The Second World War

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Sir Max Hastings
Other Publication Information
Hardcover, over 250 photos, color maps
Product / Stock #
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Front Cover

This is an excellent, well-written, beautifully illustrated book that provides a comprehensive overview of the WWII conflict at both a global and personal level. The hardcover book includes both color and B&W photos, and color illustrations that give a concise, but thorough, understanding of the strategies and decisions of the combatant nations.

Osprey’s Press release describes The Second World War as telling the stories of the men and women who lived and died during the second world war, from “politicians to factory workers, and from high command to the conscripted man on the front lines”. The experience of war is brought to life through a wealth of contemporary documentation, writings, and historical research while the political, military, and historical significance of the warriors are examined. The Second World War provides readers with a comprehensive, and yet very concise, history of the devastating events.

The book includes a forward by Sir Max Hastings and the text is written by nine historians. The individual contributions of the authors are not identified in the book.

  • David Horner
  • Robin Havers
  • Alastair Finlan
  • Mark J Grove
  • Philip D Grove
  • Paul Collier
  • Geoffrey Jukes
  • Russell Hart
  • Stephen A. Hart


In a well written forward Sir Max Hastings attempts to put in perspective the greatest conflict in human history, and it’s most exhaustively studied event. The vast collective issues of the Nazi Germany phenomenon have been extensively studied, but no one can explain how Germany institutionalized murder on a vast scale.

Hastings writes that the allies claimed the right to represent virtue in their campaign to liberate Europe, but this was complicated by the inclusion of the Soviet Union, which was responsible for killing many more innocent people than Nazi Germany.

The Forward provides an overview and interconnections of the military struggles in the various theaters of World War II, and some of the misguided decisions by Nazi Germany that led to it’s inevitable defeat.

The Forward helps to display the wider context of the political, military, and human complexities of the war that cannot be mastered by a single historian. The book uses several different authors, specialists in different aspects of the conflict, to discuss the global histories of the war.

Despite the global complexities of the conflict, the book attempts to comprehend the personal struggles of individual men and women during the second world war and their own “experiences, fears, and frail hopes”. Each of the book chapters describing the theaters of WWII include a story about the effects of the conflict on an individual person.


The Introduction provides a well written and easily read description of each of the major theaters of World War II. Each section is 2 to 5 pages long, provides some interesting photographs, maps, and a written description of the conflicts. The underlying causes, military movements, and impact of the conflict in each of the theaters is very briefly, but interestingly, discussed.


The book provides an interesting 15-page chronology of some of the significant events from 1938 through the end of the war in 1945. The chronology is an interesting read itself and a great resource.

Theater of War Chapters

The work includes six chapters, each 45 to 50 pages long, on the major theaters of World War 2. The individual authors of each chapter are not identified. Many photographs and color maps are used to illustrate the text in each of the chapters. The maps are typical of Osprey’s high-quality, informative, and clear maps.

  • Chapter 1: Northwest Europe, 1939-1943
  • Chapter 2: War at Sea
  • Chapter 3: The Mediterranean Theater
  • Chapter 4: The Pacific War
  • Chapter 5: The Eastern Front
  • Chapter 6: Northwest Europe, 1944-1945

Each of the six chapters generally follows the same format:

  • Warring Sides - describes the combatants and their strengths and capabilities.
  • Outbreak - a description of the forces that led to the start of war in each theater.
  • The Fighting - describes in some detail the military actions.
  • Portrait of a Soldier - describes an individual person involved in the war to bring the impact of the war down to a personal level.

Additional Chapters

  • Aftermath – Describes the ruins of Germany, new superpowers that emerge, and cost in lives at the war’s end.
  • Bibliography – Detailed list of references for further research.
  • Index – Comprehensive index of key words.


This is an awesome book! Informative, well-written, and beautifully illustrated. The Second World War is concise but still provides a though overview of WWII. The photos create a vivid picture to accompany the text, and the beautiful, informative maps are typical of Osprey’s high-quality illustrations. While not intended as a resource for modelers, there are many images that will inspire diorama and figure modelers. Excellent!

Many thanks to Osprey for publishing this wonderful book and for providing the review sample to IPMS.


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