BookBrowse Reviews Warlords by Simon Berthon, Joanna Potts

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Warlords

An Extraordinary Re-Creation of World War II Through the Eyes and Minds of Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, And Stalin

by Simon Berthon, Joanna Potts

Warlords by Simon Berthon, Joanna Potts X
Warlords by Simon Berthon, Joanna Potts
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2006, 358 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2007, 384 pages

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World War II as seen through the eyes of its four great 'warlords'. History

From the book jacket: In a unique combination of innovative style and thorough scholarship, Warlords tells the story of World War II through the lives of the four great war leaders: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt. While their nations fought battles with weapons, the four warlords of the twentieth century fought a war of the mind. Structured along the lines of a cinematic thriller, rapidly cutting from one man to the next, the book takes us blow by blow as they try to out-think and outfight each other. These encounters are told on a day-by-day, even hour-by-hour basis, affording unparalleled insights into parallel actions.

Though there have been many single, and some dual, biographies, no previous book has put these four great figures together in this exciting and popularly appealing way. Moving from Whitehall and Washington to the Wolf's Lair and the Kremlin, Warlords documents the psychological battles among the leaders and shows how their thoughts and actions changed history.

Comment: The juxtaposition of the four story lines in Warlords, gleaned mainly from journals and eye-witness accounts, is fascinating. For example, as the focus moves from one leader to another, and back again, one feels the increasing pressure on Churchill and the British people as they hold out alone through two years of war, paralleled with Hitler's increasing frustration as to why the British won't behave reasonably and surrender! His conclusion was that Britain must have signed a secret treaty with the Russians, which caused him to turn on them, making an enemy of a former ally, and opening a second front.

The relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill is particularly fascinating. Today, they are usually portrayed as bosom-buddy allies, but the journal entries and eye-witness reports of the time portray a quite different relationship. In fact, it appears that Roosevelt considered Britain's imperial ambitions to be a greater threat than Stalin's, and considered Stalin the sort of person that he could do business with.

"The European people will simply have to endure Russian domination in the hope that, in ten or twenty years, the European influence will bring the Russians to become less barbarous"
- Roosevelt, speaking in 1942.

Time and again, Roosevelt leads Churchill to believe that the USA is ready to go into the war, only to back out again. Even the much vaunted Lend-Lease Act only provided 1% of Britain's weapons during the lonely year of 1941; and it took the Germans to declare war on the USA in December 1941 to eventually bring America into the war in Europe.

This review was originally published in April 2006, and has been updated for the April 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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