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World War II History Book Review

“Cry Havoc” by Joseph Maiolo
Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War, 1931-1941 Review
by John Witek (October 26, 2010)

Book Title: Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War, 1931-1941
Author: Joseph Maiolo
Publisher: Basic Books/Perseus Books Group
Length: 473 pages (paperback)
Price: $35.00
Release Date: 09/28/2010
Reading rating: 5 (1 = very difficult; 10 = very easy)
Overall rating: 5 (1 = average; 5 = outstanding)

“From Arms Race to WWII”

Joseph Maiolo has taken a topic long discussed—the origins of World
War Two—and produced a fascinating, well-researched and,
surprisingly, innovative study. No mean feat for an area of history so
well-picked over and examined by scholars and interested amateurs World War II History
for decades.
We at World War II
Maiolo, lecturer of the department of war studies, King’s College, History are dedicated to
London, has produced a painstakingly researched history that
preserving the past for
examines the ways in which political, economic and diplomatic
future generations. We are
decisions followed a specific dynamic to bring the major powers of the
world to the cataclysm of total war. Never losing sight of the fact that,
home to thousands of
―…[what] made a great European conflict inevitable was that Hitler photographs, articles, and
was determined to wage one,‖ he nonetheless demonstrates how the real life stories about the
international arms race that began following the First World War Greatest War.
produced its own logic which made the Second, if not inevitable,
nearly so.

Maiolo takes on the conventional wisdom that has seen the origins of
the war solely in terms of the western democracies’ failure to rearm against fascism, particularly against a
resurgent and bellicose Germany under National Socialism. He complicates this easy reading by examining
the reality of rearmament in various nations from numerous perspectives to argue that far more was going
on than simply the hoodwinking of naïve ―appeasers‖ by ruthless and unscrupulous dictators.

Among the many strengths of his narrative style is his ability to bring a diverse cast of characters to life.
Figures such as Stalin and Molotov, Hitler and Ribbentrop appear, of course, but Maiolo produces the
context in which these men moved and which constrained or enabled them in the choices and decisions
they could make. He is also skilled at highlighting lesser-known figures and showing their importance. My
own knowledge of Japanese internal politics is rudimentary but Maiolo was able to deftly sketch the
tensions between the ―Total War‖ faction of Suzuki, Nagata and Ishiwara and their opponents. I appreciated
his skill at using an apt quote or an illuminating episode to draw out larger points. In lesser hands, the
diplomatic and economic history might have turned leaden, with Maiolo I was fascinated.

By showing the background of domestic politics and economic reality against which the diplomats and
military figures moved, Maiolo convincingly establishes the realm of the possible and shows where forces
larger than a single individual impinged to produce an unexpected or undesired result. As Maiolo points out,
―Hitler did not get the big war against the Soviet Union…that he originally wanted….he provoked one
against France and Britain.‖

I recommend this book to anyone looking to explore the causes of World War Two, particularly if you’re
looking for something that may challenge your preconceptions.

Book synopsis: An examination of the international arms race that began in the aftermath of the First World About the Reviewer: John
War and which determined the course of the Second. A masterful narrative of the impersonal forces that Witek is a member of the World
often lie behind historical events that is extensively researched and persuasively argued.
War II History Review Team.
He is the son of a merchant
marine sailor and is widely read
on the Second World War. At
the University of Notre Dame
he studied English, Irish History
World War II History (http://wwarii.com) | Release Date: Oct. 26, 2010 and Literature.
Contact: Steven Terjeson – reviews@wwarii.com