Friday, 28 September 2018

Review: A History of the Second World War, by BH Liddell Hart

Yes, another shockingly modern ‘history’ (more current events, really). I reviewed a book about the First World War, by the same author, here.

The book begins a little prior to war breaking out and ends with a nice little epilogue that summarises the context and events of the war. The political matters during the war itself are only referenced insofar as they affect the military situation (such as German generals being unwilling to argue against Hitler, particularly in the latter stages). Similarly, things such as the impact of shortages due to wartime (both military priority and attempted strangleholds on supplies) are only considered in the light of logistical problems for the armed forces and, in extremis, a population becoming so demoralised it might have a material impact upon the body politic.

Necessarily, given the scope of the book, there can sometimes be a little less detail in certain areas (although there’s no shortage of books on the subject if anyone wants to delve more deeply into particular topics), but the general overview does convey things well, although the writing can sometimes be a little dry.

It is rather easier for a history of WWII to be more interesting than one for WWI, given the greater variety of theatres of war, and the fact the war itself was altogether more dynamic, being characterised by fast-paced tank actions rather than trench warfare. I particularly found the to and fro in North Africa interesting (it was also worth noting how often both leaders and army officers had their assumptions confounded by reality, and how some excellent officers were prevented from achieving more due to either their military or political superiors).

As with the author’s history of WWI, there are many maps, which is very useful given the widespread nature of the war.

I particularly enjoyed little insights from personal interviews with soldiers of either side, including one German officer whose spearhead attack had a pause when he was bewitched by a pretty blonde American nurse.

Overall, given it’s not my area, I’d say it’s a solid overview of the entire war, from a purely military perspective. If you’re after a military overview of the whole of World War Two, this book’s worth considering. If you want a social or political look at the Second World War, then you’d be better off looking elsewhere.


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