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Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War, 1931-1941 Hardcover – September 28, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465011144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465011148
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #432,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Maiolo (The Royal Navy and Nazi Germany, 1933–1939), of the department of war studies at King' s College, London, challenges the familiar thesis that WWII was a consequence of the democracies neglecting their defenses in the 1920s and failing to rearm quickly enough in the 1930s to stop Axis aggression. This thoroughly researched work makes an alternate case: growing political tension in the 1930s generated a general arms race. It began with the Red militarism initiated by Soviet Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky. It was thrown into high gear when Nazi Germany repudiated the Versailles treaty, and a synergy of action-reaction surges increased the pace of military spending and production. With an emulate-or-capitulate logic, the arms race became a vast maelstrom, with its own dynamic that destroyed the participants' master plans. Maiolo makes a strong case that by 1939 the Axis' s enemies had taken a sufficient lead that Italy, Japan, and Germany sought to create windows of opportunity using what they had. The result was a global, total war--and continuation of the arms race in thermonuclear, superpower contexts that continued until the U.S.S.R.' s implosion. 16 b&w illus.; maps.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

At first glance, one might think that Maiolo inadvertently mixed up his wars. But he isn’t writing about the buildup to World War I. He marshals a great deal of data, including production statistics and policy statements by politicians and military officials, in an effort to show that the arms race of the 1930s was central rather than peripheral in causing the outbreak of global war in 1939. This is certainly a bold thesis, and Maiolo provides plenty of interesting and sometimes surprising information as he moves forward in the decade. As he illustrates, each of the major nation-states had its own particular goals in rearming, but they all seemed to be preparing for total war, and their planners’ determination to be “prepared” is portrayed as obsessive. A provocative work that is likely to cause considerable debate. --Jay Freeman

More About the Author

Joe Maiolo is Professor of International History in the Department of War Studies at King's College London.

Customer Reviews

This led to a startling sameness in the mobilization plans of the Great Powers.
James Levy
The period leading up to the Second World War is my favorite historical topic, and this book stands out as one of the best I've read.
LagunaDave
My favorite line from the book is where Maiolo says Hitler possessed a "vast fund of low cunning."
The Ancient Simplicity

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Nautilus on October 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
A tremendous amount of research by the author has produced a tightly disciplined study of the Allied and Axis build-up to World War II.
Much of the huge amount of detail in the book was new to me. Mussolini is revealed as more than the buffoon and Nazi lapdog he was depicted in U.K., and similar comment applies to Goering. The correlation of economic capacity with military planning is explained very clearly. Amongst many surprising facts for me were the relative numerical strengths of the German and the French forces in 1939, and Hitler's concentration on production of the multi-roled Ju-88 instead of on fighters and long-range bombers, which turned out to be ill-advised. Britain was lucky that Raeder could not wean Hitler away from wanting a big surface fleet earlier! Two more years building U-Boats could have won them the war. The Japanese and Russian scenarios filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge of those times, too. And of course the U.S. manufacturing capacity was overwhelming - the statistics are breathtaking.
This book is a worthy addition to the large number of existing analyses of the two World wars and their causes. Highly recommended to students of military history in particular.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Penilesswriter on July 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent read for anyone interested in or studying the run-up to the darkest moments of the 20th century, the arms race that contributed to the Second World War's origins. Easier to read than many academic books on the subject, yet with depth and detail that would intrigue those well versed in the origins of World War II, Cry Havoc paints a comprehensive picture of the circumstances that led to the war an brings the events to life in a way that allows them to connect in the mind of the reader. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a compelling account of the origins of the war or a picture of the world from 1931-1941.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Panagiotis Dimitrakis on November 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a fine, detailed study with new sources and a strong argument, leading the research of the causes of WWII. The reader, enjoying a fast pace narrative, a splendid prose is taken from the technical aspects of the arms industry to the grand strategy and intrigue that opened the way to total war. Do compare this book with the rest of the same period and subject and you will realise its value. It will become a classic.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Ancient Simplicity on April 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joseph Maiolo begins his book with a lesson men took from WWI: a country's industrial capacity was the key factor in winning a modern war. Moreover, to max industrial capacity for the production of armaments the belief was that the state needed to provide central mgmt to shift scarce resources and manpower to the necessary sectors. Neither private business nor market forces could be allowed to obstruct this national interest. While some countries (USSR, Germany, Japan) embraced central planning others (Britian, France, the US) resisted, but regardless, according to Maiolo, all countries were undertow by the same dynamic, the same systemic force.

After laying out the above thesis in his short introduction, Maiolo goes on in succeeding chapters to write a brilliant narrative of the times, country by country, bringing in all their complexity, not neglecting the political, economic, and diplomatic along with the military.

My favorite line from the book is where Maiolo says Hitler possessed a "vast fund of low cunning."

Two questions particularly interest me when reading about these times: why did Germans (from 1929-33) vote for Hitler and why were western democracies so slow to respond to German rearmament particularly when it was combined with Hitler's ideological extremism (given what French and British diplomats wrote in their dispatches most everyone was aware of Hitler's extremism, of course, trying to determine how far Hitler would go to put his extreme ideology into operation was a difficult question---as Yogi Berra said predicting is hard particularly the future)?

Maiolo certainly provides grist for the mill in relation to the second question.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By LagunaDave on November 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The period leading up to the Second World War is my favorite historical topic, and this book stands out as one of the best I've read. Maiolo supports his thesis with convincing evidence, presented in a very readable and compelling narrative. In a nutshell: the breakneck rearmament of the Soviet Union, Japan and especially Germany in the early thirties, and their attempts to build WWI-style, total-war fortress economies in peacetime, set in motion a global arms race that would almost inevitably lead to war.

Particularly interesting to me were the perspectives on rearmament in the democracies, who feared that the government intervention required to mobilize their economies to deter the aggressors would transform them into copies of the very totalitarian states they were arming to oppose.

All in all, an extremely enlightening and fresh new look at a fateful period in world history which is frequently over-simplified.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James Levy on January 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What I believe is most pertinent to Dr. Maiolo's argument is that at a certain stage of industrial development, warfare demanded a true, total commitment of labor, capital, manpower, and technology if a nation-state was to maximize its war-fighting potential. This stage of industrial war didn't last long, really in theory only from the 1890s to perhaps the 1950s, but it had an overpowering logic and force that made labels like capitalism, communism, and fascism irrelevant. There was only one kind of industrial total war, and everyone was stuck with it. This led to a startling sameness in the mobilization plans of the Great Powers. The question was one of timing, not of result; everyone was going to have to convert their nations into garrison states, it was only a question of when. This is what so horrified and appalled Neville Chamberlain. He quite rightly saw that rearmament meant a total transformation of society, not just supplementary expenditures. It meant the end of the Liberal bourgeois world he believe was the highest state of human development and its replacement with regimentation, government direction of labor and capital, surveillance and propaganda, massive taxation, and managed trade.

Maiolo's book is terrific at showing how choices everywhere were constrained by the logic of industrial warfare. One can quibble over the writing style and organization, which can be at times a bit spotty, but the book is sound as the pound. I highly recommend it.
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