1939: A People’s History of the Coming of the Second World War

Norton. May 2020. 448p. ISBN 9781324006794. $30. HIST
The subtitle is a bit misleading. Rather than writing a true people’s history, Taylor (Dresden) provides a straightforward narrative of how World War II started from the perspectives of the major players in Great Britain and Germany such as former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, and German leaders Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. Taylor touches on some aspects of daily life in those countries as well as other news that was overlooked and forgotten because of the momentous events of 1938 and 1939. In addition, Taylor sprinkles in diary entries from the time as well as personal interviews he conducted with people who were children in 1939. He gives some attention to the issue of propaganda and how the German and British governments managed public opinion and encouraged their populations to fight. Taylor also recounts how atrocities committed against ethnic Germans were used by the Nazi regime to justify its aggression.
VERDICT Written in an accessible, engaging style, this book will appeal most to casual readers of popular history.
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