Twelve Turning Points of the Second World War


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P. M. H. Bell

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A fresh exploration of the Second World War through twelve key events that shaped the conflict

The Battle of Britain. Pearl Harbor. Stalingrad. D-Day. These defining events of the Second World War exemplify both the immense heroism and the grievous costs of global conflict. They are the tense, thrilling moments that had the potential to swing the war in favor of either side and in turn change the course of history. In this gripping new look at the twentieth century's most crucial conflict, historian P. M. H. Bell analyzes twelve unique turning points that determined the character and the ultimate outcome of the Second World War.

Be they military campaigns, economic actions, or diplomatic summits, Bell's twelve turning points span the full breadth of the war, from the home front to the front line. Many are familiar—Barbarossa and Hiroshima among them—while sections on war production, the Atlantic convoy system, and the conferences at Tehran and Yalta emphasize the importance of the combatants' actions off the battlefield. Through these keenly narrated episodes, Bell reveals how the Allied and Axis powers achieved their greatest successes and stumbled into their strategic failures, inviting us to think about the Second World War in a fresh, stimulating way. Ultimately, his close study of these dozen turning points reminds us, often terrifyingly, how easily things might have turned out differently.

P. M. H. Bell was Reader in history at the University of Liverpool and is the author of many books, including The Origins of the Second World War in Europe. He lives in Surrey, England.

"The author’s greatest virtue [is] his keen and frequently articulated sense that, at any vital moment, things might easily have turned out differently."—World War II Magazine

“Philip Bell provides a sharp depth of writing that conveys the detail required in an engaging and informative manner about a multi-faceted conflict that still grips our attention even after all these years.”—Leslie J M Obre, History Teaching Review

"Through a sharp focus on a number of key episodes, Philip Bell's lucid and fascinating analysis is able to highlight the uncertainties of the Second World War, and show that its outcome was at many points less predictable than we often presume."—Ian Kershaw

"Crammed full of appropriate facts from impartial and impeccable sources, Philip Bell's masterful Twelve Turning Points of the Second World War is an important book for all military and political historians, and should be a recommended read for every English-speaking school sixth form."—Patrick Delaforce, author of The Rhine Endeavour and Invasion of the Third Reich

"As in all of his books, Professor Bell's Twelve Turning Points manages to combine vast knowledge, erudite argumentation, and smooth writing in equal measure. The result is that rare bird: a scholarly book that should appeal to a broad audience, from professors to the undergraduates they teach, and from experts to buffs. Along the way, he does something I regarded as impossible: restore the credibility of the most abused concept in the military historical canon, the “turning point.” By defining the turning point as an event representing “decisive or important change,” and rejecting the notion of an allegedly magic moment that transformed defeat into victory (or vise versa), Bell has written one of the most sensible books to appear on the war in years. Of course, your list of turning points may diverge from Bell's, but one senses that he wouldn't mind a bit, as long as he has made you think about the topic and a new and interesting way. It is another of the virtues of this very valuable book." - Robert M. Citino, Military History Center, University of North Texas

An erudite analysis of the Second World War drawing on a mass of archival material -- Frontline (India)

This is really a collection of essays which asks readers to think again...Even those who would disagree with Prof. Bell's reference to the UK 'bankruptcy' in 1945 would accept that the arguments put forward here are a refreshing adjustment to views too readily accepted -- T.B.

“…readers will be grateful to Bell for interweaving his explanations with fascinating anecdotes and for sustaining throughout each chapter a crisp and highly accessible prose. Few historians have mastered the details of key junctures of the war to the degree to which Bell has.”—George Esenwein, European Quarterly 
ISBN: 9780300187700
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
288 pages, 5 7/8 x 9
20 b/w illus. + 5 maps