Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Origins of the Second World War

I was surprised at how readable this book was. Not at all dry like I was expecting. I have made notes on the first few chapters, I may as well type them up here, then at least I'll know where they are, rather than having to fish for a notebook (which I'll have to do now...). I read it through first, and then I thought I perhaps should make notes, so I went back over some of it, but didn't quite finish. Anyway, here goes...

Main theme: Hitler had no grand strategy. He allowed events to develop and then took as much advantage of them as possible. Appeasement may have been weak, but it was only viable option at times.
Key overall features of buld up to WWII: America utterly excluded by own choice. Soviet Union excluded until later on, then included by British in attempt to push Hitler into agreeing by show of solidarity. Not treated as Great Power, believed that ideological matters too divergent for such an agreement. Britain wanted to revise Versailles from start.

Actually, on second thoughts, I'll leave the typing up at that bit. The other notes probably won't make sense to anyone but me, and they're rather fragmentary.

Another interesting claim that AJP Taylor makes is that the fact reparations weren't settled straight off meant that the Germans failed to gradually come to accept them. However, I think the invasion of the Ruhr was more of a problem--the resulting hyper-inflation meant that the Germans could see that the French were causing them problems. It was easy enough to blame them. We've just been looking at Locarno, and Taylor suggests it was a bit of a nightmare. He says it led to the 'delusion' that Italy was powerful, and the pact with Mussolini undermined the British as a democractic power. Furthermore, there was the whole issue with Poland not being settled. Then he said something interesting: that it was war with the US which was the one most expected in Britain. I suppose they were having a sort of mini-naval race despite the Washington agreement.

Anyway, I found it a very interesting book, but I did not agree with AJP Taylor about everything. I don't think the alliance with Italy really undermined the democratic powers. Let's be frank--Britain has allied with various non-democracies over the years. The USA has supported dictatorships. That doesn't particularly undermine democracy.

So there you go. The Origins of the Second World War by AJP Taylor. Pretty good book, quite interesting even if you don't agree.

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