The Origins of the Second World War – AJP Taylor

I bought this book when I did my history A-level as a mature student, picked out the bits I wanted to quote in the essay I was writing and then stuck it on the shelf and forgot about it.  I picked it up whilst looking for another book to lend to someone and decided to actually read it.

It’s always interesting to read a history book that is also history.  I find it much easier to spot the angle the author is coming from and it’s no secret that AJP Taylor came from a very left-wing perspective, almost naively so from a modern stand-point.  It’s also interesting to note where there are gaps in knowledge that we have filled since Communist archives have opened up to western historians.  For me it is these two perspectives that really date this book.

I enjoyed getting a different perspective about the inter-wat years in Europe and a different viewpoint on the political situation between Britain, France, Italy and Germany, particularly the relationships between the various governments. It was also interesting to consider the alternatives Taylor considers were available to those leaders had there been the political will to find another way.  I suspect a lot of this boils down to hindsight although Taylor liver through the inter-war years so he must have had some idea of what would and wouldn’t have been acceptable to the general populace of Britain.

This was an easy and interesting read but it is, ultimately, a book that has been overtaken by more modern history books written by authors who have a greater breadth of source material available to them.

Click here to find out more about AJP Taylor

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