Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941

Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941

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by Ian Kershaw
     
 

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The newest immensely original undertaking from the historian who gave us the defining two-volume portrait of Hitler, Fateful Choices puts Ian Kershaw's analytical and storytelling gifts on dazzling display. From May 1940 to December 1941, the leaders of the world's six major powers made a series of related decisions that determined the final outcome of World

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Overview

The newest immensely original undertaking from the historian who gave us the defining two-volume portrait of Hitler, Fateful Choices puts Ian Kershaw's analytical and storytelling gifts on dazzling display. From May 1940 to December 1941, the leaders of the world's six major powers made a series of related decisions that determined the final outcome of World War II and shaped the course of human destiny. As the author examines the connected stories of these profound choices, he restores a sense of drama and contingency to this pivotal moment, producing one of the freshest, most important books on World War II in years-one with powerful contemporary relevance.

Editorial Reviews

Vince Rinehart
…ambitious history of the war's most important decisions…searching, careful—sometimes pedantic—analysis, drawing on a wealth of primary sources and bibliography, detailed in copious endnotes and a list of works cited. Kershaw, the author of Making Friends with Hitler and an acclaimed two-volume biography of the dictator, writes with deep command of his material, weaving together the consequences that each decision had on those that followed.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Tracing the thought processes behind crucial turning points in WWII's most crucial 19 months, Kershaw, the author of a major biography of Hitler and professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield, reminds us that nothing in that titanic struggle was predetermined. Events might have run a very different course had Great Britain decided to negotiate peace with Hitler in June 1940, or if Japan had attacked the Soviet Union from the east as Germany invaded from the west in June 1941. Kershaw shows that Germany's war on two fronts and Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor, though ultimately disastrous for those countries, were the results of chains of reasoning based on political and military goals, however despicable. Though the author makes deep, intelligent use of archival materials, he provides little new information. Rather, his analysis focuses on the structure of decision making and its consequences. Kershaw depicts Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union as severely hampered by one man giving the orders, getting input only from subordinates too fearful to say anything he didn't want to hear. The slower democratic process enabled many voices to be heard and better informed judgments to be made by Churchill and Roosevelt. This subtext adds a note of hope to a text depicting one of humanity's darkest periods. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Six leaders (Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Mussolini, and Tojo), 19 months, and ten decisions, from Britain's determination that it would fight on after the fall of France to Hitler's implementation of the Final Solution. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The world's leaders pave the path to war-and to the rest of a war-ridden century-in this insightful interpretation of recent history. World War II, "the most awful in history," and the postwar era largely took shape in decisions made between May 1940 and December 1941, argues Kershaw (Hitler, 2000, etc.), who outlines the ten most important of them. Adolf Hitler made three of them: to attack the Soviet Union, to declare war on the U.S. and to launch the Holocaust. In the matter of the first, Kershaw suggests that Hitler may have boxed himself in: Ideology and strategy combined to require an effort to do away with Stalin's regime quickly so that the Third Reich could expand southward and face the U.S., which was sure to land in Europe someday. Even though it got Moscow in its sights, Hitler's Russian campaign failed as Napoleon's had, thanks in some measure to the brutal winter. But Hitler would forever blame another of the ten decisions Kershaw outlines, namely Benito Mussolini's supremely misguided ploy to invade Greece, which resulted in one of many Italian defeats. Hitler asserted that "but for the difficulties created for us by the Italians and their idiotic campaign in Greece . . . I should have attacked Russia a few weeks earlier." Hitler's two-front war was threatening and massive enough that one of England's key decisions was simply that of continuing to fight on rather than sue for peace, while one of those made by FDR was to carry on a sort-of-war without congressional approval until he could overcome his isolationist opposition-a political feat not really possible until Japan made one of its key decisions, that of launching the surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet at PearlHarbor. Kershaw blends an understanding of the blunt-force turning points of history with an appreciation for missed opportunities. Of much interest to students of the modern era. Agent: Andrew Wylie/Wylie Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143113720
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/27/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
672
Sales rank:
663,344
Product dimensions:
8.34(w) x 5.36(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Tony Judt
Without ever slipping into the fanciful 'what ifs' and whimsical self-indulgence that usually characterize histories of 'turning points', Ian Kershaw has produced a marvelously suggestive book. He writes, as always, with such quiet confidence that you are happy to place your trust in his interpretation of even the most controversial material. And he manages to narrate what happened, suggest what might have happened - and illustrate just why it didn't - so subtly that the reader never feels misled or teased. An absolutely first-rate scholarly study of a series of vital, inter-related political choices by one of the leading historians of the age. (Tony Judt, author of Postwar)

Meet the Author

Ian Kershaw,author of The End, Fateful Choices,and Making Friends with Hitler,is a British historian of twentieth-century Germany noted for his monumental biographies of Adolf Hitler. In 2002 he received his knighthood for Services to History. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, of the Royal Historical Society, of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung in Bonn.

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Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940-1941 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
British historian Ian Kershaw uses his talents and reputation to great effect in 'Fateful Choices,' in which he examines ten key decisions made by the major world leaders between May of 1940 (Churchill and his War Cabinet decide to fight on) and December of 1941 (Hitler decides to wipe out Europe's Jews). These decisions affected the course of World War II, and the world we live in today. Kershaw painstakingly examined archives and libraries worldwide to get into the choices made by the leaders of Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy, the Soviet Union, and the United States. By presenting them as these leaders would have viewed it, Kershaw focused the reader on what was apparent from the particular leaders in the particular time, rather than on what other leaders were thinking or on 'what if' speculating. This is a volume that deserves reading by anyone interested in the history of the 20th Century, including World War II. This was my first experience with Kershaw's work, but it won't be the last.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm always on the lookout for  new perspective on subjects as extensively researched and discussed as WWII. Kershaw provides it. And creates a compelling and dramatic narrative in the process. It's fascinating to think how many world-changing choices were made in so short a span.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago