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Strategy and the Second World War: How the War was Won, and Lost

Jeremy Black

4 Reviews

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Military history

A concise, accessible account of strategy and the Second World War, suitable both for students and the general reader.

This concise, accessible account of strategy and the Second World War fills a gap in a way that is timely, with the eightieth anniversary of the war becoming global taking place in 2021. In 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and British interests in the Far East, and Germany declared war on the United States.

Black not only engages explicitly with the strategic issues of the time - as they developed chronologically, and interacted - but also relates these to subsequent debates about the choices made, revealing their continued political contexts and resonances.

Building on the conceptual and methodological perspectives offered in his existing work on strategy - Plotting Power: Strategy in the Eighteenth Century (2017) and Military Strategy: A Global History (2020) - Black's treatment of strategy encompasses domestic policy and economic and ideological means, as well as conflict. He shows how, for example, the Holocaust was as much part of Hitler's strategy as war against Communism. His key aim is to emphasise strategic culture and to collapse what he sees as the questionable distinction between policy and strategy, also to emphasise the dynamic impact of contexts, the continual significance of prioritisation, and the significance of the unfixed nature of alliance systems.

Black begins by examining strategic engagement and planning in the run-up to the Second World War, including Appeasement and the Soviet-German pact as key strategic means.

He shows how the 'long war' strategy of Britain and France was already in difficulties prior to the major German successes in early 1940 and examines the consequences of the Fall of France for the strategies of all the powers.

He shows how Germany, from a position of success, but with concerns about Britain, the USA and the Soviet Union, planned a new strategy; while Japan did so in the context of stalemate in China, concern about the Soviet Union, and opportunity due to the weakness of the Western European powers in the region. He explores the nature of strategy-making and its implementation.

Black shows how the Soviet Union refused to adopt a pre-emptive approach to attack by Germany, unlike the United States; also how Allied strategy-making was more effective at the Anglo-American level than with the Soviet Union, not only for ideological and political reasons, but also because the Americans and British had a better grasp of the global dimension, in part due to oceanic concerns and means. It is in this context that he discusses the Germany First, and Mediterranean and Second Front controversies. He also looks at the strategic rationale of the Combined Bomber Offensive.

Black shows how German and Japanese

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Praise for Strategy and the Second World War: How the War was Won, and Lost

  • Praise for Jeremy Black's The Holocaust

  • A demanding but important work.

  • Praise for Jeremy Black's Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: A Global History

  • A significant and timely contribution to understanding the new meaning of war. - Choice

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