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Oxford Companion to World War II Hardcover – September 22, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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The definitive single-volume reference work for students of World War II, I. C. B. Dear's 1,400-page compendium provides a wealth of detail on matters that standard histories often gloss over or pass over altogether. For example, Dear covers the Night and Fog Decree, which called for the execution of any civilians committing crimes against German forces in occupied territories, as well as the Battle of the Courland Peninsula, in which Red Army soldiers overwhelmed the last German forces in the Baltic and seized Latvia and Lithuania for the Soviet Union. This is a fine book to browse through while watching Bataan or The Longest Day, or to have on hand to provide background material for other World War II-related reading. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This compendium was issued in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of World War II. Several other one-volume encyclopedias treat this topic: The Simon & Schuster Encyclopedia of World War II (1978), The Historical Guide to World War II (Greenwood, 1983), The Dictionary of the Second World War (Bedrick, 1990), and World War II: America at War, 1941^-1945 [RBB Ja 15 92]. The last-named book is closest in coverage to Oxford but was criticized for its American viewpoint.

This new work has more than 1,700 alphabetically arranged entries. More than 160 scholars contributed to the volume, most from universities in Britain. Entries range from 50 words to almost 30 pages on major countries. Almost every aspect of the war is covered, including its effect on civilians. Children discuss the war's impact on children in many nations. Lengthy essays cover Women at War and Religion. The many biographical entries include both political and military persons. By far the most exhaustive essays are reserved for countries, all of which have standard subsections such as "Domestic Life, Economy, and War Effort" and "Government." The entry for the U.S. includes 27 pages of text and eight statistical tables. Briefer entries treat countries that were neutral during the war, for example, Sweden and Turkey.

In addition to statistics within entries, there are special tables accompanying articles. Unfortunately there is no index or table of contents for these tables. Cross-references within entries are noted by asterisks; there are limited see also references at the ends of articles. Like other Oxford companions, there is no index.

More than 100 line-drawn maps provide battle information as well as sites of death and concentration camps and the Manhattan Project. A separate section of color maps shows territorial changes between 1939 and 1945, the British and French empires, and other themes. A chronology begins in 1931 with Japanese troops occupying Manchuria and lists events under five geographic regions to the formal surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945. A list of place-name changes shows current and wartime names (e.g., Gdansk and Danzig).

Other titles give more detailed coverage of specific aspects of this period in history, for example, The D-Day Encyclopedia [RBB Ja 1 94] and the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust [RBB Mr 1 90]. But The Oxford Companion to World War II is an excellent overview for public and academic libraries that need to supplement other works in their reference collections. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1064 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (September 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019280670X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192806703
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 1.8 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,389,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A book with the word "Cambridge" or "Oxford" in the title is guaranteed to be authoritative, written by top-notch scholars, contain excellent maps and charts, and be as dryasdust. The "Oxford Companion to World War II" is no exception. Within these 1,000 pages is an enormous amount of information on countries, people, events, and battles of WW II.

One can, for example, look up "Riom Trial" and get a two paragraph description of a trial of those held responsible for the fall of France. Or a 4-line description of "Force Viper" a small British marine force in Burma. Unfortunately, the selection of the topics worthy of a separate entry was more than a little Anglo-centric. The US Marine Corps Raiders were far more important that "Force Viper" but for information about them one is referred to a section of the article on the USA. Likewise, the Soviet Union is slighted. The Raid at Dieppe gets 2 columns of attention; the Battle of Stalingrad gets less than 4 columns. Was Stalingrad more than twice as important as Dieppe? Yes! It was a thousand times more important.

The space devoted to description of battles often seems arbitrary rather than rational. The Normandy invasion gets 12 columns of attention; the second largest amphibious operation of the war, Okinawa, gets one column. That's a travesty. Midway -- the crucial turning point in the war for for the United States -- gets one measly column of attention. Another travesty. India, a British colony, gets eight pages; the battle of Iwo Jima only one column.

The most valuable parts of the book are the numerous charts illustrating nearly every facet of the war. For example, on page 480 is a chart of Japanese production during the war including tanks, planes, and ships.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a fan of the first edition (1995) of this fine book: I'm a World War Two buff, and this is the best one-volume reference book on World War Two that I know of. So why would I give only four stars to the revised edition of 2005? Here's why. Prospective purchasers of the revised 2005 edition might like to know that it is 1,039 pages long, whereas the first edition of 1995 was 1,343 pages long. That's a loss of 304 pages, representing 23% of the material in the first edition---a considerable loss.

In the case of The Oxford Companion to Music, there was a beautiful, lavishly illustrated edition of 2,017 pages of 1983; it was replaced by a revised edition in 2002 that had 1,434 pages---a whopping loss of almost 600 pages of material. In this case I know what I'm talking about, because I have both editions: the 2002 edition represents a substantial abridgement and cheapening of the 1986 edition; I doubt that anyone who had the chance to compare the two would choose the newer edition.

I don't know if the same thing is going on with this Oxford Companion to World War Two (I don't have the new edition at hand to compare the two), but the loss of 23% of the material in the first edition, and my experience with The Oxford Companion to Music described above, would incline me to approach the new edition with caution.
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Format: Paperback
This book is without question the most useful and comprehensive reference book on the Seond World War to appear in a single-volume, paperback format. It presents data ranging from amazing weapon specifications to wonderfully detailed biographies. Along with the many facts and dates of WWII, the book also includes information that while not common knowledge, is vital to a complete understanding of the conflict. For example, the book explains the strategies, theories, and the complex organization of the axis and allies. In addition, this wealth of information is presented in an easily accessible manner. While it can be read like a book, it is most useful as a quick reference. When I'm reading a book and come upon something I'm not familiar with, I just look in the Oxford Companion for a concise, yet complete explanation. It truly is a superb book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have both the current and first edition of this book (in hardcover). As far as I can tell, the new edition is only shorter because it uses a smaller typeface, allowing several more words per line.

However, the new edition is also a bit easier to read despite the smaller size, because the new edition uses a glossy paper and the text seems more sharply defined on the page. This is particularly noticeable in the text of the maps, which I have struggled to read in the first edition, but seem clearer in the new edition.

As an aside, I agree with the general view that this is the single best reference book on World War II. I can't really tell what is changed in the new edition, although it may just be minor corrections, since the several longer articles I have compared seem identical.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is one of the most resourceful world war two books that I have purchased so far. It is full of facts dealing with every aspect of the second world war ranging from political issues of the war to information on weapons used to information on all of the battles and important areas and people having to do with the war.
The book is set up in an encyclopedia form that is easy to follow and makes it easier to quickly find what you are looking for. I have been purchasing books on World War Two for the past few years, and this is the most informative one yet. This is truly a great book for anyone who is greatly interested in learning much about the second world war.
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