- Hardcover: 624 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press; 1st edition (May 31, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594201234
- ISBN-13: 978-1594201233
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.9 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
There is a newer edition of this item:
Featured resources in history
Explore these featured titles, sponsored by Springer. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
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.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
“What if” is, of course, hardly a rare question asked by historians, amateur and professional. It is an integral part of the game. “What if Halifax rather than Churchill had been chosen wartime Prime Minister?”. “What if Hitler had stuck with his plan to invade Britain rather than turning on the Soviet Union instead?”. “What if Mussolini had not foolishly decided to invade Greece?”. “What if the paranoid Stalin had not purged his Red Army leadership in 1939 and then, in early 1940 acted on, rather than ignoring, multiple intelligence reports of an imminent German invasion?” “What if the Japanese had decided to invade Siberia rather than Indochina and attacking Pearl Harbor?. “What if Roosevelt had acted more decisively in support of Britain in 1940 and 1941?”
Kershaw examines these and dozens of related questions in great detail over the course of almost 500 pages. The speculation makes for entertaining reading despite a fair amount of repetition. At the end, as is so often the case in the game of “What if?”, he concludes that the personalities of the key players and the circumstances under which they operated, made the decisions reached inevitable.
In a brief “Afterthoughts” chapter at the end of the book he concedes that “what if scenarios” are “a harmless but pointless diversion from the real question of what happened and why.” His preceding chapters, he suggests “have shown in each case why … alternatives were ruled out”. So much, then, for all the “what ifs”.
Kershaw disagrees with the think tank strategist of the fifties and sixties who believed that democracy hindered the decision making process. Mussolini,Hitler,and the Japanese military leaders led their nations to defeat because they failed to hear conflicting advice. But Churchill had a unified front because he had the support of the cabinet and Roosevelt's sensitivity towards public opinion prevented him from making any rash decisions that were detrimental to the Allied effort. The only weakness of this book is that in his section about Stalin, Kersahaw ignored traditional Russian and later Soviet suspicions of England, that made Stalin ignore British intelligence warnings that Hitler was going to attack the Soviet Union. Also Kershaw does not write about how Hitler's strategic decisions reflected his Austrian upringing as mentioned by Martin Van Creveld.
Other reviewers have spelled out the ten decisions so I won't repeat them. First of all I will explain what I mean by saying one member of this group is an imbecile. I'm talking about Mussolini, and at the end of a chapter on him Mr. Kershaw, in frustration, calls him that name. Indeed the chapter on Mussolini can almost be considered, tragically of course, a bit of comic relief. Mussolini was like a puppy dog trying to tag along with his master, Hitler, and get some glory for himself. What should he do in the midst of victory after victory by Germany. He decides why not invade Greece. He sits down with his marginally competent general staff, and in an hour and a half discussion they decide to invade. That's it. No long term, detailed plans, just that short chat. Italy is almost bankrupt, does not have a well trained army, lacks sophisticated equipment yet invades Greece within weeks of that meeting, and gets, well, stuck in the mud so to speak.
What's interesting about the other fateful decisions is that each leader was well out on a limb when his country decided to ease or jump into war. At that time, for example, the United States had an army about the size of the Dutch army. All of the countries faced economic problems, and most of them had not learned an awful lot from their experiences in WWI.
Roosevelt's task was to ease the country toward helping Britain by gradually coaxing the public and congress along toward that end. Japan's leaders vacillated about entering a war with the U.S., but felt they had to do just that following America's embargo on scrap iron and oil shipments. Stalin was deluded into thinking that Germany would not invade Russia until 1942, and tended to disregard all evidence that indicated the attack would be in 1941. When the invasion took place he was so shaken that he could not function for several days. Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini were prompted by maintaining national prestige. Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill were trying to keep their world from collapsing. Hitler declared war on the U.S. without consulting with any of his advisors.
This is a fascinating book that ties together all of the elements that led our world leaders into the worst war of all time. I might point out that for some WWII buffs certain chapters may not provide new information to the reader. There are other books, such as biographies of Hitler, Roosevelt and Stalin, that cover one of these chapters in even greater detail, but this may be the only book that examines all the major world leaders during the time period 1940-1941. The only thing that frustrated me is that each chapter usually ends at a momentous decision point, and you think "more, more, don't stop here." Well the thing to do is just get more books that do go on from there.