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The Second World War Paperback – May 9, 1986

519 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 004-6442416856 ISBN-10: 039541685X Edition: Box Rei

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Editorial Reviews

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"After the end of the World War of 1914 there was a deep conviction and almost universal hope that peace would reign in the world. This heart's desire of all the peoples could easily have been gained by steadfastness in righteous convictions, and by reasonable common sense and prudence."
But we all know that's not what happened. As Britain's prime minister for most of the Second World War, Winston Churchill--whose career had to that point already encompassed the roles of military historian and civil servant with a proficiency in both that few others could claim--had a unique perspective on the conflict, and as soon as he left office in 1945, he began to set that perspective down on paper. To measure the importance of The Second World War, it is worth remembering that there are no parallel accounts from either of the other Allied leaders, Roosevelt and Stalin. We have in this multivolume work an account that contains both comprehensive sweep and intimate detail. Almost anybody who compiles a list of such works ranks it highly among the nonfiction books of the 20th century.

In the opening volume, The Gathering Storm, Churchill tracks the erosion of the shaky peace brokered at the end of the First World War, followed by the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and their gradual spread from beyond Germany's borders to most of the European continent. Churchill foresaw the coming crisis and made his opinion known quite clearly throughout the latter '30s, and this book concludes on a vindicating note, with his appointment in May 1940 as prime minister, after which he recalls that "I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial."

Their Finest Hour concerns itself with 1940. France falls, and England is left to face the German menace alone. Soon London is under siege from the air--and Churchill has a few stories of his own experiences during the Blitz to share--but they persevere to the end of what Churchill calls "the most splendid, as it was the most deadly, year in our long English and British history." They press on in The Grand Alliance, liberating Ethiopia from the Italians and lending support to Greece. Then, when Hitler reneges on his non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union (the very signing of which had proved Stalin and his commissars "the most completely outwitted bunglers of the Second World War"), the Allied team begins to coalesce. The bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese makes the participation of the United States in the war official, and this is of "the greatest joy" to Churchill: "How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end no man could tell, nor did I at that moment care. Once again in our long island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious."

But as the fourth volume, The Hinge of Fate, reveals, success would not happen overnight. The Japanese military still held strong positions in the Pacific theater, and Rommel's tank corps were on the offensive in Africa. After a string of military defeats, Churchill's opponents in Parliament introduced a motion for a censure vote; this was handily defeated, and victory secured in Africa, then Italy. By this time, Churchill had met separately with both Roosevelt and Stalin; the second half of volume 5, Closing the Ring, brings the three of them together for the first time at the November 1943 conference in Teheran. This book closes on the eve of D-day: "All the ships were at sea. We had the mastery of the oceans and of the air. The Hitler tyranny was doomed."

And so, in the concluding volume, Triumph and Tragedy, the Allies push across Europe and take the fight to Berlin. President Roosevelt's death shortly before final victory against Germany affected Churchill deeply, "as if I had been struck a physical blow," and he would later regret not attending the funeral and meeting Harry Truman then, instead of at the Potsdam conference after Germany's defeat. Churchill himself would not be there for the conclusion to the war against Japan; in July of 1945, a general election in Britain brought in a Labor government (or, as he refers to them, "Socialists"), and he resigned immediately, for "the verdict of the electors had been so overwhelmingly expressed that I did not wish to remain even for an hour responsible for their affairs."

About the Author

Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965) has been called by historians "the man of the twentieth century." Prime Minister of Great Britain (1940-1945), Churchill won the Nobel prize for literature in 1953.
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Product Details

  • Series: Second World War
  • Paperback: 4736 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Box Rei edition (May 9, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039541685X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395416853
  • Product Dimensions: 4 x 8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (519 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

418 of 447 people found the following review helpful By oldbluelight on June 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I purchased the six volumes of this set for my Kindle even though I have the work in hardback. Winnie is quite a stout fellow even when he's only print on paper, most volumes running around 800 pages. Kindle seemed a great way to make him portable instead of portly. I am on my fourth reading of the collection with one of those being this digital version. The works themselves are a unique insight to WWII at the highest level and I recommend them to anyone with an interest in this subject. My negative review is NOT about the writing or the subject matter. I am appalled at the number of typographical errors in the Kindle versions. In the Third volume there is literally at least one on every page of the first half of the book. Throughout the volumes the last name of the French Admiral Darlan is misspelled. Place names, unit designations, conjunctions, prepositions, nouns and verbs are butchered throughout the works. In addition the maps displayed very poorly on my Kindle. It is a shame that these books have been so shabbily converted to digital format. I repeat these errors are rife throughout all six volumes. If I were unfamiliar with the work there are passages that would be meaningless because of the errors. Don't waste your money on the Kindle version.
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111 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Alan Mills VINE VOICE on September 27, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As with virtually everything he did in life, Winston Churchill wrote his six volume history of the Second World War with many goals: As the Prime Minister of Britain (and--equally importantly--a member of the "right" class), Churchill had access to volumes of original documents. As the Prime Minister during the War, he was in a unique position to understand the relationship of those documents to real events. As a central actor, he had a huge incentive to prepare the first draft of history...to place himself in the best possible light. As a conservative politician out of power when he wrote, he sought to warn the world of the looming communist menace. Finally, as a long time practitioner of written English, he had an unparalleled command of the language. In this volume, Churchill successfully blends together all of these personas to create an absolutely riveting history of the prelude to the Second World War--from the close of World War One to the invasion of Belgium.
Churchill's mastery of English is reason enough to read this book. For example, in describing the British government's constant debates over what to do about German rearmament, Churchill says the British were "frothing pious platitudes while foeman forge their arms". Very seldom do I have to turn to a dictionary while reading, but Churchill sent me there regularly.
But do not think that this is just a book to be read to enjoy his use of language. His detailed account of how we got into the Second World War, and how we might have avoided it, is incisive and persuasively argued. And always watch for the subtext--his warning that the appeasement on Germany was then (in the 1950's) being repeated in the appeasement of the Soviet Union.
Churchill's weakness flows directly from his strength.
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113 of 121 people found the following review helpful By P. Jacobs on December 14, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sadly, the Kindle Edition of this work fails to do it justice. Churchill has dotted this text with numerous charts and tables illustrating the progress of the war, and every single one of them is completely illegible. The Kindle edition has included them at a shamefully useless resolution, and so I must suggest that any interested reader buy a different edition. I am very disappointed in this purchase.
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147 of 161 people found the following review helpful By WWII Reader on September 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is great. However it was clearly scanned poorly and went through no revisin or proofing whatsoeber. Any publishing house should be embaraced by this edition.
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106 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Brueckner-Schunk on February 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Churchill's book is really astonishing, not only for the sheer size, but for the vast expand of knowledge displayed and the personal experience behind it. Churchill includes hundreds of documents and thus gives ample proof of what he writes. His strongest moments are his criticism of British appeasement policy and the account of 1940/41, where his will to survive and his pertinacity can still be felt through the pages. His personal experience is always there, though he refrains from giving his readers too many anecdotes. In spite of the fact the everything was written very shortly after the war, most things are quite accurate, though the pages on Nazi Germany are not always enlightened. But - being German - I have never felt any hatred towards my people as a whole and one can well join in with his disgust of Germany at that time. The book, or rather books, never bore. An absolute masterpiece of historical writing.
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77 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Owen Hughes on May 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
I bought Churchill's 6-volume history of the Second World War many years ago, but did not find the strength to begin reading it until some time later. The effect was immediate. Although it took me over a year to read all of it, that was only because I have long had the habit of reading a number of books concurrently. I simply couldn't put Churchill down. To say that the story of World War II is a gripping one, is to put it mildly. How much more gripping do you think it might be in the hands of that one unique individual who was both one of the central players and the recorder of the events themselves. At times, I found myself actually wanting certain historical events to go in favour of the Allies although, naturally, I already knew the outcome! Such is the effect of Churchill's writing.
In the second volume "Their Finest Hour," Britain was holding the fort against Hitler alone. After Dunkirk, spirits were low all over the place and the value of Dr Goebells's secret weapon was able to come into play with great effect. One can imagine the feeling of the citizenry of Britain at that time, trapped as they felt themselves to be in that little island, with an unbeaten army just across the channel snarling at them. The whys and wherefores of the actions of both Hitler and the German General Staff at that time, can be discussed until you are blue in the face. The fact is that, although most people on both sides of the Atlantic thought they were about to hop across and finish the job, the Germans hesitated, mainly for lack of a plan, and lost the chance. I don't know for sure if Churchill also thought the British might have been defeated in July, August or September of 1940, but from the end of that odd period of stalemate, he never looked back.
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