The Oxford Illustrated History of World War II

Edited by Richard Overy. Oxford Univ., $45(464p) ISBN 978-0-19-960582-8
Acclaimed British historian Overy (The Bombing War) gathers a dozen—mostly male, mostly British—fellow historians to produce a significant contribution to the general-audience literature on WWII. The contributors are a cross-section of the field's best, including familiar figures such as David French as well as lesser-known standouts Michael Snape and Patricia Clavin. They offer fingertip mastery of their specific subjects, balanced analyses, and reader-friendly presentations on topics ranging from the culture of war to military innovation. Overy's introduction establishes the work's integrating themes: the dissolution of old empires and political structures under the pressure of mass nationalism, and the ability to create and sustain mass armed forces. Particularly noteworthy are Clavin's analysis of the war as the "grim apotheosis" of an "endemic crisis of global security under way for 20 years"; Overy's interpretation of Germany's war as an ideology-based "product of the eternal war... against the phantom Jewish conspiracy in Europe"; and Richard Bessel's searing presentation of the war's "unnatural deaths... [the] grisly catalogue of brutality, callousness, inhumanity, and murder... in a ubiquitous context of violence " implemented by states and individuals alike. The compendium's major shortcoming is its relative slighting of the Pacific theater. Nevertheless, this collection merits wide circulation and attentive reading. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/22/2015
Release date: 06/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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