In This Review

A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II
A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II
By Gerhard L. Weinberg
1178 pp, Cambridge University Press, 1994

Writers of puffs and press releases have devalued the term magisterial, which is a pity, because this remarkable volume deserves it. Weinberg, the author of a profound two-volume study of Nazi foreign policy and many other works on World War II, has written an outstanding history of the greatest war in history. In somber and powerful prose he lays out the origins, course and consequence of the war in a way that will benefit even those quite familiar with the struggles of 1939-45. Understandably, perhaps, he pays greater attention to the European than the Asian theater, but in both cases he combines compelling politico-strategic narrative with astringent analysis. His treatment of the foreign policy of the main (and some of the minor) contenders is superb; so are his discussions of the strategic failings of the German military in a war whose blunders are often attributed solely to Hitler. Although fellow historians will quarrel with certain interpretations and matters of emphasis, many years will pass before any of them write a better book. Two practical drawbacks bear mentioning: the number and quality of maps is wanting, and its unwieldiness is a disservice to readers. A two-volume set should have been the vehicle.