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The Second World War

A Short History

R. A. C. Parker

Publication Date - March 2002

ISBN: 9780192802071

352 pages

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $19.95

A compact but comprehensive overview of the Second World War in one readable volume


From the rise of the Nazi party, through the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to the ultimate defeat of the Axis nations and the first chills of the Cold War, The Second World War: A Short History offers a completely comprehensive overview of the Second World War in one readable, compact volume. Alastair Parker deftly explores the causes of the war and why it lasted so long, how it was won and lost, and its consequences for humanity.
The author traces the key events in both the European and Far Eastern theaters, outlining the strategies of the participants and the strengths and weaknesses of their fighting forces. Parker conveys a vivid picture of the features that distinguished the Second World War from any war that preceded it, including mobile warfare, widespread forced migration, the Holocaust, and strategic and nuclear bombing. Unlike many other histories of the war, this short history places the British and European involvement squarely in an international perspective, never shying away from raising difficult and fundamental questions about this monumental conflict.
The Second World War presents an unprecedented short history, offering a sweeping survey of events that omits none of the drama that filled the years between 1939 and 1945. With intriguing photographs and a number of helpful maps, it is a fascinating and objective look at the central struggle of our times.


  • Covers both the European and Far East wars
  • A balanced view of the causes and courses of the Second World War.
  • A manageable, authoritative treatment of military, diplomatic, and economic aspects of World War II.
  • A modest-sized yet absorbing history of the years between 1939 and 1945

About the Author(s)

R. A. C. Parker is a Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford.


Review from previous edition: "Based on a matchless knowledge of the documents, he provides an authoritative treatment of military, diplomatic, and economic aspects, written with great force and insight. As a one-volume survey, it is unlikely to be surpassed...[A] magnificent achievement, a tour de force."--Kenneth O. Morgan, New Statesman and Society

"[A] miracle of compression compared with the rest of the horde of general histories."--Guardian

"Parker alights unerringly on the salient campaigns and issues, and considers them with consistent style and insight."--Times Educational Supplement

"The most balanced view of the causes and courses of the Second World War."--Field Marshal Lord Carver, Times Literary Supplement

"[W]ritten in clear and elegant English...[A] masterful account of the Second World War in all its different spheres. It is scrupulously fair, illuminated by an engaging sense of humour...and gives an entirely balanced view of the varying contributions of the different powers engaged."--Richard Cobb, The Spectator

"The Second World War...[is] at once succinct and thorough, sharp and nuanced....[It] puts the conflict in the widest context surveying its political, diplomatic, demographic, and economic ramifications....In addition to its other virtues, this trenchant, elegant survey contains the most lucid summation...of the Nazis' murder of the European Jews."--The Atlantic Monthly

Table of Contents

    List of Plates
    List of Maps
    1. Hitler, Germany, and the origins of the European war
    2. German conquest of Poland, Norway, the Low Countries, and France
    3. Britain alone
    4. Operation BARBAROSSA: the German attack on the Soviet Union
    5. The United States enters the war: the origins of the Japanese attack
    6. Japanese victories and disappointments: December 1941 to August 1942
    7. The end of German expansion: the Atlantic, North Africa, and Russia, 1942-1943
    8. Anglo-American strategies for victory
    9. Economies at war
    10. Strategic bombing
    11. Morale
    12. Driving back the Germans: North Africa, Italy, and Russia
    13. D-Day and victory in Europe
    14. The defeat of Japan and the atom bomb
    15. From war to peace: Anglo-American relations
    16. From alliance to Cold War: the Soviet Union and the West
    17. The impact of war: the murder of the European Jews
    18. The impact of war: casualties, crisis, and change
    Note on quotations
    Book list