cover image The Battle for History: Re-Fighting World War II

The Battle for History: Re-Fighting World War II

John Keegan. Vintage Books USA, $12 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-679-76743-5

While there are some astute observations about the nature of historical writing here, The Battle for History is essentially a lengthy bibliography. In sections discussing general histories and biographies as well as books on campaigns, military intelligence and technology, and occupation and resistance, Keegan, a premier military historian, evaluates the books he has found most helpful and notes where work has yet to be done, as, for example, in the inner workings of the Japanese high command, Stalin as a war leader and the German-Polish war in 1939. He also looks at the evolving perspective (much aided by hindsight) on issues such as whether Britain should have sued for peace after the fall of France and whether blanket bombing was effective. Keegan never claims to be complete, and he is not-such perennial favorites as Harrison Salisbury's Nine Hundred Days, William Manchester's The Last Lion and Goodbye, Darkness aren't here, nor is Keegan's own important The Second World War. Some readers will find his choices quirky, for while he doesn't mention Joachim Fests's worthy Hitler, he does give credit to insights in David Irving's Hitler's War (prefaced by ample warning about Irving's own far right tendencies). There are also resources along the lines of Hitler's 74 war directives, or Fuhrerweisungen, which general readers won't locate easily. Ultimately, this will be of most help to amateurs of WWII who want to contextualize and expand their knowledge. (Feb.)