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One of the most popular and controversial historians of the twentieth century, who made his subject accessible to millions, A.J.P. Taylor caused a storm of outrage with this scandalous bestseller. Debunking what were accepted truths about the Second World War, he argued provocatively that Hitler did not set out to cause the war as part of an evil master plan, but blundered One of the most popular and controversial historians of the twentieth century, who made his subject accessible to millions, A.J.P. Taylor caused a storm of outrage with this scandalous bestseller. Debunking what were accepted truths about the Second World War, he argued provocatively that Hitler did not set out to cause the war as part of an evil master plan, but blundered into it partly by accident, aided by the shortcomings of others. Fiercely attacked for vindicating Hitler, A.J.P. Taylor's stringent re-examination of the events preceding the Nazi invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939 opened up new debate, and is now recognized as a brilliant and classic piece of scholarly research. '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'


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One of the most popular and controversial historians of the twentieth century, who made his subject accessible to millions, A.J.P. Taylor caused a storm of outrage with this scandalous bestseller. Debunking what were accepted truths about the Second World War, he argued provocatively that Hitler did not set out to cause the war as part of an evil master plan, but blundered One of the most popular and controversial historians of the twentieth century, who made his subject accessible to millions, A.J.P. Taylor caused a storm of outrage with this scandalous bestseller. Debunking what were accepted truths about the Second World War, he argued provocatively that Hitler did not set out to cause the war as part of an evil master plan, but blundered into it partly by accident, aided by the shortcomings of others. Fiercely attacked for vindicating Hitler, A.J.P. Taylor's stringent re-examination of the events preceding the Nazi invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939 opened up new debate, and is now recognized as a brilliant and classic piece of scholarly research. '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'

30 review for The Origins of the Second World War

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    There is much to commend in A.J.P. Taylor’s provocative revisionist study of the origins of the Second World War. The book is rich in argument and strong in analysis, but above all the theme that stands out is Taylor’s portrayal of Hitler as an ordinary German who achieved his objectives through patience – by letting the failures of others become his successes. This is a controversial argument for good reason: if Hitler was an ordinary German, what does that say about average Germans and their c There is much to commend in A.J.P. Taylor’s provocative revisionist study of the origins of the Second World War. The book is rich in argument and strong in analysis, but above all the theme that stands out is Taylor’s portrayal of Hitler as an ordinary German who achieved his objectives through patience – by letting the failures of others become his successes. This is a controversial argument for good reason: if Hitler was an ordinary German, what does that say about average Germans and their culpability in the atrocities of war? Subsequent history demonstrated that in fact Taylor was wrong in this respect. The German nation went on to become one of the bastions of democracy, peace, and stability in Europe and indeed the world. Yet in another respect perhaps Taylor was right. For him, Hitler was not an evil madman with a grand plan for global warfare, but rather an opportunist, albeit one who may have been particularly vulnerable to being swept up by the force of events. In this sense perhaps the later peace and stability achieved by Germany was the logical outcome for a nation that was not evil but vengeful, and which had no grand plan for destruction but rather a belief – affirmed around the world at the time – that the Treaty of Versailles was a moral injustice whose wrongs must be righted. These academic matters, of course, should not obscure the simpler reality of the Second World War. There is no question that Hitler was evil and calculating to an extent perhaps unparalleled in the history of humankind. There is equally no question that Germany – however “good” it seems in retrospect – realized during the Second World War the worst excesses of its capacity for evil. These are the weaknesses of Taylor’s account: that he understated the wrongs of the Nazis simply because their evil was not abundantly clear (or present in the documents) at the time of the Third Reich; that he whitewashed Hitler in many ways; and most of all that he shifts the blame for the atrocities of the Second World War to the bumbling diplomacy of the Allies as if they were somehow supposed to realize the extent of the evil they faced in Hitler and the Nazi state. Much of Taylor’s account may be true – and this is its enduring strength – but one should recognize that it is neither “the whole truth” nor “nothing but the truth.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark Singer

    Now I know what all of the fuss was about. This is less of a history lesson and more of a hand grenade tossed into the street of public opinion. Taylor liked to make pithy comments and outrageous claims; and his book set the course of writing about the origins of WWII for decades. To his credit, in 1961 the received opinion was that Hitler had a plan, kept to the schedule, and that Germany alone was guilty. The correction that Taylor made was that the inept leadership of the United Kingdom and F Now I know what all of the fuss was about. This is less of a history lesson and more of a hand grenade tossed into the street of public opinion. Taylor liked to make pithy comments and outrageous claims; and his book set the course of writing about the origins of WWII for decades. To his credit, in 1961 the received opinion was that Hitler had a plan, kept to the schedule, and that Germany alone was guilty. The correction that Taylor made was that the inept leadership of the United Kingdom and France made matters worse, and had to accept some of the blame for the coming of the war. What I don't accept is Taylor's contention that Hitler was a statesman in the traditional mode; and a crafty patient man who awaited events and let things fall into his lap. I've read enough to believe that Hitler was an ideologue with a peculiar set of beliefs, and that he would make his decisions based on them. He also was a gambler whose luck eventually ran out.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    In this book Taylor argues that Hitler's foreign policy goals were like any other contemporary German statesman's and that World War II was just as much the fault of the allies as the Germans due to their flawed diplomacy. I think Taylor is totally wrong about Hitler, but this is a well written account and the author is on much firmer ground when discussing the general European situation after WWI and the negotiations between the Allies before 1939. Taylor's notion is that Hitler never meant wha In this book Taylor argues that Hitler's foreign policy goals were like any other contemporary German statesman's and that World War II was just as much the fault of the allies as the Germans due to their flawed diplomacy. I think Taylor is totally wrong about Hitler, but this is a well written account and the author is on much firmer ground when discussing the general European situation after WWI and the negotiations between the Allies before 1939. Taylor's notion is that Hitler never meant what he said about going to war or making threats and was essentially a successful opportunist who believed that his opponents would always cave in to his demands at the last second. This argument makes some sense when Hitler was dealing with other statesmen, but it completely falls apart (in my opinion) when you look at the internal situation with his own ministers and generals who took his war plans very seriously. The most famous of these war planning sessions was probably one in 1937 where Hitler stated he would be ready to fight a war with Britain and France by 1943 (see the Hossbach Memorandum). Taylor tries to explain this meeting away by suggesting that Hitler was lying to his own ministers as well as other statesmen, and the deception was all meant to get them on-board with his domestic policies such as further re-armament. Despite his statements to the contrary, Hitler never wanted a war with Britain and France. He may have wanted a war in eastern Europe to get territory and eventually a war with the Soviet Union, but Taylor thinks even here Hitler might have accepted other concessions. All of this is interesting, but we essentially have to believe that Taylor has insight into Hitler's mind that is contrary to the written record to accept this argument. The author puts an emphasis on certain written sources like Mein Kampf where Hitler argues that Germany needs territory in eastern Europe, and dismisses other sources like the Hossbach memorandum where he contemplates a war with Britain and France. Another problem with Taylor's views is that Hitler clearly planned for a war with the west from almost the beginning of his regime. He tried to make Germany as self-sufficient as possible by increasing production of Synthetic Oil and increasing output in the Agricultural sector. This really only makes sense if he thought Germany would be cut off by another British blockade in the future like it had been during WWI. Hitler also constructed fortifications on the french border, informed his ministers and generals that he was willing to fight Britain and France over the Czech crisis in 1938, and repeatedly told his allies the Italians that they would fight the western powers together and dominate Europe. Taylor thinks this was all deception or misdirection on Hitler's part, but I think it demonstrates that Hitler saw a war with the western powers as a strong possibility, whether he wanted it or not. My own view is that Hitler was always willing to accept a war with the western powers if they decided to oppose his territorial revisionism and was not terribly concerned about avoiding conflict with them in the long run. Taylor gets far too close to "normalizing" Hitler when he states that his goals were like any other German statesman of the time. For me, it is ludicrous to suggest that leaders like Stresemann, Schliecher, Papen, or Brüning would have risked a World War to resolve Germany's territorial claims in eastern Europe. It is well known that even Stresemann wanted to see Poland destroyed, but it took a special sort of hubris to accept a World War in exchange for this.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A.J.P. Taylor’s publication of The Origins of the Second World War provoked controversy on its release in 1961 and gained Taylor a reputation as a revisionist. Taylor’s popularity as a broadcaster brought him into legendary television debates with the likes of Hugh Trevor-Roper and many other historians, this subject being one of the more heated arguments. General sentiment scolded Taylor for not putting enough blame on Hitler, a leader with no plan for starting the war, demonstrating no lust f A.J.P. Taylor’s publication of The Origins of the Second World War provoked controversy on its release in 1961 and gained Taylor a reputation as a revisionist. Taylor’s popularity as a broadcaster brought him into legendary television debates with the likes of Hugh Trevor-Roper and many other historians, this subject being one of the more heated arguments. General sentiment scolded Taylor for not putting enough blame on Hitler, a leader with no plan for starting the war, demonstrating no lust for global domination and expansion as a man reacting to the reparations of the Treaty of Versailles with anger and a determination to fix injustice. The injustice he mostly blames on France’s fear for security, leading to deep resentment within every German community. He equates Hitler’s anti-Semitic views with the average German of the time and blames the war on diplomatic blunders. Taylor’s prose, logical and concise, creates a masterpiece but a controversial masterpiece that continues to require a mind open enough to reinterpret history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Foote

    A for the most part pretty engaging and readable account of how the Second World War broke out, although it does get a bit "one damn fact after another" in the later chapters. I don't know how much I should trust it, given that there was so much controversy about it and it was published only 20 years after these events, so I'm just registering it as one particular narrative which could be given. That said, I didn't find anything in it particulary shocking or revelatory from a modern perspective. A for the most part pretty engaging and readable account of how the Second World War broke out, although it does get a bit "one damn fact after another" in the later chapters. I don't know how much I should trust it, given that there was so much controversy about it and it was published only 20 years after these events, so I'm just registering it as one particular narrative which could be given. That said, I didn't find anything in it particulary shocking or revelatory from a modern perspective. It seems the main source of controversy, at the time of publication, was the idea that Hitler was a reasonably normal leader, in terms of foreign policy at least (Taylor does acknowledge that his brutal approach to domestic politics and his antisemitism were more dependent on Hitler's character). But my impression (which might be wrong, as I'm not overly familiar with trends in academic history) is that the general tendency in the decades since the war has to been to deemphasize the "anomalousness" of the Nazi period, and Taylor's thesis seems to be in line with that trend. Much of the controversy may have been to do with the fact that Taylor's narrative is completely un-moralistic. He tries to see things from the point of view of the leaders and their own interests. So he doesn't make a big deal about the way in which Germany ruthlessly sought to further its foreign interests whenever possible, because as far as he's concerned, that's just what powerful states do ("Powers will be Powers", to use his words.) And he doesn't make out Britain, France or anyone else to be altruistic, either. The narrative is a dispassionate one in the same vein as you might read in a book about the 18th or 19th century, where it's taken as a given that states just naturally act on their own self-interest and don't have much qualms about throwing about their military power when they can. He is also not much of a believer in competence, or of the ability of political actors to carry out long-term plans. The statesmen in the narrative are portrayed as simply acting reactively to events, and often messing things up. This extends to Hitler: in Taylor's portrayal he was not a nihilist seeking destruction for its own sake, nor was the war instigated as part of a coherent plan to set up some sort of great empire in Eastern Europe. He was simply a ruthless opportunist with good instincts who wanted to restore Germany's status as a "great power", but would have preferred to do it by bluffing rather than actually having to fight the war. Britain and France were willing to give in to a considerable extent, but eventually, they couldn't go any further without making a mockery of their own status as "great powers"; and so they called Hitler's bluff and war broke out.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Peer

    Seems at first like a very interesting book but gradually the tone and preoccupied accusation, spoils the credibility. A book wherein writer knows best, and explains the origins of WWII by arrogantly accusing everyone, the whole European politics, and Britain in particular. A preoccupied, unscientific piece of work.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jose Fernando Lopez Fernandez

    This book could have been titled "The Comedy Central Roast of British Foreign Policy in the Interwar Years." My favorite line is "[he] was as able intellectually as any British foreign secretary of the twentieth century -perhaps not a very high standard." We like to blame Hitler for World War II, but the Allied incompetence played a large part as well. This book could have been titled "The Comedy Central Roast of British Foreign Policy in the Interwar Years." My favorite line is "[he] was as able intellectually as any British foreign secretary of the twentieth century -perhaps not a very high standard." We like to blame Hitler for World War II, but the Allied incompetence played a large part as well.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jack Glynne-Jones

    'The Origins of the Second World War', written in 1961, opens with a meditation on how it had only just become possible to say that WW2 was something belonging to 'history'. Roosevelt, Chamberlain, Stalin and Mussolini were all dead, and university lecturers were teaching the war to students who were born after it had begun, and who could not remember its end. AJP Taylor extracts from this the opportunity to properly address the causes of the war, without personal investment warping his analysis 'The Origins of the Second World War', written in 1961, opens with a meditation on how it had only just become possible to say that WW2 was something belonging to 'history'. Roosevelt, Chamberlain, Stalin and Mussolini were all dead, and university lecturers were teaching the war to students who were born after it had begun, and who could not remember its end. AJP Taylor extracts from this the opportunity to properly address the causes of the war, without personal investment warping his analysis nor preventing an objective allocation of blame. Now to me, sixteen years does not sound very long at all, and I cannot say that sixteen years ago from now, which would have been May 2005, feels long enough ago to acquire membership of that foggy and mysterious world which lives only in history. I think that AJP's misjudgement on this helps to explain the astonishingly venomous backlash to his book when it was first published. A few people who were still alive at publication helps illustrate my point: Churchill, Eden and Daladier. Many of the star appeasers then, not to mention the millions who still had a direct emotional investment in the moral validity, and unavoidability, of the war. However, I think enough time has now passed to allow us to wield the detachment required of the analyst, yet to also be free of the need to resort to extremes in order to crumble a charged consensus. Whilst we owe AJP credit for gouging cracks into that consensus, thus relieving us of the temptation to use hyperbole to provoke and challenge it, I think that his main thesis is wrong. I will not spell it out here, nor offer my own views on it, as I don't want any spoilers in this review. But I will say that this book is a a compendium of claims, without too much detailed analysis or explanation of each. It is less useful for understanding the lead up to the war than it is for acting as a springboard from which to carry out further investigation. It certainly gets one thinking, but I did not feel I was in safe hands, nor that I could trust the claims I was reading. The off-handed way in which potent claims are made, and the provocative style, are not assuring, unlike when reading Richard J Evans or Tim Bouverie on the same topic. It is a hard read, with so many affirmations packed in to every page, but AJP writes clearly, with humour, wince-inducing put-downs and a courage to 'put himself out there'. It has provided me with a lot of routes for further thinking on the topic, and will provide readers with more questions than answers. That is either a strength or a weakness of the book, depending on why you are drawn to it, but all future readers will nonetheless owe the book a debt whether they realise it or not. The courage it took to write it, and the onslaught the author received because of it, remind us not to invest too much of our faith in the trends and currencies of the present.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    The Origins of the Second World War by A.J.P. Taylor takes a look at how the cease fire and armistice at the conclusion of World War I set up the conditions that led inevitably to World War II. The victorious allies demands placed on Germany as reparations as well as restrictions on Germany's military size were thought to keep such a war from recurring. Instead it created such poverty and hard times on the general population it left them susceptible to the promises of better times from from a ch The Origins of the Second World War by A.J.P. Taylor takes a look at how the cease fire and armistice at the conclusion of World War I set up the conditions that led inevitably to World War II. The victorious allies demands placed on Germany as reparations as well as restrictions on Germany's military size were thought to keep such a war from recurring. Instead it created such poverty and hard times on the general population it left them susceptible to the promises of better times from from a charismatic speaker like Adolph Hitler. Generally this author follows the general historical assessment of events leading to the start of and progression of WWII. Where he parts ways with most of them is that he theorizes that Hitler did not set out to conquer Europe as a master plan but rather bungled his way into it helped by other's mistakes. His take on how Hitler rose to power almost comes across as a defense of Hitler who mainly kept adapting to changing conditions. However, the main problem I see with this interesting interpretation of history is Hitler's own words in his book, Mein Kampf, where he essentially lays out his master plan for subjugation and wiping out certain populations of what he considers sub-humans including the Jews. I did find it an interesting read, and he does make some insightful points. But I think the real story is more in line with conventional understandings.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bartley

    AJP Taylor refused to make the origins of World War Two a personality contest with good and evil players. Instead he traces the socio political/economic issues leading to the conflict, including the gradual erosion of the Treaty of Versailles and the ambivalence Britain and France had towards the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. With the benefit of hindsight, it is all to easy to see how the failure of the mainstream political class to address the issues of the day feeds the fascist agenda. AJP Ta AJP Taylor refused to make the origins of World War Two a personality contest with good and evil players. Instead he traces the socio political/economic issues leading to the conflict, including the gradual erosion of the Treaty of Versailles and the ambivalence Britain and France had towards the Italian invasion of Abyssinia. With the benefit of hindsight, it is all to easy to see how the failure of the mainstream political class to address the issues of the day feeds the fascist agenda. AJP Taylor describes with insight and understanding the timeline that lead ultimately to catastrophe.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Phillips

    Detailed, if controversial, book about the causes of WWII. Originally published in 1961 (the copy I read is a good old tattered version from 1965 with yellowed pages which I got from a book market for EUR 1) A.J.P. Taylor suggested that Hitler's foreign policy was opportunistic rather than following some sort of preordained master plan. Either way a well written and interesting read. Detailed, if controversial, book about the causes of WWII. Originally published in 1961 (the copy I read is a good old tattered version from 1965 with yellowed pages which I got from a book market for EUR 1) A.J.P. Taylor suggested that Hitler's foreign policy was opportunistic rather than following some sort of preordained master plan. Either way a well written and interesting read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ceyran Məmmədova

    This book is for the people who want to be reminded of the peculiarities of military strategies of WW2, mostly from the perspective of Great Britain

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    One detailed therefore complicated book covering complicated diplomatic dealings among many countries with changing diplomates, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Leaders, politicall parties etc. Hats off for the late A. J. P. Taylor for writing it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adam Balshan

    2.5 stars [History] Writing: 3; Use: 3; Truth: 2.25. Exact: 2.75. In this book, Taylor details the lead-up to the Second World War. He claims that he is just doing history and that no one could know how it could be avoided; however, he contends that Hitler didn't really want a larger war, and that poor diplomacy led to it. Taylor is, as is now well-known, correct about Hitler's lack of concrete planning, as well as his surprise at getting himself into a war with Britain. But Taylor displays naivet 2.5 stars [History] Writing: 3; Use: 3; Truth: 2.25. Exact: 2.75. In this book, Taylor details the lead-up to the Second World War. He claims that he is just doing history and that no one could know how it could be avoided; however, he contends that Hitler didn't really want a larger war, and that poor diplomacy led to it. Taylor is, as is now well-known, correct about Hitler's lack of concrete planning, as well as his surprise at getting himself into a war with Britain. But Taylor displays naivete indeed concerning Hitler's proclamations, as if the man wasn't a pathological liar. He was. Therefore, much of the book suffers from a "plausible or mild bias or ignorance," my descriptor for 2 stars in the Truth category. A scant dusting of uncommon facts upps it to 2.25. Of minor note, Taylor was also: 1) wrong about the Soviet threat 2) wrong about every snippet of economics he tried to comment upon (and no wonder, if he thinks John Maynard Keynes "enlightened" instead of the father of a irreconcilably stupid economic school of thought) 3) constantly saying "there is no way to know" this or that fact, when modern works have answered these questions. Taylor's book was published in 1962.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Wolinsky

    The most disappointing book i ever read - i know the arguments from reading of hundreds of other books but was shocked at some bolder claims the author made with scant evidence - i guess if it was not hyped as much would have gotten a 2 or 3 instead of 1 - will try to get into why i found the book very week if time permits

  16. 4 out of 5

    Friedrich Mencken

    As is so often the case with older history books you are supposed to just take the authors word for it on account of his scholarly authority. Many unsubstantiated assertions without references, arguments or discussion as why it would be the case.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Achord

    Refreshingly clear narrative. Similar chain of causation found in Buchanan.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    Taylor writes with an unusual sense of humor, but his account of the events that led to the Second World War is extremely flawed. In spite of his lack of resources - especially from the Soviet perspective, he makes too many unreasonable assumptions and explains away too many inconvenient truths with no more than a wave of his hand. Still, altogether a very enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed Taylor's unabashed disdain for all parties in this conflict, and especially the sarcasm with which he Taylor writes with an unusual sense of humor, but his account of the events that led to the Second World War is extremely flawed. In spite of his lack of resources - especially from the Soviet perspective, he makes too many unreasonable assumptions and explains away too many inconvenient truths with no more than a wave of his hand. Still, altogether a very enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed Taylor's unabashed disdain for all parties in this conflict, and especially the sarcasm with which he addresses the various and plentiful blunders of European statesmen in the post-Versailles era. Taylor is commended for writing a revolutionary revisionist history of the origins of the Second World War. He gets an unfortunate multitude of facts wrong, though this is undoubtedly at least in part because he was writing in 1961, a time when he would be infamous for being so dismissive of Hitler as an 'average' statesman (this was before the era of frequent megalomaniac leaders) and a time when he would have lacked access to innumerable sources that we now have as a result of the declassification process and the temporary opening of the Soviet archives in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I understand what Taylor was trying to do, and I know he did it to the best of his ability in 1961. But I haven't been convinced - and while his theory that war in 1939 was an accident is interesting to entertain (though matters little practically, since accident or not it happened), his theory that Hitler was a rational statesman and not an infamous gambler with an ego problem seems utterly unfounded.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A hugely controversial book when first published in 1961, which gets this its fourth star from me, it challenged the way historians assessed the causes of the Second World War. The central narrative is that Hitler did not have a grand plan for war and European domination, which he had signposted in Mein Kampf, rather he operated in the broadly traditional model of foreign affairs and grand politics, securing Central European domination by guile and opportunism. The incompetence, and self-centred A hugely controversial book when first published in 1961, which gets this its fourth star from me, it challenged the way historians assessed the causes of the Second World War. The central narrative is that Hitler did not have a grand plan for war and European domination, which he had signposted in Mein Kampf, rather he operated in the broadly traditional model of foreign affairs and grand politics, securing Central European domination by guile and opportunism. The incompetence, and self-centred approach of Great Britain and France is well set out, showing them willing to sell almost all their allies out to avoid another Great War, and these were certainly hugely contributing factors. Taylor, however, is too inclined to show that Hitler was the opportunist, without a clear vision in mind, dismissing all suggestions to the contrary as Hitler bluffing. Whilst he was content to secure his aims through aggressive, if peaceful means, he was willing to accept the risk of a wider war. Like his contemporaries Hitler did not control the events, and certainly exploited opportunities when they arose, but his determination to achieve his aims of domination of Central Europe would inevitably have led to conflict as time progressed. Taylor has a difficult task, undoubtedly, separating Hitler the megalomaniac mass murderer, from Hitler the international statesman; and arguably Taylor goes too far in this separation. Written in his accessible style, this remains an important read for any serious student or historian of 20th century European history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stone

    One and probably the only remarkable bright spot of this book, was its unconventional analysis of Hitler's militaristic actions and the attribution of causation to the Treaty of Versailles. Taylor argued that, contrary to traditional views which held that Hitler was an intentional warmongering madman, the seed of WWII was planted as early as 1918 and Hitler was nothing more than a catalyst -- a conclusion that I personally didn't find very revolutionary. I feel that anyone with basic understandi One and probably the only remarkable bright spot of this book, was its unconventional analysis of Hitler's militaristic actions and the attribution of causation to the Treaty of Versailles. Taylor argued that, contrary to traditional views which held that Hitler was an intentional warmongering madman, the seed of WWII was planted as early as 1918 and Hitler was nothing more than a catalyst -- a conclusion that I personally didn't find very revolutionary. I feel that anyone with basic understanding in international politics and the principle of checks and balances should eventually approach the conclusion that Hitler's personal character didn't matter at all in the wake of the tremendous pressure unleashed upon the Germans from the Treaty of Versailles and later the Great Depression. Maybe it was just hard to get away with moralist judgements when vivid memories of mishap kicked in from time to time, given that the book was originally published in 1961. Apart from this supposedly unconventional retrospect there wasn't much different to expect in the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Paul McFadyen

    A very dense book, written in a dry style - don't expect lots of modern-style narrative, designed to put you in the room, or much in the way of first-hand accounts/dialogue. Really thorough, however, in focusing on just the bald facts of period correspondence & records and it delivers what was for the time a very bold set of conclusions about just how warlike Hitler was in the late 30s. Not having read any more recent books on the same topic, I'm unclear as to what new evidence has since come to l A very dense book, written in a dry style - don't expect lots of modern-style narrative, designed to put you in the room, or much in the way of first-hand accounts/dialogue. Really thorough, however, in focusing on just the bald facts of period correspondence & records and it delivers what was for the time a very bold set of conclusions about just how warlike Hitler was in the late 30s. Not having read any more recent books on the same topic, I'm unclear as to what new evidence has since come to light to support/deny Taylor's conclusions (by his own admission there's basically nothing from Soviet Russia, for example), but it's hard to argue with what he makes of his source material. I enjoyed it but, because of its style, it won't necessarily be scintillating reading for fans of Schama, Marr etc.

  22. 5 out of 5

    B.W. Johnson

    To understand this book you must understand the author. I had the honour, just once, to sit next to AJP Taylor in a pub and witness first hand how he built up his arguments then knocked them down again. Taylor loved to argue. he enjoyed being contrary and he took particular delight in making other academics look a little silly. The book was written as the most scholarly wind up since Dante's Inferno, tying other historians in knots as they struggled with his arguments. Every chapter is presented a To understand this book you must understand the author. I had the honour, just once, to sit next to AJP Taylor in a pub and witness first hand how he built up his arguments then knocked them down again. Taylor loved to argue. he enjoyed being contrary and he took particular delight in making other academics look a little silly. The book was written as the most scholarly wind up since Dante's Inferno, tying other historians in knots as they struggled with his arguments. Every chapter is presented as "the very last chance to stop the war in Europe" and it is suggested that Hitler was simply doing what any German would do whereas the allies were the fools who handled it all badly. Taylor , of course, didnt really belive this, even though he was meticulous in supporting his claims with documents. This book is the masterpiece of 20th Century history. We shall not see its like again.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    Well, I can understand why this was controversial when it first came out, a mere 16 years after the end of WWII. With the War in common memory, I can see that some people may have considered Taylor as an apologist for Hitler - even if that isn't obviously the case at much further distance from events. I wonder if his "Second Word", at the beginning, laying his defense against that claim was accepted at the time. Either way, there's no disputing that this was probably one of the first books which Well, I can understand why this was controversial when it first came out, a mere 16 years after the end of WWII. With the War in common memory, I can see that some people may have considered Taylor as an apologist for Hitler - even if that isn't obviously the case at much further distance from events. I wonder if his "Second Word", at the beginning, laying his defense against that claim was accepted at the time. Either way, there's no disputing that this was probably one of the first books which laid the blame for the War on the shoulders of everyone concerned, rather than just Hitler, with mistakes and gambles on all sides. Well worth reading for an early, relatively balanced study of the causes of the War.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    It seems this book is in three acts: I: Origins of WW II hardly matter really since ultimately all it did was confirm the Treaty of Versailles since little changes to borders and sovereignty actually happened due to WW II II: Instead of origins, we really are talking about a chronological order of foreign policy preludes in granular detail making up the bulk of the book. (Basically, Hitler was a whining paper tiger unable to back up threats while accepting all offers of conciliation) III: A rebutt It seems this book is in three acts: I: Origins of WW II hardly matter really since ultimately all it did was confirm the Treaty of Versailles since little changes to borders and sovereignty actually happened due to WW II II: Instead of origins, we really are talking about a chronological order of foreign policy preludes in granular detail making up the bulk of the book. (Basically, Hitler was a whining paper tiger unable to back up threats while accepting all offers of conciliation) III: A rebuttal to critics. Apparently Nazi apologists found grist here? Well, Taylor dismantles that while going on a lengthy dismantling of the Hossbach Memorandum.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Sheldon

    Interesting take of the origins of the second world war. A.J.P Taylor states that European diplomats made numerous errors when dealing with the threat of Nazi Germany, particularly Chamberlain who attempted to appease Hitler. He also believed that Hitler was no different than other western leaders which I disagree with. Hitler was a big picture type of guy who outlined his racial world view and his plan for German expansion in Mein Kampf. These ideas were well known amongst European leaders, Sta Interesting take of the origins of the second world war. A.J.P Taylor states that European diplomats made numerous errors when dealing with the threat of Nazi Germany, particularly Chamberlain who attempted to appease Hitler. He also believed that Hitler was no different than other western leaders which I disagree with. Hitler was a big picture type of guy who outlined his racial world view and his plan for German expansion in Mein Kampf. These ideas were well known amongst European leaders, Stalin even had copies printed in Russian! Yes European diplomats made serious missteps in dealing with German expansion, but Hitler was no ordinary German leader. Very interesting take on the beginnings of World War 2, necessary for readers looking for a not so typical perspective on the events.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amna Ammar

    I think that it is a very important book, dicussing circumstances that pushed Hitller into a second war. Also the author described in details the European situation after the first war, and all the restrictions that carried on Germany after that. He claimed that Hitler never planned for a second war despite all his statements that he was ready to fight all for germany. But like any other academic book, I think that the author neglects how ordinary Germans, not politicians, felt and reacted to t I think that it is a very important book, dicussing circumstances that pushed Hitller into a second war. Also the author described in details the European situation after the first war, and all the restrictions that carried on Germany after that. He claimed that Hitler never planned for a second war despite all his statements that he was ready to fight all for germany. But like any other academic book, I think that the author neglects how ordinary Germans, not politicians, felt and reacted to the internal and external policy of Nazi Government. Very recommended.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Paula Darwish

    An excellent piece of scholarly research from the 1960s. I have always wanted to read it as I admired the writer for his bravery in challenging the narrow nationalistic war narratives of the time. The style was a bit hard to read but representative of the time when it was written. It is a brilliant example of how national legends and myths should always be challenged in order to get closer to the truth of what really happened in history. As AJP Taylor says: 'Wars are much like road accidents. Th An excellent piece of scholarly research from the 1960s. I have always wanted to read it as I admired the writer for his bravery in challenging the narrow nationalistic war narratives of the time. The style was a bit hard to read but representative of the time when it was written. It is a brilliant example of how national legends and myths should always be challenged in order to get closer to the truth of what really happened in history. As AJP Taylor says: 'Wars are much like road accidents. They have a general cause and particular causes at the same time.'

  28. 4 out of 5

    Louise Duckworth

    I found it rather perplexing in places when the author refers to germany as a 'she'. I find this very contradicting considering, women have always been thought to be the weaker sex predominately up until the 20th century even. And up until present, germany was governed by male leadership as women in politics and law was considered laughable. Also 'rumania' was also perplexing, was romania renamed? I found it rather perplexing in places when the author refers to germany as a 'she'. I find this very contradicting considering, women have always been thought to be the weaker sex predominately up until the 20th century even. And up until present, germany was governed by male leadership as women in politics and law was considered laughable. Also 'rumania' was also perplexing, was romania renamed?

  29. 4 out of 5

    I J Haworth

    Insightful History why WW2 Occurred Why did WW2 happen? That's easy to answer isn't it? Hitler's aggression and desire for world domination. It's not as simple as that, as AJP Taylor explains in this typically gripping history. A short, readable book, it's essential reading - although not without controversy in its arguments - for any historian or individual interested in WW2 and its impact on modern history. Fascinating. Insightful History why WW2 Occurred Why did WW2 happen? That's easy to answer isn't it? Hitler's aggression and desire for world domination. It's not as simple as that, as AJP Taylor explains in this typically gripping history. A short, readable book, it's essential reading - although not without controversy in its arguments - for any historian or individual interested in WW2 and its impact on modern history. Fascinating.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dad

    I finished it. Not as easy as I thought it would be and made me recall why I didn’t like the book when I got it in1976. A book that defends Hitler and lays the blame of WWII on the bumblings of world leaders is more than controversial—its rubbish. Yes, it was provocative and contained some interesting musings, but scholarly? Can one man be right and hundreds of other noted historians so wrong?

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