Since I recently completed my comprehensive exams, this list is best viewed as an amalgam of favourites from my fields and books that mesh with my particular research interests. A minor disclaimer: My attempt at witty commentary may make it seem like I am the office cut-up here at LCMSDS, but I can assure you, with his finicky t-shirts and unrelenting sarcasm, Geoff Keelan takes that title (he also stole one of my book recommendations!). Terry can vouch for me on that one. Incidentally, as I wrote this blog, my inner monologue seemed to take on the tenor and cadence of a John Cleese sketch, so at least I have that going for me, right? (P.S., don’t mention the war).
Zara Steiner, The Triumph of the Dark: European International History, 1933-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
Zara Steiner’s The Triumph of the Dark is a must-have for anyone interested in the history of European international relations. It’s big – 1248 pages big – it’s detailed, and it doubles as a blunt object to bludgeon contemptibles with in the event of a burglary. Notwithstanding its dual utility, this book, much like the first volume, does an admirable job of synthesizing the key historical controversies of 1930s international affairs. Buy both hardcover volumes as a set to double your holiday season home protection and knowledge of inter-war Europe!
Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (Penguin, 2007).
Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Destruction is arguably the most comprehensive economic history of Hitler’s Germany to date. I know what you’re thinking, but here’s the real astonishing thing: it’s not mind-numbingly boring! This book critiques Nazi economic policy in a compelling and accessible narrative. Tooze brilliantly exposes the shaky foundations of German rearmament throughout the 1930s and Hitler’s frequently irrational, ideologically motivated economic decision-making during the height of the war.
James Pitsula, For All We Have and Are: Regina and the Experience of the Great War (Winnipeg:University of Manitoba Press, 2008).
For All We Have and Are by James Pitsula is a case study of Regina’s home front experience during the First World War. We tend to forget that there was a home front – yes, really, there was – in Canadian military historiography, so this is certainly a welcome addition to the literature. Pitsula does a wonderful job of connecting the local experience of war to national events, and at times, events on the front lines as well. Historians interested in the ethnic divisions (outside of Quebec) intensified by the war will be particularly interested in reading about the tensions between local patriots and Regina’s German population.
Adrian Gregory, The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Adrian Gregory’s account of Britain in the First World War is a must-read for any historian interested in home front studies and the politics of memory. In this widely researched book Gregory tackles what he sees as the myth of ‘war enthusiasm’ in 1914, illuminates the social crises on the home front at the height of the war, and outlines how the myth of collective grief and universal sacrifice was employed to cover up the legacy of these wartime tensions. Those familiar with works of historians like Joanna Bourke and Jay Winter will not be surprised at many of Gregory’s conclusions, but The Last Great War is nonetheless a well-conceived synthesis of current revisionist research on Britain’s involvement in the First World War. In one respect the book fails miserably: from my recollection of it, I can say nothing facetious about its content. A regretful shortcoming, I know.
Thomas Childers, Soldier From the War Returning: The Greatest Generation’s Troubled Homecoming from World War II (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009).
A certain Professor Emeritus and director of some research institute with an unnecessarily long name already covered what was supposed to be my fifth recommendation, so here’s the runner up! In my MA I had the pleasure of reading Thomas Childers’ account of returned American veterans of the Second World War. This is not a work that perpetuates the myth of ‘The Greatest Generation’, rather, it is a case-study of the post-war challenges several veterans and their families faced in adjusting to peacetime. Not surprisingly – although you’d scarcely know it from post-war historiography – veterans of the Second War faced the challenges of unemployment, housing shortages, and long-term emotional and mental trauma. The reader is left with a deep impression that the terrible legacies of the ‘Good War’ were carried with these men for the remainder of their lives.
I hope you have found this seasonal book recommendation blog – and the series as a whole – both entertaining and informative. If you didn’t, please feel free to forward all complaints to [email protected] Caitlin will be happy to send you a prearranged, formulaic holiday season apology e-card*. Happy holidays to everyone!
*Note: E-card may not actually exist.