1939: Countdown to War

Richard Overy, Viking, $25.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-670-02209-0
In this short book, stating that "nothing in history is inevitable," University of Essex professor Overy (Why the Allies Won) strives to explain what led to the outbreak of WWII after years of tension and appeasement. He focuses on the diplomatic maneuvering during "the extraordinary ten days of drama," August 24 to September 3, 1939, demonstrating that diplomats in London, Paris, and Berlin wanted to avoid a world war. But Overy traces the events and decisions that moved the two allies, sworn to defend Polish independence, from efforts at deterrence to a willingness to fight after Hitler invaded Poland. Overy is best in portraying the diplomatic wrangling, taking readers inside an explosive meeting between Neville Henderson, Britain's ambassador to Berlin, and German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. He also uncovers some surprising facts, such as France's last-minute wavering in confronting Hitler and that the Nazi leader, in exchange for Britain acquiescing in his Polish takeover, promised to guarantee the British empire. The last-minute diplomacy Overy describes is fascinating, but there is too little political, military, and sociocultural background to provide context for readers unfamiliar with the period. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/19/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-4001-4867-7
Compact Disc - 978-1-4001-1867-0
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-14-104130-8
Hardcover - 176 pages - 978-1-84614-264-2
MP3 CD - 978-1-4001-6867-5
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-14-312006-3
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