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Book Review

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H-Net Reviews




(First Paragraph) The first edition of The Great Crusade (1989) was a fine, comprehensive, single-volume history of World War II. The revised edition is even better, though readers should be aware that this is a military history of the war that usually focuses on decision-making and activities at the operational level and above. The author sometimes speaks of individual fighting divisions, but almost never about individual soldiers. This work is thus not the place for the reader to discover the tales and yarns of individual soldiers. Those who hope to grasp what it was like to be a Marine storming the beach at Tarawa, or a German civilian in Dresden in February 1945, should look elsewhere. H. P. Willmott gives considerable attention to the broad political and economic motives of warring countries and ample time to the analysis of the thinking behind major military decisions. Nevertheless, individuals who view history through the lens of the trinity of race, class, and gender will also emerge disappointed. Race is considered as it applies to the Holocaust, German and Japanese expansion, and the occupation policies of those countries. But, class and gender hardly rate a mention. The bottom line: The Great Crusade is not a social history of the war. Similarly, Willmott makes no attempt to replicate the anecdotes and stories that leaven the contributions of historians such as John Keegan, or his one-time student, Antony Beevor. His concern lies with the overall sweep of events and their import, not with individual reactions and stories.


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Original Publication Citation

Koch, J. V. (2010). Review of Willmott, H.P., The Great Crusade: A New Complete History of the Second World War. H-Net Reviews, 1-3.