The battle for history Refighting World War Two

John Keegan, 1934-

Book - 1996

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New York : Vintage Books 1996.
Main Author
John Keegan, 1934- (-)
1st Vintage Books ed
Physical Description
128 p.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Choice Review

Keegan has rightly been hailed as one of the most distinguished 20th-century military historians. Unfortunately, his recent historiographical essay on WW II is somewhat disappointing. Given the vast number of books on that conflict one would expect an extensive treatment, but Keegan's book is thin indeed--barely more than 100 pages. More often than not, Keegan does not explain the relative qualities of the various monographs on a subject, content instead to list his favorite; this is not "re-fighting." Many of the books he praises are now rather outdated, and he ignores some of the more valuable recent titles. The topics not covered are equally glaring: Keegan writes almost nothing on the Holocaust, the roles played by women, or propaganda. Editorial and spelling errors lend an impression that the book was hurriedly produced, perhaps to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the end of WW II. But that is precisely when a plethora of new books has appeared, few of which are incorporated into this essay. Nonetheless, Kegan's judgments are generally sound, and perhaps a future edition could remedy some of these flaws. All levels. C. R. Jackson University of California at Berkeley

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Following the past year's outpouring of histories concomitant with the war's semicentennial, Keegan offers a bibliographic essay on the conflict. The format would seem to militate against any but specialized interest; however, Keegan, a military historian nonpareil (e.g., A History of Warfare, 1993), allays all doubts. The reason is twofold: he unwaveringly holds in view the war's open controversies and the necessity that they "never, never" be written off without remembrance that war is a fatal tragedy; and he recalls the best books distilled from his lifetime of studying and teaching the subject. It is surprising that he believes the history of the war has yet to be written, excluding the three books currently credited with the honor--his own The Second World War, Gilbert's same-titled work, and Weinberg's A World at Arms. At any rate, through a rigorous, fluid encapsulation of the war, this essay guides the next century's historian who reaches for the accolade, while pointing students less ambitious toward the finest available books. --Gilbert Taylor

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

While there are some astute observations about the nature of historical writing here, The Battle for History is essentially a lengthy bibliography. In sections discussing general histories and biographies as well as books on campaigns, military intelligence and technology, and occupation and resistance, Keegan, a premier military historian, evaluates the books he has found most helpful and notes where work has yet to be done, as, for example, in the inner workings of the Japanese high command, Stalin as a war leader and the German-Polish war in 1939. He also looks at the evolving perspective (much aided by hindsight) on issues such as whether Britain should have sued for peace after the fall of France and whether blanket bombing was effective. Keegan never claims to be complete, and he is not-such perennial favorites as Harrison Salisbury's Nine Hundred Days, William Manchester's The Last Lion and Goodbye, Darkness aren't here, nor is Keegan's own important The Second World War. Some readers will find his choices quirky, for while he doesn't mention Joachim Fests's worthy Hitler, he does give credit to insights in David Irving's Hitler's War (prefaced by ample warning about Irving's own far right tendencies). There are also resources along the lines of Hitler's 74 war directives, or Führerweisungen, which general readers won't locate easily. Ultimately, this will be of most help to amateurs of WWII who want to contextualize and expand their knowledge. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

In this slim but not slight volume, noted military historian Keegan (The Second World War, LJ 11/1/89) offers a masterly overview of World War II. An introductory chapter presents such still-controversial issues as Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union and the effectiveness of strategic bombing, followed by surveys of general histories, biographies, campaigns, planning and logistics, and resistance. Each survey discusses major works in the field and suggests gaps remaining to be filled. Readers are unlikely to agree with all of Keegan's positions. His relative praise of David Irving's scholarship, for example, is debatable. On the whole, however, Keegan's work is the best brief introduction to the literature on the war in any language. It will be particularly useful for students from secondary to graduate levels; highly recommended for general purchase.-Dennis E. Showalter, Colorado Coll., Colorado Springs (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.