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Warlords: An Extraordinary Re-creation of World War II through the Eyes and Minds of Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin Hardcover – March 27, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Recounting WWII from the point of view of the era's four political giants is an original idea, and it works: while not exactly revisionist, Berthon and Potts's book delivers some good jolts. Where popular writers often portray the good guys, Churchill and Roosevelt, as friendly partners, the authors refuse to soft-pedal controversies that erupted after America declared war—especially over Churchill's reluctance to support a cross-Channel invasion and F.D.R.'s pressure on Churchill to free Britain's colonies. Readers will wince to be reminded of Roosevelt's conviction that Britain's imperial ambitions were a greater threat than Stalin's and his belief that Stalin was a sensible fellow one could do business with. Those accustomed to the stirring History Channel depiction of WWII as a crusade against evil will cringe to read of Stalin's persistent, insulting treatment of his allies and of the unspeakable atrocities he committed against his own countrymen. Using diaries, correspondence and personal accounts, the book cuts back and forth among its subjects as they direct the war. This cinematic style succeeds (the authors work in British TV), and the scholarship is solid—so solid that readers convinced WWII was less squalid than other wars may be provoked to reconsider. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Synthesized mainly from the diaries and memoirs of associates of Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, and Hitler, this blitz through World War II in Europe unreels like a screenplay, confiding an inside view of strategy and the war's major battles. A canonical narrative permeated by well-known quotations (such as Churchill's "Hess or no Hess, I am going to watch the Marx Brothers"), this work will appeal more to new rather than veteran WWII readers. The authors, both of whom work in television, choose to open with Churchill's appointment amid Germany's offensive against France in May 1940. Attentive to stage scenery, Berthon and Potts always describe the physical settings as they develop their principal storytelling element: the thoughts each leader entertained about his ally or enemy. This focus on personality brings out, for example, Stalin's colossal miscalculation about Hitler, and effects an appreciation in a general audience for directions the war took that were influenced by the psychology of the top leaders--always a reliable hook for popular history. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (March 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306814676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306814679
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #862,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Gilberto Villahermosa on August 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This extremely well written and interesting book is among the first works to examine the interaction between the four most important leaders of the Second World War: Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitler and Stalin.

Authors Simon Berthon and Joanna Potts correctly identify these leaders as the last warlords of history in that they tightly controlled all aspects of warmaking in their respective countries, including the political, ecomonic and military realms. As a result, they dominated the war and decided its outcome.

Of particular interest is the relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt. Other works depict this relationship as extremely close with both individuals having the same outlook on Hitler and the war. The authors show conclusively that this was not the case and that Roosevelt was not as taken with Churchill as some histories suggest. Indeed, it is clear that from the very beginning the American president dominated the relationship and this dominance grew as the United States became more and more involved in the war.

At one point point Churchill and his Joint Chiefs drafted a message to Roosevelt and his Joint Chiefs concerning the the cross channel invasion of France, Operation Overlord. The Americans were pushing for the invasion, while the British were trying to delay it in order to commit Allied forces elsewhere. "All right, if you insist on being damned fools, sooner than falling out with you, which would be fatal, we shall be damned fools with you and we shall see that we perform the role of damned fools damned well!", wrote the British in one of the great communiqués of the war.

At the same time that Churchill was doing his best to get America and Roosevelt in the war, Hitler was doing everything in his power to prevent U.S.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By AW on January 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Warlords" is an enjoyable read and an excellent summary of the progression of the European theater of World War II (expect very little regarding the Pacific). It uses a variety of sources that come directly from the warlords themselves, or from those very close to them. The end result is view of World War II from the people who managed the conflict at the very top.

The book is well-written, and is occasionally novel-like in its flow, making for very enjoyable history. The collection of sources successfully brings out the personalities of these four leaders and turns them into life-like characters.

However, despite my overall favorable impression of this book, I have some criticisms. The authors occasionally relied too heavily on certain sources. For example, Goebbels's diary was a heavy favorite in matters concerning Hitler and his decision-making. Goebbels was among Hitler's most loyal confidants, so clearly this is an important source for a work of this nature. But it seemed that additional sources that may have cross-examined Goebbels's and other favorite sources' perspectives would have been welcome additions (though admittedly adding to the complexity of the story and the authors' efforts).

My second criticism is the book's clear Anglo-American-centric perspective. The "top billing" in this story are definitely Roosevelt and Churchill. The intricacies of their relationship and joint decision-making form the bulk of the work. Some of this stems from the fact that Roosevelt and Churchill were much closer and in more constant contact than either of them were with Stalin. But for much of the book, the Soviets seem like an enigma akin to what Roosevelt and Churchill themselves must have experienced.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By T. Berner on July 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Berthon was inspired to write this book by John Lukacs' extraordinary retelling of episodes of the war through the eyes of the leading protagonists. In the Duel, June 1941 and other works, Mr. Lukacs lends great insight to events and revives the "Great Man" theory of history single handedly.

Mr. Berthon tries the same on a larger scale: telling the tale of the entire war through the eyes of four of the leaders. What the author sacrifices in detail - which had to be done to tell the story of the entire war within the pages of one book - he makes up for in breadth of coverage. You get a sense of the war that you don't find elsewhere.

You also get a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of these men. Interestingly, Stalin comes across as the best leader of the four, at least after Hitler takes advantage of his blunders and attacks. Unlike Hitler and Churchill, he does not interfere with the tactical decisions of his military and unlike Hitler and Roosevelt, he does not let his sense of reality be dominated by what he wants it to be, rather than what it really is.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schranck on May 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The obsessed British Prime Minister who had the will but not the army to fight Hitler, who terminated relations with France, sinking her key warships, who rejected Hitler's peace overtures for six months, who wooed FDR into the war, and would sell his soul and Europe's to the devil for his help in defeating Hitler.
The American President, the ultimate and constant politican, who would give billions in aid to the Soviet dictator, overlook the horrible crimes the Russian did against humanity, ignore his advisors of the Russian dictator's duplicity and look the other way as the dictator started devouring Eastern Europe in order to keep America out of the war.
The megalomaniac German dictator, who after conquering most of Europe found it wasn't enough and had to conquer the fertile resources of Russia as well as destroy Communism, is shown at his clever best and his profound worse.
The final warlord, the manipulative Russian dictator who played friend and foe better than the others, would gain the admiration of his Allies. This is the person who had treaties with Hitler and sat back and watch France and Britain be defeated in 1940. This is the same person who annexed parts of Finland, Poland, Rumania and all of the Baltics and who executed thousands of Polish soldiers after Poland surrendered but was still sought out and even admired in some ways.
I don't understand Churchill. He was such an anti-Communist that he almost sent troops to Russia during their civil war to put down the Red Army. Prior to the war, MI5 knew of and tried to stop the active Communist plot to overthrow the British Gov't. In fact most of Europe was defending themselves against the scourge of Communism.
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