Churchill and the Avoidable War will cost you the price of a cup of coffee. You can read it in a couple of nights. You may then decide if Churchill was right (or wrong) that World War II could have been prevented. Click on “Buy Now” under the book image at right on this page.
Here is an excellent survey of the key “what if” junctures where history could have taken a different turn. What I like about it especially is that it conscientiously steers away from any definitive pronouncements about one zig or zag making all the difference in preventing World War II. Time and again it rightly stresses our ignorance of what would have followed from one alternative action, and our foolish assumption that other things would have remained the same.
The main inference from this analysis, as in those of the American Civil War and World War I, is that all leaders operate within a narrow horizon and, like the rest of us, are steeped in ignorance. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”: I’m not sure about the forgiveness part (ISIS? Hitler? Stalin? Pol Pot? No thanks, Jesus). But the second part of that sentence is the single most profound statement about the human race.
I’ve touched on this before: if Hitler had been assassinated in 1937, he would have gone down in history as one of the greatest Germans. If assassinated in late 1941, before the tide began to turn, he would have gone down among Germans as a military genius. Horrible as it is to say or contemplate, it was necessary for him to stay around to the bitter end so that Germans could see what fools he made of them.
It’s a very nice job that raises serious historical questions. Langworth recognizes that there is no single plausible event or action that, if changed, could have prevented the Second World War. The operative quotation is, surprisingly, not from Churchill (though there many wonderful ones) but from Mark Twain, who once said: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” This book would be a first rate supplementary reading in a college course on World War II, one likely to stimulate lively discussions.
— Warren F. Kimball is Treat Professor of History at Rutgers University, editor of Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence, and several books on the two leaders including Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill and the Second World War.
A focused study of the years leading up to World War II, this well-researched, compact and compelling book utilizes a wide-range of sources to re-construct the political and military forces impending on Germany, Britain, France, Russia and the United States after WWI and throughout the 1930s. Yes, war was avoidable, if addressed in 1938, but as the author shows, “woulda, coulda shoulda” is not the same as the political courage required to lead the people to understand the stakes. Churchill clearly foretold the threat in numerous forums but lacked standing to substantially influence the British political process and public. In relying on paper treaties rather than available intelligence and common sense, nations were doomed to repeat the destruction of the European landscape once more. —Charles W. Crist