Synopses & Reviews
In a mere nineteen months, from May 1940 to December 1941, the leaders of the world's six major powers made a series of related decisions that decided the course and outcome of World War II, cost the lives of millions, and profoundly shaped the course of human destiny from that point forward. How were these decisions made? What were the options facing these leaders as they saw them? What intelligence, right and wrong, did they have? What was the impact of personality, what that of larger forces? In a brilliant work with haunting contemporary relevance, Ian Kershaw tells the connected stories of these ten fateful decisions from the shifting perspectives of the protagonists, and in so doing rescues them from the sense of inevitability that now envelops them and restores to them a feeling of vivid drama and contingency-the feeling that things could have turned out very differently indeed. Each chapter follows the process of arriving at one decision, from the viewpoint of the leader who made it: Decision 1: May 1940. The British War Cabinet, driven by Churchill, agrees to fight on after the German blitzkrieg defeat of France, despite loud calls for negotiated settlement. Decision 2: Hitler decides to attack the Soviet Union. Decision 3: Japan decides to seize the Golden Opportunity and turn south, going after the colonial empires of the countries that have fallen to Hitler. Decision 4: Mussolini decides to join the war on Hitler's side to grab a share of the spoils. Decision 5: Roosevelt decides to lend a helping hand to England. Decision 6: Stalin decides he knows best and ignores all the clear signals that Germany is going to invade. Decision 7: Roosevelt decides to wage undeclared war.Decision 8: Japan decides to go to war against the United States. Decision 9: Hitler decides to declare war on the USA. Decision 10: Hitler decides to kill the Jews. Decision relates to subsequent decision, though never simply or necessarily as expected. The clash of personalities, the various weaknesses of the different political systems, the challenge of intelligence, the misdiagnosis of risk and possibility: all play their part. And after nineteen months, though much remained to be decided, the world's fate had been profoundly altered by these ten choices.
Superb . . . helps to further our understanding of this epic struggle as well as of the role of contingency in history.
The New York Times Book Review
The central achievement of Ian Kershaws latest book is to make new some bits of history you thought you already had a handle on. . . . Full of surprises.
San Francisco Chronicle
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.
An acclaimed historian re-creaties a dramatic sequence of ten decisions made by the leaders of the world's six major powers--Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Mussolini, and Tojo--that reshaped human destiny.
About the Author
Ian Kershaw is professor of modern history at the University of Sheffield. He is the author, most recently, of Making Friends with Hitler, which won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, and the two-volume biography Hitler 18891936: Hubris and Hitler 19361945: Nemesis. The first volume was short-listed for the Whitbread Biography Award and the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, while the second volume won the Wolfson Literary Award for History and the inaugural British Academy Prize.