductive explanations based on tactics and the technology associated with them. Thus, unsurprisingly, Germany's victory in France is attributed to Blitzkrieg, particularly the fact that 'the Allied leaders had not grasped this new technique'; their failure in Russia, on the other hand, was because they failed to apply it thoroughly enough. Possibly true, but the reader needs to be aware of LH's own vested interest in these conclusions.

And, from a man who never exceeded the rank of captain, there is obvious personal bitterness in the remark: 'Hitler well understood the effect of promotion in seducing men's judgement and producing compliance. Professional ambition rarely resists that form of temptation.' The prophet is never accepted in his own country...

The style is a bit odd, with lots of outlines and recapitulations; though it's a long book, arguably all you really need to read is the ten-page epilogue. The rest just sets out the same ideas at greater length. In many cases these are the fairly obvious ones encountered in many books about the war: Allied material superiority; Hitler's disastrous insistence on standing fast no matter what; the counter-productive demand for unconditional surrender.

Not quite the dazzling insights I was hoping for, then; but a good strategic overview, especially if you have not already read extensively about the conflict.
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on 24 February 2016
Detailed description of the european war by an active participant. Reccomended with the The Second World War for the big picture, All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945 for the narration from the civilian and soldiers and Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II for the aftermath.

Why three stars? After reading the book you will believe that the north of Africa was more important than the Eastern Front. Actually, during two years, the soviets were the only fighting in Europe, and Sir Lidell, as many europeans or american historians write more pages about Montgomery or Patton than Zhukov, Chiukov or Rokossovsky. More pages about Normandy than Bagration. BUT is a good book, detailed and clear.
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on 29 March 2001
Great book. It tells where individual units (divisions and above) ware during each battle/campaign. Very objective style, one some might describe as dry but I find very apealing. If you can combine this book with Hart's Other side of the hill and WW2 will be more clear. The only thing one might hold against it are small number of maps but important battles are described with maps but keeping map of Europe/Pacific near you will make things easier.
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on 4 May 2014
Preliminary Note: This is a serious and honest review. So, if you are one of those individuals who do not acknowledge the Holocaust, please don't bother and stop reading here.

When you pick up a book dealing with the Second World War and on the index Khrushchev is lacking, Chuikov appears only once, but Rommel fills three times the space of Roosevelt, four times that of Stalin and ten times that of Zhukov, you know this is going to be a very particular reading. And so it was.

To make a very long story short, there is no doubt that Liddell Hart is absolutely sublime in the way he writes the history of this war, with amazing detail and insight, always very clear and wise in his judgments. In spite of plenty considerations concerning politics and grand strategy, this is mainly a tactics/strategy focused history which could feel sometimes too overwhelming for those more interested in a more fluid and global picture of the events. On the other hand, the military `fanatic' will surely be provided with many hours of delightful reading.

Who am I to argue with a master of the military? A nobody, really. But in any case, if I'm allowed to express my opinion, I would like to say that, in a book dedicated to the Second World War, giving much more relevance to the North African campaign than to the Russian one is difficult to comprehend. In this respect, I would have liked at least to have seen the same level of information, detail and engagement being given to the Eastern Front. One could almost say it's a moral issue. But this I can excuse. Liddell Hart is British and the North African campaign had a special significance to the UK. And he adored Rommel.

What I cannot excuse is no mention whatsoever about the Holocaust and all the genocidal massacres committed by the German `Einsatztruppen SS' in the East. Not once in the book is the word Jew mentioned. Not once. One could argue that this was a side effect of the war and not the central theme. But it was the war in the first place that provided the tools for all those atrocities to be committed in grand scale, everything backed up indirectly (and sometimes directly) by the `Wehrmacht'. The Second World War cannot simply be disassociated from it, and I find it truly immoral to ignore this topic in the book, which had everything to gain with its inclusion.

This is why I cannot rate this book with more than 3 stars. A pity really, because it deserved more.
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on 4 March 2016
Just started reading this.

Three stars as he gives a one-sided opinion of Churchill in what I have read so far. Churchill had very different opinions in the early 1930s and this is not stated, but they are very important.

The author also seems a bit full of himself and writes in a told-you-so manner which is really annoying.
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on 4 December 2007
I've got 300+ books on the subject and this is one of the few that i've read more than 2 times. Actually i can say that i've certainly read this book more than thirty times, excluding that reading from a one chapter.
I think this is one of the greatest books on the subject. Well written, it gives you the all picture of the second world war. Everybody keen on this matter should buy one.
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on 20 February 2011
This is Captain Liddel Harts opus. It is written from a Britsh point of view so doesn't cover the war in the Pacific in great detail. Read this first when I was one of "Maggies Millions" and could not put down. I'm into tank history so the Soviet battles are covered well. A very good general history in one volume. If you are after a purely military history of WW2 from a British view then I would recommend this book, if your looking for any other perspective then this book is not for you.
In general quite an easy read though some of the desert war in North Africa is repetitive. Would like more on the Chindits and the Pacific theatre in general. Massive detail of the Eastern front and intricate description of huge tank battles. Would like a few more maps to follow the progress of the armies with ease.
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on 5 December 2003
This book is very often referenced in the contemporary books about the second world war. That for it is essential to have if you want to understand the other works. However, as it is published shortly after the author's death, this book seems to be somehow unfinished. Some chapters are very throughout written with all the facts checked and analysed. But alas some are dealt only superficially and without throughout checking. A couple of smaller British operations (e.g. Syria) are omitted completely.
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