All Against All: The Long Winter of 1933 and the Origins of the Second World War, Paul Jankowski Profile £20
I don’t want to give this work a bad review, because I suspect it just isn’t written for me. But All Against All is an unrelenting tsunami of facts which totally overwhelmed me. At no point could I pick out an underlying narrative or ideological point. According to the dust jacket, the book tells the story of the global political scene from November 1932 to April 1933 when a number of currents combined to tip the world into a grim spiral that led to the Second World War.
The author claims “it was the collective mentalities and popular beliefs that sent nations on the path to war as much as any rational calculus called ‘national interest’.” Various political arenas are covered and there is some interesting stuff on the development of Japanese imperialism in the period following the First World War, as well as the role and contradictions of the League of Nations. But you have to work at it.
I felt like I was having to hold my hands over my ears and squint to pick out a thread from the blizzard of facts being hurled at me. I bailed out after reading a reference to Ramsey MacDonald’s “increasingly mystical reveries”. Maybe Jankowski explains what he means later, but I didn’t get there. I imagine a fair few specialist academics being delighted to find this book under their Christmas trees, but not the general reader.