Sunday, May 29, 2022

Blood and Ruins: The Last Imperial War, 1931-1945 (Richard Overy)

The years before and after World War II marked a major change in political power in the world. Empires rose in the run-up to conflict and fell violently during it; other longstanding empires in Europe teetered and eventually weakened dramatically as colonies in Africa and Asia declared their independence. The 1930’s and 1940’s were a period of tumult, captured brilliantly by Richard Overy in Blood and Ruins: The Last Imperial War, 1931-1945.

Overy recasts World War II as a longer conflict, starting in 1931 with Japanese aggression into China, continuing through the 1930’s as Italy and Germany both tried to expand their territory, seeking room to grow, power, and influence. The author’s exhaustive work focuses more than on the military costs of conflict, getting into the economic and civilian impact in great detail. Blood and Ruins covers World War II from both the Pacific, European, and North African theaters of conflict, including details on the violent behavior of many soldiers as conflict raged over Eastern Europe.

There are many, many, many books on World War II, covering specific battles, politicians, or military figures. However, Blood and Ruins is a great work that summarizes a dramatic and climatic war that changed so much of our history. The author does a wonderful job breaking down the battles, the causes, and the effects at a level that readers can easily digest. Coming in at nearly 900 pages, it is a lengthy read that is light on pictures and heavy on detail. However, for fans of history and individuals who study military conflict, this is a must-read book.