Friday, June 15, 2012
A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed keeping rabbits.
Public art or graffiti? Does it matter? In the lane-way off 99 Bathurst Street, Hobart. May 2012.
Here's a book review. The Battle for History: Re-fighting World War II, essentially an extended literature review on the subject by British military historian John Keegan. Give that well over half a century has passed since the end of World War II; it strikes many as surprising that historians are still struggling to define it. I’m not sure why people are all that surprised, given the infinite angles and interpretations that can be applied to the events of the period (especially when one considers the ways in which the world was irrevocably altered).
In assessing the general histories, Keegan manages to illustrate the extent to which our past – including how we think about it, interpret it and define it – dictates our present. Each chapter covers separate approaches to the topic, including overall histories of the war, biographies, distinct campaigns, the intelligence war, logistics, and resistance. The book opens with an overview and discussion of how some of the war's main controversies have influenced the histories (i.e. strategic bombing; the use of nuclear weapons on Japan; the Allies’ failure to act on knowledge of German death camps; the withholding of intelligence for broader strategic aims; and the realpolitik that occurs during wartime).
This isn’t the perfect text. It limits itself to English-language books, and (not unrelated) favours the European war at the expense of the Asian and African theatres. However, one can’t expect extensive analysis in a work of such brevity. Keegan has done an admirable job in summing up key issues and describing the merits of a wide range of standard works on the war. If you are in any way interested in the area, this is a great resource, even if you might disagree on some of the individual points.