From Publishers Weekly
Tracing the thought processes behind crucial turning points in WWII's most crucial 19 months, Kershaw, the author of a major biography of Hitler and professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield, reminds us that nothing in that titanic struggle was predetermined. Events might have run a very different course had Great Britain decided to negotiate peace with Hitler in June 1940, or if Japan had attacked the Soviet Union from the east as Germany invaded from the west in June 1941. Kershaw shows that Germany's war on two fronts and Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor, though ultimately disastrous for those countries, were the results of chains of reasoning based on political and military goals, however despicable. Though the author makes deep, intelligent use of archival materials, he provides little new information. Rather, his analysis focuses on the structure of decision making and its consequences. Kershaw depicts Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union as severely hampered by one man giving the orders, getting input only from subordinates too fearful to say anything he didn't want to hear. The slower democratic process enabled many voices to be heard and better informed judgments to be made by Churchill and Roosevelt. This subtext adds a note of hope to a text depicting one of humanity's darkest periods. (June)
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In Fateful Choices
, Ian Kershaw, professor of history at England's University of Sheffield and author of multiple volumes on Hitler, including the acclaimed two-volume biography Hubris
(1999) and Nemesis
(2000), has done his research, and his arguments here possess the same reasoned analysis that he brought to the Hitler books. Not all key decisions were made in the opening months of the war, of course, and critics wonder whether the author might have chosen other events to examine, including the offensive attacks by Japan and Germany that were catalysts for the war in the first place. Nonetheless, Kershaw offers a solid primer on the war's early history and a fresh perspective on the events that avoids the "terrible bog of counterfactual history" (Guardian
) so popular these days in history books. Fateful Choices
is engaging, and its insights into the decision-making process valuable.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.