The Second World War

“A war epic close to perfection” Mail on Sunday
“This is history write large. . . unexpected vignettes linger in the memory” Daily Telegraph
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Most people seem to expect a history of the Second World War to begin with the invasion of Poland and end with the death of Hitler or V-J Day. But that is because for all too long we have had black holes in our knowledge of the subject. My narrative history in fact begins in August 1939, with General Zhukov’s defeat of the Japanese at Khalkin-Gol on the Mongolian-Manchurian border.

Although small in comparison to some of the titanic clashes to come, it had a crucial influence on the later course of the war. And the book ends almost exactly six years later in August 1945 with Soviet armies sweeping across Manchuria and North China, thus providing a strange symmetry.

The point of this book is to bring together all those conflicts from the Sino-Japanese War to the Winter War in Finland which were different facets of what we know as the Second World War. It was not simply a monolithic clash of state against state, of three great Allied powers against the Axis and Japan.

In many countries, especially in those occupied by the Germans and the Japanese, people found themselves crushed by rival factions in an international civil war. And the story of those ordinary people, caught up in huge political forces over which they had no control, is of course an absolutely essential part of the book.

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United Kingdom
“A general history of the war needs to embrace this variety of experience and capture the interplay between the momentous events unfolding on different continents and the high seas. Antony Beevor effectively meets this challenge. A former British army officer and author of admired works on Stalingrad and the Allied invasion of Normandy, Beevor is a gifted writer who knows how to keep a good story rolling... The brutality and courage of individual soldiers and civilians emerge in Beevor's powerful accounts... Beevor's book is a pleasure to read and an example of intelligent, lively historical writing at its best” The Financial Times 2 June
“You feel yourself being carried along on the narrative flow, channeled this way and that through the pools and rapids by Beevor's expert helmsmanship.  As we have come to expect from the author, great events are leavened by telling vignettes and anecdotes” Patrick Bishop in Standpoint June issue
“Brocaded with details of the great campaigns and thoughtful explanations of Hitler's murderous belligerency, The Second World War is an absorbing, unsparingly lucid work of military history... exceptionally powerful” Ian Thomson, The Spectator
“The narrative never flags and the myriad pieces of this intricate kaleidoscope are pieced together with exemplary skill... This is a splendid book, erudite, with admirable clarity of thought and expression” Roger Moorhouse in The Independent on Sunday
“The level of operational command, rather than grand strategy or the horrors of front line experience, shapes the magisterial narrative of the Second World War. Its military history is presented chronologically, with chapter titles which convey the simultaneity and interconnectedness of events in very different theatres.  This is the place to begin if you need to get your knowledge of the war in order. Beevor is not afraid to quote the familiar when it is important or to let his favourite voices have their say but he also provides plenty of fresh insights for those who kid themselves that they know the story already” Hew Strachan in the Evening Standard
“Mr Beevor is full of insight about the connection between things – he sets out “to understand how the whole complex jigsaw fits together”.” The Economist
“This memorable vignette is one of hundreds in Antony Beevor’s utterly absorbing history of the Second World War. Beevor is justly celebrated for recounting the human realities of war... Beevor is committed to telling the truth about war, with all its painful contradictions... Beevor does not flinch: this is as comprehensive and objective account of the course of the war as we are likely to get, and the most humanly moving to date” John Gray in the New Statesman
“Readers who may instinctively recoil from another book about the worldwide turmoil of 1939-1945 would be unwise to ignore this one... Always at ease with the conduct of battle, Beevor displays his grasp of the German Army’s professionalism and tactical skill at all levels of command, as well as Stalin’s metamorphosis from paranoid political tyrant to master of history’s most enormous battlefield... Once action is joined and false assumptions are exposed, Beevor is ruthless in dissecting them, whether featured in the fortunes of friend, foe or – despite their grit and resolve – in our own armed forces” Michael Tillotson in The Times
“His monumental and magisterial history of the Second World War... Beevor is excellent at catching the individual in the flood tide of events... Few can match his superbly controlled narrative.” Sunday Express
“This is history write large... unexpected vignettes linger in the memory” Daily Telegraph
“Antony Beevor's remarkably informative and well-written book... Beevor's enormous strength is that he can sketch out complicated campaigns clearly... Antony Beevor has done splendid justice to this [the bombing of Germany] and to a very great deal else.” Norman Stone in the Literary Review
“Everything is pared down to serve the relentless thrust of his storytelling. The result is a magnificent performance - true excitement from one page to the next delivered in faultless prose... Beevor offers superbly vivid accounts, often with tiny details that will surprise even those who gorge themselves on shot and ball histories.” Christopher Silvester in the Daily Express
“The chapters on the Nazi-Soviet war find Beevor at the top of his game, in command of a huge range of sources, with a fine eye for place and detail, deftly manipulating incident and character, and making effective use of soldiers' diaries and letters to create a vast human tapestry of war. The prose is relaxed and contains a spring in every paragraph. He excels too at grand strategy - as a diplomatic historian, he is a match for AJP Taylor. The conferences at Casablanca, Tehran, Yalta and so on, which can have their longeurs, here sparkle with wit and insight, especially into the behaviour of Stalin. There are revelations too.” Ben Shephard in the Observer
“Beevor is especially good at sweeping summary and lucid explanation” David Sexton in the Evening Standard
“Antony Beevor’s The Second World War (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) is simply the ultimate Second World War history: it brings these vast events to life, from high strategy to suffering humanity, from the dictators to the ordinary soldier” Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Daily Telegraph
“This book is a perfect mixture of world history and human experience, unbiased and highly readable” The Journal
“Judged against his own high standards of readability there is no doubt that The Second World War succeeds very well indeed...  This is an immensely readable book, not least for the manner in which it blends together high strategy with the view from below... A masterful narrative history” History Today
“An outstanding example of narrative history at its best, at once scholarly, enlightening, entertaining and thought-provoking” The Tablet
“British military historians are in the vanguard of a genre that has been given new life... Beevor has set a new benchmark” David Cesarini in the Jewish Chronicle
“The Second World War by Antony Beevor is the best single-volume history I have read of what the author rightly terms the greatest man-made disaster in history. Beevor has written an engrossing account of the war from the standpoint of the common civilian and serviceman as well as the military strategist and statesman. But the book is far richer than a traditional type of narrative history. Illuminating insights intersperse the the descriptions of every theatre of the war... Beevor’s judgements are invariably sound and necessary” The Times
“Global history at its grandest and best... Beevor is as commanding as ever. He is as comfortable as his peers in analysing the great games of generals and dictators, but Beevor’s genius is his ability to embroider high politics and styrategy with the mean and humble stuff of individual human lives. This is neither a political nor a social history of the Second World War. It is, triumphantly, both” Daily Telegraph
“I thought even my large appetite for accounts of the great conflict of the 20th century might have been sated after so many excellent recent books on the subject, but Antony Beevor proved me wrong with his terrific The Second World War. As we have c ome to expect from this master, he excels at using eyewitness testimony to illustrate how mankind can be capable of both terrible cruelty and astonishing courage” Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer
“A truly rewarding account of the global conflict. Beevor has a special gift for linking great events with individual testimony” Amanda Foreman in the Mail on Sunday
United States of America
“Beevor makes blazingly vivid the sense of mass upheaval and grief prevalent in all parts of the world ... a deeply enlightening experience... a work of vast research, depth and insight” Kirkus, 1 May, 2012
“A comprehensive capstone... a page-turner [and] a kaleidoscope of individual experiences in a context of continuous choices. His command of a comprehensive spectrum of sources enables him to present the war from the perspective of its participants... Hypocrisy and self-sacrifice, corruption and idealism, sadism and compassion, genocide and cannibalism: Beevor brilliantly shows, at all levels, that WWII defies easy generalization” Publishers Weekly starred review 16 April, 2012
“British author Antony Beevor is a master of military history, and particularly at depicting the most crucial battles between Germany and the Soviet Union in World War II. His Stalingrad, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson History Prize, and the Hawthornden Prize, and The Fall of Berlin 1945, are filled with vivid details. In his new book, The Second World War, Beevor widens his focus and surveys the entire war” The Daily Beast
“Antony Beevor makes the reader believe in the impossible: that he could write a history of magisterial authority about the greatest war of modern times and do justice to the global reach of that war” The Washington Times
“eevor has demonstrated that he understands precisely how to balance meticulous research with captivating prose... His book is the definitive history. This is World War II as Tolstoy would have described it - the great and the small.” Gerard DeGroot in the Washington Post
“Beevor’s forte as a military historian is that he manifests such a wide range of historical sympathy and historical imagination. But none of it comes at the expense of his special expertise in tools of the trade in which he briefly served as a young man. Instead, every page is imbued with the sense that this man really knows what he is talking about – that he knows war is a brutal and degrading experience, albeit with comradeship as a compensating human value and with some potential for military prowess to alleviate the scale of suffering…. Beevor’s human and logistical capacities, in combination, inform the gripping accounts of some of the great set-piece confrontations that determined the outcome of the war….All these engagements show Beevor in his mastery. . . Where Beevor speaks with the authority of his own thirty years in writing about the war in Europe, his judgement commands particular respect” The New Republic
“Beevor has delivered an epic, brilliantly researched work on the defining event of the 20th century… his new research and his pitch-perfect narrative represent a truly astonishing display of art and craft… This book, which crowns Beevor’s distinguished and bestselling career, is one of the nonfiction events of the decade and for this reader, is by far the best nonfiction of 2012 to date” Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“A gruelling but gripping account . . . Beevor’s trademark – which he has deployed in previous books like Stalingrad and D-Day – is the use of eyewitness testimony to deliver haunting particulars . . . another of the book’s virtues is it clear-sightedness on military issues” New York Times
“It is his world view of the conflict and the vastness of his scope that separates him from so many others. You see it clearly in his perfectly thought out “whys”.” Buffalo News
“Narratives of the war have more and more revealed its political ambiguities and moral complexities. Few authors have contributed more to this process of rethinking than the British military historian Antony Beevor. . . anecdotes and quotations make Beevor’s account incomparably vivid. . . Antony Beevor’s magnificently readable book” Richard Evans in the New York Review of Books
“Beevor has become the premier modern historian of the World War II era. What makes this book stand out, beyond its magisterial grasp of global strategy and politics, is the leavening presence of ordinary people – soldiers and civilians, Holocaust victims, Londoners during the Blitz and peasants in Ukraine. They weave in and out of these many pages” The European Institute
“With engaging prose and a remarkable ability to clarify and simplify massive and complex events, Beevor has once again demonstrated why he is a preeminent historian on the subject… the book is essential reading for anyone seeking to learn more about World War II and its consequences…[it] is always captivating and informative. Beevor covers the broad sweep of grand strategy and the poignant details of ordinary people living through the greatest conflagration the world has known.It is hard to imagine how he will ever top this masterpiece of historical scholarship” Army Magazine
“I finished Antony Beevor’s majestic The Second World War last night. I immediately poured myself a drink. Beevor’s book is a great look at how we think about “good” and “evil”.” Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic
“Beevor’s forte as a military historian is that he manifests such a wide range of historical sympathy and historical imagination. But none of it comes at the expense of his special expertise in tools of the trade in which he briefly served as a young man. Instead, every page is imbued with the sense that this man really knows what he is talking about—that he knows war is a brutal and degrading experience, albeit with comradeship as a compensating human value and with some potential for military prowess to alleviate the scale of suffering. Beevor’s human and logistical capacities, in combination, inform the gripping accounts of some of the great set-piece confrontations that determined the outcome of the war. All these engagements show Beevor in his mastery. It is to his credit that he devotes so much attention to the parallel developments in the Asian theater, where Japan proved fully as stubborn in the throes of defeat as its Nazi ally. Beevor draws on much recent research, notably in offering some extenuation of the difficulties faced by Chiang Kai-shek in mobilizing Chinese resistance. Here his achievement is to provide a good, clear, and fair working synthesis” Peter Clarke in The New Republic
“Ever present is Beevor’s skill in blending the strategizing of military chiefs with the ordinary soldiers they ordered about. . . Few will match his masterly overview, and no one will be unmoved by the ordeals and achievements that he so powerfully describes” Globe and Mail
“Beevor’s exceptionally powerful book. . . an absorbing, unsparingly lucid work of military history” Weekend Australian
“Riveting, edifying stuff from a great war historian” Brisbane News
“This is a very good book, and it should be read by anyone who wishes to get a grip on the major outscrops of the war. . . This book should be read for the elegance of its prose and for the judicious nature of its conclusions” Robin Prior in the Australian Book Review
“The result is history writ large, an accessible clarity of thought and expression, and for any general reader wanting a definitive summary of the Second World War – who did what to whom, when and why – then there is no need to look further. . . Hideous detail and a grand narrative of carnage combine to produce probably the most comprehensive and objective an account of the war as we are likely to read” Weekend Bookworm ABC
New Zealand
“The best book Beevor has written, and one that marks him out as a historian of note. . . I found myself hooked and read avidly on. Beevor has the gift of making the big picture understandable, using a wealth of personal vignettes. This chronological account of the war encompasses every theatre and ranges from the highest-level decision-making to the soldier, sailor and airman at the sharp end. . . The Second World War explains the complex jigsaw very well indeed. It certainly stands out from the raft of recent one-volume histories of World War II. For an overview of this war, Beevor is an essential starting point” The New Zealand Listener
“Il s’agit ici, admirablement maitrisée, d’une imbrication d’affrontements à travers le monde. . . Le récit, porté par une narration puissante, allie l’intelligence de la synthèse et la richesse de témoignages concrets. Cette fresque est, en tout point, remarquable” Le Journal de Dimanche
“Un récit global, intelligible et renouvelé. . . un livre magistral” Marianne
“L’historien Antony Beevor n’a pas des millions de lecteurs par hasard. Chacun de ses livres, fruit de recherches minutieuses, allie esprit de synthèse et sens du détail qui fait mouche” Le Figaro Littéraire
“Incroyable, grâce à Antony Beevor, on en apprend encore sur le conflit majeur du XXe siècle, dans ce nouvel ouvrage du maître. . . Antony Beevor, en déployant l’exceptionnel talent de conteur qui a fait de Stalingrad, de la Chute de Berlin et de D-Day des best-sellers internationaux, réunit ici les éléments disparates de la patite histoire pour composer la mosaïque de la Grande Histoire telle qu’elle ne nous est jamais apparue, chaque élément prenant la place qui lui revient réellement. . . En peignant cette fresque aux proportions proprement héroïques, Antony Beevor ne perd jamais de vue le destin individuel des militaires et dea civils dont les vies furent broyées par les forces titanesques” France Info
“Le grand talent de l’auteur est de combiner le détail qui fait sens à l’art de la synthèse qui met en perspective. Il réussit ainsi avec brio à rendre dans toute leur complexité les diversions du conflit. . . Volontiers provocateur, il aime à rappeler que “l’histoire est une branche de la littérature et non pas des sciences, comme le prétendent les Allemands”. Cela explique l’immense succès – mérité – de ses livres. Celui-ci est du très grand Beevor” Marc Semo in Libération
“Antony Beevor es el historiador militar de referencia en nuestro tiempo. . . El “estilo Beevor” alcanza rasgos de virtuosismo en la evocación del ambiente que se respiraba en ciudades en crisis” ABC
“La II Guerra Mundial es una fuente infinita de historias y horrores” El País
“Antony Beevor es uno de los grandes nombres del género porque su estilo es atractivo y al mismo tiempo de una seriedad apabullante” La Razon
“El resultado es una historia narrativa en su máxima expresión, empleando una diversidad sin precedentes de personajes y una inusual fluidez en el relato . . . las páginas se saturan de una conciencia moral donde el dolor ajeno se siente como propio. . . La historia de Beevor juega a favor del ser humano, conmueve su atención ante las masas que sufren en silencio” La Vanguardia
“En definitiva, el famoso historiador traza sobre el mayor conflicto que ha existido en el planeta un completo y ponderado compendio, muy precisa en sus cifras, que se lee con placer y que contempla las últimas novedades” Historia y Vida
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United Kingdom Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Phoenix
United States Little Brown
Holland Ambo-Anthos
France Calmann-Levy
Finland WSOY
Germany C.Bertelsmann
Norway Cappelen-Damm
Denmark Lindhardt & Ringhof
Spain Pasado y Presente
Portugal Bertrand Editora
Sweden Historiska Media
Estonia Tanapaev
Poland Znak
Italy Rizzoli
Japan Hakusuisha
China Hainan
Korea Geulhangari
Serbia and Montenegro Laguna Publishing
Hungary Gold
Brazil Record
Russia Azbooka-Atticus
Israel Yedioth Ahronoth
India (Marathi) Mehta Publishing
Roumania RAO
Greece Govostis