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Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919
Mike Wallace
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The Lost Founding Father: John Quincy Adams and the Transformation of American Politics
William J. Cooper Jr.

Describing one front of an expanded conflict

The Allies Strike Back, 1941-1943 - James Holland

The second volume of James Holland's three-volume history of the "the war in the West" begins where the first one, The Rise of Germany leaves off, with Germany launching Operation Barbarossa, their massive invasion of the Soviet Union. It's a fitting starting point, as it means an adjustment to Holland's coverage of the war. Holland's series is best described as "the war the British waged against Germany," as it concentrates against the campaigns waged by Britain and her allies against the Nazi regime. This made the first volume a straightforward account of the main theaters of the war in Europe from September 1939 to June 1941, which covered all of the key events involving the major combatants.

 

Though the focus of Holland's coverage remains the same, the parameters of his subject have changed in this volume. The opening of the Eastern Front heralded a widening of the war, with Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union followed less than six months later by Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and their conquest of the European colonies in Southeast Asia. To his credit, Holland does not neglect this, as throughout the text he acknowledges how the developments in these theaters impacted the Western campaigns. Yet even by addressing events in those theaters in passing only there are points at which Holland's narrative seems on the verge of slipping from his control, as the sheer scope of what he is covering -- which includes the campaigns in North Africa, the Atlantic, and in the skies of western and central Europe, as well as the economic context of the war effort -- often forces him to bounce around to address developments in multiple theaters. To his credit, Holland manages to stay on top of it, yet the disjointedness of his narrative compared to the previous volume is more evident.

 

Nevertheless, this shouldn't overshadow the overall merits of Holland's book. Overall he maintains the high quality of description and deft interweaving of analysis with personal narratives that capture the individual experiences of a vast war. That he will conclude his series in the third volume while offering the same degree of detail as he did about the North Africa campaign for the invasions of Sicily, Italy, and France, as well as the increasing bombing campaign and its collective toll upon Germany is an open question, yet one the answer to which I already look forward to reading.