Rather than the customary overview of battles and casualties, this new series concentrates on the reasons and events leading up to five prominent United States wars. Excellent information young researchers would find difficult to locate at this reading level is presented clearly and attractively on glossy stock with colorful photos, insets, and typefaces. The three titles reviewed here (Causes of the American Revolution, Causes of the Civil War, Causes of World War II) begin with brief biographies and thumbnail photos of prominent people of the period, followed by six short chapters filled with succinct, interesting information.
The first chapters begin with a brief nod to the opening volley of the war, immediately flashing back to the initial seeds of the conflict and working forward to the last chapter, a quick overview of the war itself. . . . Excellent timelines and various levels of resources and thorough indexing follow the text. Altogether, great descriptions at generally fairly low reading levels illuminate the complex, often convoluted, reasons usually oversimplified in explaining warfare. Recommended.
óLibrary Media Connection, on Causes of the American Revolution, Causes of the Civil War, and Causes of World War II. (March 2006)
The rationale for starting a war is often emotionally charged, confusing, and complex. Centuries of animosity, distrust, greed, and hate are part of the reasons why humans wage war against each other. In many instances, years of religious and political repression explode with devastating and lasting consequences. This new series attempts to dissect the underlying causes of five major wars, including the Civil War, World War I, and the Revolutionary War.
Racial prejudice fueled by ages-old conflicts led to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and became the catalyst for the beginning of World War I. Long-held resentments from World War I, increasing nationalism, and racial pride saw the rise in power of the tyrant Adolf Hitler prior to the beginning of World War II. Thirty years later in Iraq, the equally oppressive and cruel Saddam Hussein sought power and wealth by overthrowing the government and attempting to wipe out entire groups of ethnic minorities. Eventually the United States stepped in and played a major role in each of these wars.
This series is presented in clear, detailed, and precise language, making it an excellent source for middle and junior high school students. Plenty of primary documents in the form of maps, photographs, posters, and political cartoons expand the material. Each book has a list of relevant people and their impact on a specific war. High school students will use the series as a starting point to their research. The authors include a very help suggested bibliography for older students and Internet resources.
---VOYA, on Causes of World War II and Causes of the Iraq War. This review appeared in the February 2006 issue.
"Road to War: Causes of Conflict" is a new five volume series
from OTTN Publishers that provides young readers in grades four through six
with an informed, informative, and thoroughly "kid friendly" introduction into
events that led up to the American Revolution, the American Civil War, America's
involvement in World Wars I and II, and our current participation in the on-going
Iraqi conflict. Each 64-page book is profusely illustrated with color photography,
maps, and illustrations. Available in either a hardcover ($22.95 each) or a
paperback ($12.95) edition, each volume is specifically and professionally
written to engage even the most "reader reluctant" student as it provides a
focused survey and explanation of the underlying reasons for how each of these
major conflicts got started--including the personalities and events associated
with each specific military conflict. Especially recommended for grade school
and home schooling curriculum supplemental American History reading lists for
children, the five volumes comprising this outstanding series include Causes
Of The American Revolution (1595560017); Causes Of The Civil War (1595560025); Causes
Of World War I (1595560017); Causes Of World War II (1595560041);
and Causes Of The Iraq War (1595560092).
--Midwest Book Review, on the Road to War series. (See the review in its original context at http://www.midwestbookreview.com/cbw/sep_05.htm.
One of five new titles in the "Road To War" series, which covers wars involving the United States, this book begins in the thick of military conflict in the most recent war in Iraq and then backtracks to share meaningful events that led to war. Overall topic treatment is even-handed, offering not only convincing arguments for what led political leaders to choose war, but also emphasizing several citizens' and international groups who oppose it. The large print will appeal to middle-grade readers, while the sentence structure and vocabulary also makes this a fine selection for older middle-schoolers. Thick glossy pages enhance emotionally charged color photographs of the world leaders, soldiers, and some Iraqi citizens who fell victim to the violence. Appended material includes a Notable Figures biographical list, glossary, and webliography.
--Booklist, on Causes of the Iraq War. This review appeared in the October 15, 2005, issue.
The "Road to War: Causes of Conflict" series from OTTN Publishing features outstanding titles that introduce young readers in grades 4 through 6 to the causes of five American wars over the last two hundred years that saw significant American involvement. This outstanding series includes: Causes of the American Revolution (1595560017, $22.95), Causes of the Civil War (1595560025, $22.95), Causes of World War I (1595560033, $22.95), Causes of World War II (1595560041, $22.95), and Causes of the Iraq War (1595560092, $22.95). Each title presents a truly in-depth survey of the reasons for America's involvement in these conflicts along with an articulate explanation of events and concepts. The fourth grade reading level texts are enhanced with more than 25 color photographs, illustrations, and maps. . . . The sturdy library binding of the hard cover edition is recommended for school and library collections.
--Children's Bookwatch, on the Road to War series. See the review in its original context at http://www.midwestbookreview.com/cbw/nov_05.htm.
Causes of the Iraq War describes in detail the history of Iraq and the specific events leading up to the Iraq War. The writing is fluid and presents an objective view of the situation, allowing the readers to come to their own conclusion about the United States' involvement in the war. Several maps illustrate how colonialism influenced the world in the early 20th century and how the Middle East was divided into French and British areas after World War I. Color photos of the major leaders and an explanation of their viewpoints, such as Powell's emphasis on diplomacy and economic sanctions and Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and Cheney's preemptive war policy which violated the United Nations charter, are discussed. This is a must buy for the clarity of the presentation. Highly Recommended.
--Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium-ROYAL
Often, in hindsight, people say "if only we hadn't..." or "if only we had listened..." or "if only we had paid attention..." This is certainly true of World War II for if people had realized how humiliated, angry and impoverished Germany was because of what was demanded of them by the Treaty of Versailles, it is likely that they may have managed things differently. Perhaps the Europeans might have demanded less and therefore Hitler might have not had such fertile ground in which to plant the seeds for his infamous Third Reich. As it was, when World War I ended and for many years afterwards Germany was crippled by the reparation payments that she was expected to give her former enemies. In a climate where the people were angry and feeling vengeful, Hitler brilliantly maneuvered himself into power.
On the other side of the world Japan realized that its old policy of complete isolationism was no longer an option and she began to flex her industrial muscles creating trading relationships with other nations and becoming a world power. The old ways of thinking were hard to eliminate though and there was a powerful group of Japanese leaders and soldiers who felt that the Japanese were still a superior race and that there was nothing wrong with acquiring additional resources at the expense of the Chinese and the Russians. In fact they felt that Japan had every right to take over as much territory as she wished, wherever she wished.
This "Road to War: Causes of Conflict" book perfectly captures the atmosphere that existed in Europe and in the Far East in the years preceding World War II. The reader is able to understand why the Germans and Japanese struck out at their neighbors and why too it took so long for the allies to respond to these aggressive acts.
--Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review, on Causes of World War II. (See the review in its original context at http://www.lookingglassreview.com/Children_s_book_reviews_non-fiction.html
When England's seven-year war with France was finally over in 1760, England was in financial trouble and the answer to the problem seemed to lie across the ocean in the country for which the war was fought. After all England had fought to defend their North American colonies and therefore those same colonies should help foot the bill in the form of taxes. The American colonists however did not agree with this point of view. Why should they be taxed by a Parliament where they had no voice or vote? This was "taxation without representation" pure and simple, and many Americans were not willing to accept such treatment.
The more forceful the English became about enforcing the taxes and collecting the revenues, the more belligerent the Americans became. What the English did not realize was that they were stirring up a hornets nest and once it was stirred up there was no telling what the consequences were going to be. Certainly England and her posturing king did not expect the Americans to fight, and even more certainly they did not expect the Americans to win this conflict.
Clearly and simply written, this is an excellent account of the events that led up to the American Revolutionary War. It is even possible to see how a conflict might have been avoided if the two sides had been able to talk to one another in a reasonable fashion. It gives the story an interesting aspect when one wonders what life today might have been like if there hadn't been an American Revolution.
--Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Review, on Causes of the American Revolution. (See the review in its original context at http://www.lookingglassreview.com/Children_s_book_reviews_non-fiction.html )
This is a concisely written, interesting look at the road to the American Revolution. Much attention is focused on having the reader understand the background and underlying causes of the war. The paper is slick and bright and the photographs add much to the text. Sixteen notable figures have a paragraph devoted to them at the opening of the book. Glossary words are in bold print and there is a list of book for students and a list for older readers. There is also a two- page chronology. Twenty-three dollars is an investment, but this book will be used. (Recommended)
--ROYAL-Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium, on Causes of the American Revolution.
This book gives a easy to understand overview of the history
of the diverse forces that were at work in the culture of the United States
that eventually led to the Civil War. The book is really visually appealing.
Eleven notable figures are introduced at the beginning of the book. Bold print
words are found in the glossary and a two-page chronology is provides. A reading
list for Students and one for Older Readers is also provided along with websites.
A useful addition to any collection.
--ROYAL-Greater Cincinnati Library Consortium, on Causes of the Civil War.
A comprehensive chronology of the events leading up to the Iraq War
The first thing to understand is that we really do not have a historical perspective on the "Causes of the Iraq War" the way we do the American Revolution, Civil War, World War I and World War II, which are the other volumes in The Road to War: Causes of Conflict. George W. Bush is still in the White House and except for Colin Powell all of the members of the Bush administration listed among the Notable Figures at the start of Jim Gallagher's book still hold their positions. What these figures will say after they are out of office, when they start writing their memoirs, will provide information and insights that historians will find interesting. Then there is what might come out during the trial of Saddam Hussein, and while I think it is safe to say that few people expect any weapons of mass destruction to be found, you have to assume there are key things that are not known to the general public and the future historians of the Gulf War.
Gallagher begins with "A Deadline for War," with Bush's ultimatum for Saddam to step down, based on the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq a "final opportunity" to disarm. Saddam agreed to comply with UNSCOM inspections, but when initial reports indicated this was not the case, Bush declared Saddam's time had run out and 90-minutes after the deadline had passed, the Iraq War began. The next chapter, "Colonialism, Nationalism, and Oil," looks at the root causes for the Iraq War (and the Gulf War), coming back to when the Ottoman Empire took control of Mesopotamia. What is fascinating here is how Kuwait remained an emirate, since eventually so much oil would be discovered underneath it; if Kuwait had always been a part of Iraq, how different would recent history have been? This chapter does a good job of detailing the complex relationship between Iraq and Kuwait over the centuries.
The third chapter, "Rising Tensions in the Gulf," focuses on how the rise of the Baath Party in Iraq and Iran becoming an Islamic republic led to the Iran-Iraq War. Gallagher explains how the aftermath of the war led Saddam to invade Kuwait. The Gulf War is covered in the next chapter, "The World Responds," as well as the aftermath with the conditions the U.N. Security Council set for peace, which included ordering Iraq to get rid of its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. What happens here is not so much an explanation of the causes, but a rather comprehensive chronology of events for a book aimed at this age group.
The fifth chapter reveals the key causes of the Iraq War in its title, "The Threat of WMD." This is not a claim that Iraq had WMDs, but rather that in the context of September 11th, the "war on terrorism," and the invasion of Afghanistan, the threat of Iraq acquiring them warranted taking action. The key sentence in this chapter talks about how key players in the administration "argued that a preemptive war launched to prevent a future attack could be considered self-defense, rather than a war of aggression." This becomes the central element of the Bush Doctrine. When the National Security Advisor and the director of the CIA were declaring publicly that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, young readers can see how war became inevitable. Again, Gallagher details the chronology of events that led step by step to Bush's ultimatum and the start of the Iraq War.
The final chapter is entitled "The Occupation of Iraq," not just because the Iraq War only lasted five weeks, but because the occupation has proven to be much more dangerous. In this chapter Gallagher critiques the official justifications for the war, that Iraq had WMDs and links to terrorists, and finds both to be weak. He does grant that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant, and teachers and students alike should go back and read this book again in light of these revelations to consider again the causes that had been laid out to make their own judgments as to what really caused the war. The information provided here, just in terms of laying out all of the events that led up to the Iraq War, is the most impressive part of the book and hopefully students will appreciate the level of detail because it does allow them to make up their own minds about this ongoing controversy (which will certainly not end after long after the occupation, for which there is currently no real end in sight). Since these events served as the basis for the current U.S. foreign policy, knowing about them is important for any decision regarding continuing, changing, or abandoning the Bush Doctrine, which is going to be the key political debate for the foreseeable future.
The back of the book includes a Glossary of terms from "autonomous" to "weapons of mass destruction," which appear in bold type in the text. There are to lists of books for Further Reading, one for Students and the other for Older Readers, to go along with Internet Resources that can be checked out as well (with descriptions of what you will find there and who runs the site). The book is illustrated with color photographs and maps, including images you may well have seen on the television or in magazines (which also makes this book seem like it is not yet a history book). Hopefully this series will be continued, with volumes devoted to other wars throughout history. Obviously there are more wars in which the United States has fought (e.g., War of 1812, Spanish-American War, Vietnam War), but there is no reason that this series cannot be expanded to include other conflicts as well (e.g., the 100 Years War, the Crimean War, the Six-Day War, etc.).
--Lawrance M. Bernabo, for Amazon.com (See the review in its original context at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1595560092/qid=1133535106/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-7414388-0740604?n=507846&s=books&v=glance )
World War I was caused by more than the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand
One on the one hand most people who read about history know that the cause of World War I was the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. That "Incident in Sarajevo" is indeed where John Ziff begins "Causes of World War I," and the cover of this volume in The Road to War: Causes of Conflict series has a picture of the assassination on the top of its cover, with the Kaiser shown with a drawn sword below. But once setting the stage for the assassination, Ziff starts looking at the conspiracy that was involved and the political issues that generated it, as well as the specific circumstances by which Ferdinand and his wife were shot and killed. The assassination sent in motion a chain of events that led to World War I, which requires Ziff to go back and establish what was in place at that point.
The second chapter details "European Harmony: The Great Illusion," explains how the lack of war on the continent for two generation since the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) was not a sign that that the 20th century would be one of peace. Of course, we have the vantage point of hindsight to know how wrong Norman Angell was in his 1910 book, "The Great Illusion," although his argument about economic interdependency can be seen as predicting the Common Market, which has succeeded where the League of Nations did not. The establishment of the Prussian Empire was seen as representing German unification, but once the internal situation was set in Germany the Kaiser moved on to territorial ambitions. "Rivals for Power" sets up the coming conflict as being not between Prussia and France again, but rather between Germany and the British Empire, although France's global interests would come into play as well. The building tensions resulted in what Ziff labels a tangle of alliances, and the key in this chapter is looking at how the Russo-Japanese War and a series of crises in Morocco moved Europe towards a major war.
Having laid out the groundwork, Ziff now continues with the chain of events that happened after the assassination in "July 1914." The assassination, known as "the match that lit the fuse," and the Austria-Hungary ultimatum to Serbia led to not only the first declaration of war but also those that followed. However, I found it interesting when Ziff explains how Germany and Russia both wanted to keep the conflict to just Austria-Hungary and Serbia. The strength of this book is how Ziff starts with what everybody knows in terms of the assassination, then goes back to set up the players and their positions so that he can work out the chain of events in the wake of Ferdinand's death. The works well for instructing young students on the various causes of World War I, just like the title promises. The final chapter looks at "The Great War," reducing the world war to a couple of pages and just a general look at what happened. Ziff touches on the aftermath of the war as well, where I find it telling that he ends with the Treaty of Versailles rather than the League of Nations, since it was the former that was more important in leading to the next world war.
In the front of the book there is a list of Notable Figures from Leopold von Berchtold to Wilhelm II, all of who are European (i.e., no mention of Woodrow Wilson). In the back of the book there is a chronology that starts with Prussia defeating Austrian in the Sven Weeks' War of 1866 and ends with Great Britain declaring war on Germany in 1914. Ziff also provides a Glossary of terms from "annex" to "ultimatum," and a list of Further Reading that is divided into Books for Students (e.g., Christine Hatt's "World War I, 1914-1918") and Books for Older Readers (e.g., Barbara W. Tuchman, "The Guns of August"). The book is illustrated with historic photographs (including Ferdinand and Sophie minutes before they were killed) and paintings to go along with maps and propaganda posters. Young students should compare what the map of Eastern Europe looked like then with not only how it looks now, but before and after World War II as well, to have a sense for how the names of countries changes while the ethnic tensions remained.
--Lawrance M. Bernabo, for Amazon.com (See the review in its original context at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1595560033/qid=1133537048/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-7414388-0740604?n=507846&s=books&v=glance )
An excellent distilling of the causes of the American Civil War for young students...
I was teaching a course on the history of public address that involved a section of speeches devoted to the Civil War. This includes not only Abraham Lincoln's "A House Divided" (1858), "First Inaugural Address" (1861), "The Gettysburg Address" (1863), and "Second Inaugural Address" (1865), but also Frederick Douglass's "What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?" (1852) and Robert Toombs, "On Secession" (1861). Even though the speech collection that I was using had annotated copies of these speeches, I wanted my students to really understand the political situation that Lincoln and the others were responding to in their orations. I ended up doing a lecture on the history of slavery, beginning with the arrival of the first slaves in the American colonies and detailing each crisis and the major court cases and Congressional compromises. The idea was to set up the seeds for the conflict, showing how the political need to keep the number of free and slaves states balanced was running into geographical limitations with regards to the growing of cotton as the United States pushed beyond the Mississippi River. Consequently, I know what a book entitled "Causes of the Civil War" should cover.
James F. Epperson begins with a list of the Notable Figures who will play key roles in the history that he relates in these pages. These includes not only Lincoln, his predecessor James Buchanan, and his opposite number Jefferson Davis, but also Senators John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Stephen A. Douglas, abolitionists John Brown and Harriet Beecher Stowe, the slaves Nat Turner and Dred Scott, and Chief Justice Roger Taney. By highlighting these individuals before the historical narrative Epperson indicates that his thin volume is covering all three branches of government and their respective roles in the coming storm. The book is illustrated with maps and photographs, most of the latter coming from the Library of Congress and National Archives, which lend the proper air of authenticity.
The specific causes of the Civil War are covered in six chapters: (1) Seeds of Conflict begins with Fort Sumter being shelled and then goes back to the establishment of slavery in America. The debate at the Constitutional Convention over slavery, the Northwest Ordinance, the Missouri Compromise, the Nullification crisis, and the Nat Turner rebellion all set the stage for the last great act of compromise. (2) The Compromise of 1850 covers how the territory acquired from Mexico as a result of the Mexican War, and the attempt to pass the Wilmot Proviso, made the question of how California would enter the Union of critical importance. Epperson then details exactly how the Great Compromise came about. (3) Bleeding Kansas is the next eruption after four years of sectional peace, by which point Stowe had published "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the violence entered the chamber of the U.S. Senate. Kansas did not receive statehood until 1861, but the issue spurred the creation of the Republican Party.
The fact that there is not another compromise forthcoming makes it clear the war is inevitable at this point, it is just a question of when. Epperson underscores that with (4) Deepening Divisions, where the Dred Scott decision and the Lincoln-Douglas debates make slavery THE only political issue on the agenda. (5) The Election of 1860 explains the great irony, that the split in the Democratic Party gave Lincoln and the Republicans the White House as a result of the 4-way race. Lincoln's election led to (6) Secession and War, with the Southern states making good on their threat, which they did not do in 1850 over the admission of California to the Union. By this last chapter the focus in no longer on the general causes, but rather the specific situation that make Fort Sumter the final crisis that sparked the war. Granted, pretty much everything here can be found in a solid American history textbook, but Epperson has the advantage of clearing the field of everything else. There is nothing in this book that is not related to the topic of the title. The back of "Causes of the Civil War" includes a Chronology of key events from 1787 to 1861, including Eli Whitney patenting the cotton gin. This is followed by a Glossary of terms from "abolition" to "unconstitutional," and a list of Further Reading that is divided into books for students (e.g., Dale Anderson, "The Causes of the Civil War") and books for older readers (e.g., James McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom"). There are also Internet Resources and an Index. Other books in The Road to War: Causes of Conflict series look at the causes of the American Revolution, World War I, World War II, and the 1991 and 2003 Gulf Wars. Hopefully these other books are as solid as this one.
--Lawrance M. Bernabo, for Amazon.com (See the review in its original context at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1595560025/qid=1125665439/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/002-2045029-2292007?v=glance&s=books )
A concise look for young students at the specific causes of the American Revolution
Of the informative books in the Road to War: Causes of Conflict series, "Causes of the American Revolution" is the one that I had some second thoughts about before I even opened it. Part of the reason is because as the title indicates it is about the causes of the American Revolution rather than of the Revolutionary War, not that England was going to let the colonies go their own way. But I also remember studying American history every other year in grade school and never getting beyond the American Revolution. Since I think everybody had a similar educational experience my assumption was that Richard M. Strum's book would be covering ground that is already adequately dealt with in your standard history textbook.
Strum begins by introducing his young readers to sixteen Notable Figures, from John and Samuel Adams to George Washington. Included in the list are not only key Founding Fathers such as Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry, but also the British commander Thomas Gage and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend. I think the British side could be better represented, but when Strum includes John Dickinson and Isaac Sears in his roster I am impressed that he is clearly getting beyond the really big names. The book's first chapter is devoted to the events of April 19, 1775, namely the clash between British regulars and colonial minutemen on Lexington and Concord. Strum touches on the events that precipitated "the shot heard round the world," but that is only a prelude to the rest of the volume.
The second chapter looks at Britain's American Colonies in terms of why Englishmen came to the new world, what they found here, and the relationship that was established between the colonies and the crown. Although this begins with the importance of tobacco as a crop, it ends with Franklin's proposal for a "Grand Council," which was the first time the idea of the 13 separate colonies working together was advanced. The French and Indian War is the subject of the third chapter, and while it provides a superb and concise account of the war, the only key points that relate to the topic here is that Great Britain and France like to fight each other, and that getting the colonies to pay for this war was pivotal in setting the revolution in motion.
Overall the fourth chapter looking at Britain's Parliament vs. the Colonial Legislatures is the key one in the book as Strum looks at the series of acts and responses that went back and forth across the Atlantic, leading to the Growing Tensions detailed in the fifth chapter. This short chapter looks more specifically at the militant clashes between the two sides, whereas the previous chapter was concerned with legislation and political action. After the detailed look at the French and Indian War, Strum's treatment of The American War of Independence is extremely brief, boiling down the conflict to a few paragraphs. What is more important are the last few paragraphs where Strum makes the argument that the split was inevitable and emphasizes how the impact of what happened extended well beyond North America, inspiring directly or indirectly the revolutions that followed and established republican governments throughout the world.
"Causes of the American Revolution" does a good job of detailing the key events that led to this particular war, although I also think that the importance of these chapters to advancing that thesis are somewhat uneven as noted above. It is a great looking book, taking advantage of Independence National Historical Park and the Architect of the Capitol as resources. In the back of the book teachers and young students will find a Chronology of key events from the establishment of Jamestown in 1607 to the Treaty of Paris formally ending the American Revolution in 1783. A two-page Glossary defines key terms from "cash crop" to "tidewater," while the next spread lists books for not only students (e.g., Janis Herbert's "The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities") but also older readers (e.g., Gordon S. Wood, "The American Revolution: A History") suitable for Further Reading, and several Internet Resources as well.
--Lawrance M. Bernabo, for Amazon.com (See the review in its original context at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/159556005X/qid=1125665303/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-2045029-2292007?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 )
Explaining to young students not only the causes but the steps that led to World War II
World War II officially began when the forces of Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. Britain and France both declared war on the Axis powers and the conflict quickly engulfed not only Europe but also Asia, where Japan had already invaded China. Even countries that wanted to remain neutral, such as the United States and the Soviet Union, ended up being attacked as well. By the time World War II ended six years later, some 55 million people had lost their lives.
This volume in the Road to War: Causes of Conflict series looks at the "Cause of World War II." Author Jim Corrigan seeks to explain not only why Germany invaded Poland, but how Japanese imperialism led to armed expansion as well. These books also begin by introducing the Notable Figures who play key roles on the road to war, and Corrigan offers a short list of big names: Chamberlain, Churchill, Hirohito, Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt, Stalin and Wilson. This underscores how few world leaders were actually involved in causing the war, which is certainly as true now as it was then, but also an unsettling idea in any time period.
After Corrigan's first chapter looks at the Invasion of Poland, the second is devoted to the Uneasy Peace that existed following World War I. The emphasis here is on how the key seeds for World War II were sown in the Treaty of Versailles, in which Britain and France sought to punish Germany. The $33 billion in reparations the Germans were order to pay created an environment in which fascism could rise and flourish. The U.S. Congress refused to ratify the treaty and the United States never became a member of the League of Nations, but Corrigan neither argues nor implies that our presence would have prevented the war. He looks at what was happening with Mussolini in Italy as much as covers the rise of Hitler in Germany, but the Nazis are clearly more important in causing a global war.
Chapter 3 looks at Imperial Japan and forces Corrigan to shift his focus entirely since it is the decision to end their enforced isolationism and not World War I. The question is whether Japan could have sparked a world war by itself, although a conflict with the United States was probably unavoidable given their territorial ambitions. But then Japan's alliance with Germany and Italy so that their opponents would have to fight in both hemispheres while the Axis nations fought in one, certainly facilitates the world war.
The rest of the book looks at how the causes established in the previous two chapters lead step by step to the start of the war. Chapter 4, Global Despair, throws the Great Depression into the mix and examines how Nazi aggression was not only directed at other nations but essentially against the German people as well, as Hitler cultivated national loyalty. Chapter 5, Slipping Into War, compares how appeasement allowed Hitler to make the first military move while U.S. resistance to Japan's ambitions moved both nations closer to war. The final chapter, World Conflict, completes the story of the road to Pearl Harbor and then talks about what happened in World War II in general terms.
Ultimately, "Causes of World War II" looks at not only the root causes of the conflict but the specific steps that led to the invasion of Poland and the attack on Pearl Harbor respectively. This is an important distinction worth making and understanding, because Corrigan makes it clear that while these causes lead to World War II, they did not need to. That means that how the causal situations were exploited, mainly by Hitler, becomes critical in the road to war. Otherwise you are left to conclude that the war and the 55 million dead that resulted were inevitable and even though a different leader did not rise in Germany I still want to be open to the possibility that individuals make a difference in the course of human events. I also want to think that is the point of the Road to War: Causes of Conflict series, whose other volumes look at the causes of the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, and the 1991 and 2003 Gulf Wars.
--Lawrance M. Bernabo, for Amazon.com (See the review in its original context at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1595560041/qid=1125666852/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/002-2045029-2292007?v=glance&s=books )