Nazis order Jews to wear yellow stars for identification. Japan attacks Pearl Harbor December 7.
100 Facts About World War Two
Mass murder at Auschwitz begins. Britain attacks German army in North Africa. Allied forces take Tunisia, ending war in North Africa. Italy invaded by Allies. Italy surrenders. British and Indian forces fight Japanese in Burma. Allies bomb Monte Cassino Abbey in Italy. D Day: Allied forces storm Normandy beaches on June 6. Guam is liberated. Iwo Jima bombed. Gandhi released from prison. The Battle of the Bulge. Assassination attempt on Hitler fails. Hitler retreats to a bunker where he commits suicide. Germany surrenders. Atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Five Books interviews are expensive to produce. If you're enjoying this interview, please support us by donating a small amount. Sir Michael Howard is a very fine historian by any measure, but certainly the greatest living military historian or historian of warfare. Well quite. The First World War is a trees-and-forests war.
This is quite a big book. Yes, 1, pages. You need pretty strong wrists if you want to read it in bed. The bibliography alone is 50 pages. When you only know one side of the story, you have no chance. So his attitude throughout is comparative. He looks at it from the British point of view, the German point of view, the Austrian point of view and so on and so forth.
The second point is that he understands something that, particularly in Britain, we tend to forget. The centenary commemorations were a good example: you could have been excused for thinking that the British were the only people in the First World War. There was very little discussion of their allies and almost none of their enemies. Although, in theory, the book is only about , in practice he spends a lot of time talking about themes that run through the whole war, like the financing of it. He also tells the whole story of the war in Africa, all the way up to , in this first volume.
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You get a very real sense of how the war moved from being just a bunch of Europeans fighting each other into a World War, both in terms of the European war sucking in the resources of the world to add fuel to the fire but also in terms of the war being exported to Africa, to Asia, to the Americas. Are there any take-homes or generalizations we can make after reading it?
Although, as I say, the two points that come out of the book are the need to treat the war internationally and the need to see it globally.
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Those were the new departures that he made when the book came out in Although some people had talked about looking at it in those terms, not enough people had. On the causes of the war, he does two interesting things. This slithering-by-accident-into-war is not the case. If you want to find the causes of the war, we have to look deeper. We have to look into mentalities: how people were thinking and the way that people thought about war and international relations.
And even cultural trends. Get the weekly Five Books newsletter. One of the points that he makes is that the traditional distinction that most historians make—whereby, broadly, you have international historians talking about the causes of war and then military historians talking about what happens during the war—is a false one. Nor can you understand the conduct without understanding the causes. And so he tries, if you like, to bridge the divide between peace and war.
You have to keep expanding, or else you will die as a country or as a nation. That idea goes deep into the German psyche. The book is about , and he writes about a key battle that year, the Battle of the Marne. The first two books we discussed were both trying to tell the global history of the war. This book is doing something different.
Adrian Gregory is one of the best historians of the British Home Front that we have. The way that the book pulls together social history and cultural history, in particular, is the most distinctive thing about it. It was an extreme view, but there were people who thought that. There were others, for instance, who when the churchmen stood up on a Sunday and gave their sermons and said we should fight the Hun because he represents everything that is ungodly believed that too. A lot of the tropes that were used were suggesting—maybe sometimes very subtly—that this was a sacrifice not only for Britain but also to God.
A lot of modern historians, because of who we are and the relatively secular society that most of us have been brought up in, tend to underestimate how much religion was part of the warp and weft of everyday life years ago. It must, therefore, have played a much greater role in explaining how people acted. Are there any other reasons that people were prepared to go to war? What debate is this touching on?
People did cheer in the streets, that definitely happened. But most people went off to war because they felt they had to, rather than because they actively wanted to. There are some people who are. They make sure all that is done and then they join up. Hitler went ahead with his plans to unify all German-speaking people.
He annexed Austria then demanded the liberation of German people in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. Neville Chamberlain flew to Germany to attempt a settlement before war broke out. The Czechs were not represented at the meeting and realising that no country would come to their aid were forced to surrender the Sudetenland to Germany. Hitler assured those at the meeting that this was the extent of his ambitions for expansion.
Despite the assurances given by Hitler in the Treaty of Munich Sept , he marched into Czechoslovakia and occupied the country. Britain had begun re-arming and a highly secret radar early warning system was installed along the east coast. Conscription was introduced and assurances were given to Poland, who was being threatened by the Fuhrer.
Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression pact which included secret clauses for the division of Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany. Neville Chamberlain broadcast the announcement that the country was at war. Hitler invaded and occupied Denmark and Norway to safeguard supply routes of Swedish ore and also to establish a Norwegian base from which to break the British naval blockade on Germany. Hitler launched his blitzkrieg lightning war against Holland and Belgium.
Rotterdam was bombed almost to extinction. Both countries were occupied. Neville Chamberlain resigned after pressure from Labour members for a more active prosecution of the war and Winston Churchill became the new head of the wartime coalition government. Chamberlain gave Churchill his unreserved support.
Ernest Bevin was made minister of labour and recruited workers for the factories and stepped up coal production. Lord Beaverbrook, minister of Aircraft Production increased production of fighter aircraft. The British commander-in-chief, General Gort, had been forced to retreat to the coast at Dunkirk. The troops waited, under merciless fire, to be taken off the beaches.
A call went out to all owners of sea-worthy vessels to travel to Dunkirk to take the troops off the beaches of Dunkirk. More than , men were rescued, among them some , French who would form the nucleus of the Free French army under a little known general, Charles de Gaulle. Italy entered the war on the side of the Axis powers.
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