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The Second World War Paperback – May 9, 1986

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

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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: 9.1 x 8.1 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (244 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #125,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"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.

Customer Reviews

Keegan provides a great complete history of World War II.
Though it may not carry the sheer scholastic weight of other volumes, Keegan provides a very readable, well researched account of the events of the conflict.
Philip Draper
Fot the book as such, I'd give it five stars, but the kindle edition is awful, it's full of spelling errors and typos.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 91 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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101 of 107 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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93 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on July 2, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I do not agree that this is the single best one-volume treatment of World War Two available, I do agree it is a wonderful, eminently readable, and fascinating thematic approach that helps the reader look at the basic overarching themes to found in WWII. The introduction explaining how and why world wars became possible and attractive is worth the price of the book alone. Only Keegan could bring so much style, verve, and new perspective to such a widely covered subject as the Second World War. Therefore, understanding that the book is not an exhaustive and comprehensive history of the war on a battle by battle, theater by theater approach as one can find in other excellent one volume books such as Gerhard Weinberg's "A World At Arm" or Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett's "A War To Be Won", it is still a singular tome with a unique and valuable perspective on the war that any self-respecting student of the war will not want to miss.
Also, given Mr. Keegan's mastery of the written word and his way with a phrase, this is a book one lets drag on as you read it slowly, stopping to think about what he has just written in a particular paragraph and what it means. This is indeed great stuff! The book is organized chronologically but devotes specific chapters in the general narrative to particular important factors influencing the progress and direction of the war effort, such as the nazi bombing campaigns, the Allied war air over Germany, war production, organized resistance in occupied countries, and the various types and relative successes associated with espionage.
Keegan's ability to marshal a stirring and articulate argument is unparalleled, and he relates the opposing forces' war strategies with an authority no one else can match.
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70 of 76 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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96 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Kay's Husband on April 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
I started reading these six volumes during my military service in the 1960s, and have not been without them since. I have not only the hardcover edition, but picked up this paperback set also.

I've always felt the good side of Britain turning their collective backs to this great man after World War II, not returning him to office, was the greatest blessing of all. For to us that action directed him to write these volumes of war memories, and in my mind's eye can see him standing, for he always stood to do his later writings, with both cigar and whisky and soda firmly in hand. Revisiting his firm convicitions that right would eventually triumph over wrong, good over evil. Taking comfort that he almost alone, gave both voice and backbone to England during their darkest hour.

He always believed too in the myth that King Arthur would return during England's hour of greatest need, and his romantic side must have seen himself somewhat filling that role. He always said if Arthur did not exist, he should have.

From his earliest, youthful days in office at the turn of the 20th century, he always had a gift for both good writing and good speech. His weak speaking voice, sometimes with lisp, may not have always equalled these abilities, but many of his speeches and writings yet give evidence of this talent.

I still recall one older gent telling me in a book store years ago that to read these six volumes he needed continuously both a dictionary and Bible by his side. He was happy to share his enjoyment in these books with me, as many thousands of other readers down through the years have also shared in that enjoyment.

I'm so prejudiced that it would seem remiss for any World War II library to be without these volumes.
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