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The Spectre of War: International Communism and the Origins of World War II

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A bold new history showing that the fear of Communism was a major factor in the outbreak of World War II The Spectre of War looks at a subject we thought we knew―the roots of the Second World War―and upends our assumptions with a masterful new interpretation. Looking beyond traditional explanations based on diplomatic failures or military might, Jonathan Haslam explores the A bold new history showing that the fear of Communism was a major factor in the outbreak of World War II The Spectre of War looks at a subject we thought we knew―the roots of the Second World War―and upends our assumptions with a masterful new interpretation. Looking beyond traditional explanations based on diplomatic failures or military might, Jonathan Haslam explores the neglected thread connecting them all: the fear of Communism prevalent across continents during the interwar period. Marshalling an array of archival sources, including records from the Communist International, Haslam transforms our understanding of the deep-seated origins of World War II, its conflicts, and its legacy. Haslam offers a panoramic view of Europe and northeast Asia during the 1920s and 1930s, connecting fascism’s emergence with the impact of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. World War I had economically destabilized many nations, and the threat of Communist revolt loomed large in the ensuing social unrest. As Moscow supported Communist efforts in France, Spain, China, and beyond, opponents such as the British feared for the stability of their global empire, and viewed fascism as the only force standing between them and the Communist overthrow of the existing order. The appeasement and political misreading of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy that followed held back the spectre of rebellion―only to usher in the later advent of war. Illuminating ideological differences in the decades before World War II, and the continuous role of pre- and postwar Communism, The Spectre of War provides unprecedented context for one of the most momentous calamities of the twentieth century


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A bold new history showing that the fear of Communism was a major factor in the outbreak of World War II The Spectre of War looks at a subject we thought we knew―the roots of the Second World War―and upends our assumptions with a masterful new interpretation. Looking beyond traditional explanations based on diplomatic failures or military might, Jonathan Haslam explores the A bold new history showing that the fear of Communism was a major factor in the outbreak of World War II The Spectre of War looks at a subject we thought we knew―the roots of the Second World War―and upends our assumptions with a masterful new interpretation. Looking beyond traditional explanations based on diplomatic failures or military might, Jonathan Haslam explores the neglected thread connecting them all: the fear of Communism prevalent across continents during the interwar period. Marshalling an array of archival sources, including records from the Communist International, Haslam transforms our understanding of the deep-seated origins of World War II, its conflicts, and its legacy. Haslam offers a panoramic view of Europe and northeast Asia during the 1920s and 1930s, connecting fascism’s emergence with the impact of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. World War I had economically destabilized many nations, and the threat of Communist revolt loomed large in the ensuing social unrest. As Moscow supported Communist efforts in France, Spain, China, and beyond, opponents such as the British feared for the stability of their global empire, and viewed fascism as the only force standing between them and the Communist overthrow of the existing order. The appeasement and political misreading of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy that followed held back the spectre of rebellion―only to usher in the later advent of war. Illuminating ideological differences in the decades before World War II, and the continuous role of pre- and postwar Communism, The Spectre of War provides unprecedented context for one of the most momentous calamities of the twentieth century

42 review for The Spectre of War: International Communism and the Origins of World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cav

    Despite being excited to start The Spectre of War, it ultimately did not meet my expectations... Author Jonathan Haslam is George F. Kennan Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Professor of the History of International Relations at the University of Cambridge, with a special interest in the former Soviet Union. Jonathan Haslam: The writing in the book gets off to a bit of a bad start, with a Preface that was pretty dry and lackl Despite being excited to start The Spectre of War, it ultimately did not meet my expectations... Author Jonathan Haslam is George F. Kennan Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Professor of the History of International Relations at the University of Cambridge, with a special interest in the former Soviet Union. Jonathan Haslam: The writing in the book gets off to a bit of a bad start, with a Preface that was pretty dry and lackluster. This set the tone for the writing that was to follow in the rest of the book, which I found to be overly flat and unengaging. The Spectre of War aims to provide the reader a background to the war that shaped the modern world. An important story - as the war, the current landscape, fascism, and Hitler and Mussolini cannot be fully understood outside the context of the events covered in the book. In the wake of WW1, momentum for the ideology of socialism/communism had accelerated in Europe, after the successful October Revolution in Russia saw the overthrow of the Romanov Dynasty, and socialism take its place. Unfortunately, this important story not told well here, IMO. A cohesive overview took a backseat to a long torrent of minutia. Haslam rattles off places, events, and historical figures in a rapid-fire manner, without giving the reader the necessary background or context. Sadly, I have found this to be a fairly common problem with many of the history books I've read. The writing here proceeds in a blow-by-blow manner in a way that loses the bigger picture, and leaves the reader lost at times... Fortunately, I have read a fair bit on this topic, but I would wager that many unfamiliar with what is covered here might find themselves lost in the woods at times here... There was a decent short bit of writing about Hitler's beloved Lebensraum: "Thomas Malthus had already argued that “the constant tendency in all animated life to increase beyond the nourishment prepared for it” meant that “living space” was vital and in short supply. The Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellén then invented the now familiar term Geopolitik—geopolitics as distinct from the vague term “political geography”. He defined Geopolitik as “the study of the state as a geographical organism”. He believed that the state was not the product of a contract between rulers and ruled, but something intrinsically organic, self generating. It could not move, because territory was the “body” of the state, by its nature perishable. “It has a life … It is, like a private individual, placed in a struggle for existence which absorbs a greater part of its power and creates an incessant, stronger or weaker, friction with its surroundings.” Kjellén’s Staten som lifsform (The state as a form of life) appeared in 1916 amid the horrors of the First World War. The German Karl Haushofer, a colonel at the front, read the book in translation and immediately identified with it. From Haushofer these ideas reached Rudolf Hess and from Hess they came to Hitler. Soon after the hostilities ended, Haushofer rapidly turned himself into a successful publicist for these ideas at the University of Munich. He began a journal, the Zeitschrift für Geopolitik, for the purpose of educating fellow citizens in Raumsinn (or Raumauffassung): consciousness of the importance of space. “A great nation”, he wrote, “has to break out from a singularly narrow space, crowded with people, without fresh air, a vital space narrowed and mutilated for the past thousand years … unless either the whole east is opened up for free immigration of the best and most capable people or else the vital spaces still unoccupied are redistributed according to former accomplishments and the ability to create.” It was in Munich that Haushofer encountered Rudolf Hess. As Rudiger Hess recalled, “For my father these conversations were the first step leading from an instinctive thought to a conscious political thought.” And it was, of course, with his devoted friend and admirer Hess that, in the Landsberg prison, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. “No one else has ever explained and written down what he intends to do more often than I have,” Hitler boasted on 30 January 1941. The view of the nation state as an organism carried with it the requirement of living space (Lebensraum) and easily linked to the idea of racial purity, with the Soviet Union as both the main source of contamination and the land for colonisation. Thus not only was it vital for Germany to fight the “Jewish bolshevisation of the world”, but “the future goal of our foreign policy does not have a Western or Eastern orientation, but an Ostpolitik in the sense of the acquisition of the land needed for our German people.” This obsession with living space was thus not a by-product of the perceived need to offset the lack of colonies possessed by Britain and France but a direct extension of Hitler’s organicist image of the state. What counted was not territory as such—Hitler was utterly uninterested in recovering Germany’s former colonies in Africa, even when the British later tried to thrust them on him—but contiguous territory. Indeed; but the plain truth remains that hardly anyone took him sufficiently seriously..." ****************** Despite fielding an extremely interesting topic Haslam's telling of this story was just not up to the task, IMO. His fragmented, rapid-fire delivery did not resonate well with me at all. The book is also way too long; the versions I have clocked in at 577 pages (PDF), and ~18 hours (audio). A decent chunk of this writing could have been edited down, for the sake of both brevity and clarity. I would not recommend this one, as I almost put it down multiple times... 1.5 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Richard Chester

    That's a lot of words to find out Neville Chamberlain was an idiot and everyone was trying to tell him for 10 years. Great book. I listened to the audiobook, the way it was written almost feels like a narrative, very easy to listen to and stay engaged with. That's a lot of words to find out Neville Chamberlain was an idiot and everyone was trying to tell him for 10 years. Great book. I listened to the audiobook, the way it was written almost feels like a narrative, very easy to listen to and stay engaged with.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Raime

    2,5

  4. 4 out of 5

    thomas g corcoran

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shoaib Nagi

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maurice Weller

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  8. 4 out of 5

    pamela kinsey

  9. 4 out of 5

    Philip Bagley

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tom Kirkendall

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mauricio Santoro

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

  14. 4 out of 5

    Yalta

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  16. 5 out of 5

    Oliver Thomas

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ismail

  18. 4 out of 5

    Atul

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  20. 5 out of 5

    Krzysztof Ryłow

  21. 5 out of 5

    Spauuu

  22. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Vanston

  23. 5 out of 5

    Evan Procknow

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anthonyruggier

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Purnell

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cool_guy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nick Katsaros

  29. 5 out of 5

    ColumbusReads

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nikola Novaković

  31. 4 out of 5

    Nizzen

  32. 5 out of 5

    Ari

  33. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  34. 5 out of 5

    Aurimas Danielius

  35. 4 out of 5

    James

  36. 4 out of 5

    Les Nicholls

  37. 4 out of 5

    Jed

  38. 5 out of 5

    Harry

  39. 4 out of 5

    Victor Dourado

  40. 5 out of 5

    Jan

  41. 4 out of 5

    laura

  42. 5 out of 5

    Jdownes

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