After…I dunno, like eleven years, I’ve finally finished reading The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s (amazon | indigo) by Piers Brendon. I picked it up along with Richard Evans’ The Coming Of The Third Reich (which I talked about in February) to help make sense of the interwar period and run-up to WWII, just as I had read The Guns of August to set up WWI.
Where Evans wrote a micro look at how the Nazis came to power in Germany, this book was the macro history of the rise of dictatorships in Italy, Spain and Russia, and of imperial militarism in Japan. It also chronicled the weakness, hesitation and indifference of France, Great Britain and the United States. There wasn’t much information here that was new for me, but Brendon managed to artfully tie together all the moving parts, giving a greater sense of the rise of fascism in the 30s around the world. Highly recommended if you’ve always wondered, as I did, how the world came to such a conflagration.
Now, as I did when delving into the first war, I’ll turn to my uncle’s book A Short History of WWII to understand the events of the war itself. I’ve read the book twice before, but if following this same pattern for WWII has the same effect on my understanding that it did for WWI, I’ll have a better grasp of what the battles meant. If, as von Clausewitz said, “War is a continuation of policy by other means,” I’ll have a better grasp of what the policy was in the first place.