The Second World War: A People's History

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Oxford University Press, 2001 - World War, 1939-1945 - 270 pages
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The Second World War surpassed all previous wars in the sheer cost of many millions of lives, most of them civilian. It left a world reeling from physical destruction on a scale never experienced till then, and from the psychological traumas of loss, of imprisonment and genocide, andpermanent exile from home.In this short, uncompromising book, Joanna Bourke, whose work on people's physical and emotional experience of war has been widely acclaimed and influential, turns an unblinking eye on the events and outcomes in the vast number of places in which the War was fought: throughout Western and CentralEurope, on the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union, in the Pacific, in Africa, in Asia. She shows where the strategic decisions came from and how they were implemented, but she also shows, through diary entries and recorded oral history, how ordinary people felt when they witnessed or heard ofevents, from the declaration of war on the radio to the mass murders carried out by Nazi soldiers in Russian villages. But she is even-handed in her choice of witnesses; the moral repugnance of the Nazi regime and its objectives is clear, but so too is the fear of those caught up in events beyondtheir control, whatever side they are on.This, like Joanna Bourke's previous book, is revisionist history: in the course of a miraculously concise account of the Second World War, it tallies the cost to humanity--and the different attitudes of various participating nations--of a war which by the time it ended had changed the world beyondrecognition, to one which had to come to terms with the realities of mass destruction. In a breathtaking sweep she covers the reasons why the war happened; the major theatres of war around the world; resistance; collaboration; persecution and genocide, including the Holocaust; and the ways thatmemory and myth have evolved since the end of the war.

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The Declaration of War in Europe
Occupied Europe

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About the author (2001)

Joanna Bourke is a professor of history at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her most recent book is the hugely acclaimed An Intimate History of Killing, published in 1999 by Granta in the UK and Basic Books in the US, of which Elaine Showalter said: 'a stunning achievement and amasterpiece of revisionist history'.

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