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World War II was much more than battles, statistics, politics, and opinions. The things that contributed to its beginning, what happened during the war, and the effects of the war are still being debated and discussed. Patrick Finney assembles some of the best writings for a number of subjects relating to World War II. First the reader is introduced to the basic views, where they originated, and why they are still discussed today. The truth is, even fifty years after the end of the war, it is still very much part of our lives.
Finney's first collection of readings are written on the subject of what contributes to the war. Two of the authors have very different opinions on Chamberlain, and they focus on his actions preluding the war. There is also an writing describing the French during this period, and finally there are two authors whom debate about the state of Germany at this time. After the conditions of Great Britian, France, and Germany have been addressed, Finney explains the goals, economics, strategies, and policies of the countries that contributed to the breakout of war. The last section addresses the topics of the Spanish Civil War and its effects on World War II, what happened at Munich and how it effected Hitler in the long run, the strategies and policies regarding a German attack on Poland, and finally the major points of the war and the post-war effects.
The selection of essays and writings were excellent for supporting the theme Finney was aspiring to fulfill. His goal in writing was to represent the major powers World War II and keep the attention balanced between all of the involved countries.
The credibility of the writers involved in this book appeared to be very good. Simply by listing their credentials in Finney's commentaries, one can assume that they are respectable. Most of the authors have written extensively on the topic that Finney publishes in his book, therefore you know that they researched more than what was written in Finney's book. Since most of Finney's commentary consisted of interpretations and explanations of the readings that would follow, there was not a great deal of facts to be misrepresented by Finney himself.
The commentaries were a excellent was to start off the readings. Finney provided an understanding of what the writer was going to say, not only in support of what they were going to say, but also provided some comments on opposing opinions.
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Although the commentaries that Finney provided were unbiased and contained great content, they could be confusing to a reader inexperienced in World War II politics and language. For example, on page 117 he said that "Knox does not find the notion of equidistance persuasive." There is no context that allows the reader to determine what that means, and the definition of "equidistant" does not make sense when applied. There are a number of situations where a reader can be easily confused by Finney's use of words and unexplained backgrounds.
The book as a whole explained a minimal amount of information regarding actual actions and facts, and focused on controversial topics. This method keeps the interest of someone that has a solid understanding of what happened in the years preceding World War II. The writings Finney chose for his book were largely concentrated on evaluating countries and people. This could easily provide a reader that is new to World War II with being convinced that the opinion of the essay is the only opinion.
By writing a book that has a large number of different writings from different authors, there is enough written by an author to give you a complete picture, but not enough to drag out a topic. This is by far much better than history books and essays that provide so much detail about a single issue. One example of where this is useful is in the discussion of Chamberlain by Dilks and Aster. Finney explains the backgrounds of these two writers so that the reader knows what type of background they have. It is not necessary for the reader to know as much about Chamberlain as the writer does, and Finney's method of giving two perspectives helps a reader to form their own ideas and conclusions.
Another example of where varying writings is utilized is the debate between Mason and Overy. Although the debate format took away some of the focus on simply explaining and idea and giving facts to back them up, they were still able to get their point across. The varying formats of writing styles also sustained the readers attention more than simply reading the same author with same format for 450 pages.
As well as the book was put together, there is only a small audience that would benefit from it. Some of the writers in the book do a great job of making an unbiased opinion, and Finney is among this group. The other writers are wasting more of your time than needed if you are not already fluent in World War II history. The most useful information is simply explaining what happened in history, and letting the audience conclude why. However, for supplemental reading for those that have become familiar with the history of World War II, this book will provide at least some information that was overlooked. For someone to use this book as a way of learning the origin, or cause of World War II, there are better books out there.