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No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945
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No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939-1945

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  478 ratings  ·  51 reviews
One of the world?s leading historians re- examines World War II and its outcome

A clear-eyed reappraisal of World War II that offers new insight by reevaluating well-established facts and pointing out lesser-known ones, No Simple Victory asks readers to reconsider what they know about the war, and how that knowledge might be biased or incorrect. Norman Davies poses simple
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Paperback, 560 pages
Published August 26th 2008 by Penguin Books (first published 2006)
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M. D.  Hudson
I think I have had my fill of WWII revisionist history. Okay, already, the Soviets suffered more and fought more than all the other Allies put together. Davies “No Simple Victory” is all over that, and I found I learned a lot of stuff. And yet a day or two after reading it, I started getting cranky about it.

Well, first the good stuff. Davies is an Eastern European expert, and a pretty good marshaller of facts and figures. He uses a lot of easy-to-apprehend charts to keep the numbers (mostly dea
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Ed
For those who have read many books about the Eastern Front (Germany versus the Soviet Union), this book may have less surprises, but for those brought up on Saving Private Ryan, Hollywood WW2, most western histories of the war, and the Greatest Generation it may be a major eye opener. Davies clearly loves Poland (on which he has written the national accepted monumental history)and given its suffering, who can blame him. What he does bring into clear focus is the writing of history and the proble ...more
Ilya
This is an overview of the European Theater of World War II from a Polonocentric perspective. Every page I looked at has a claim that made me go: WTF? Sławomir Rawicz was not a fraud? Typical American GIs were of Italian and Polish descent? The Soviet Union annexed 14 independent countries including Uzbekistan, and set them up as Soviet republics? Vlasov's movement had a million men? Most (as opposed to some) POWs liberated by the Red Army were sent to the GULag? Well over 10 million Ukrainians ...more
PJ
Apr 02, 2007 PJ rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Buffs
I found this to be one of the most insightful books on the European Theatre of WWII. The book is well organized and really addresses topics that are not addressed in typical history classes. The book really paints a stark picture of the Russian contingent and how they were as barbaric as the Nazis before, during and after the war.
Roger Wagner
This is an attempt to assess the so-called "Good War" — an accurate overall history of which, according to Davies, has not yet been written (every participant nation tells the story centralizing their own role in the war and its outcome). Davies provides what he thinks should be an "outline" for such a comprehensive overview. WWII (Davies confines his discussion to the war in Europe), so often portrayed in America as a simple victory of "good" over "evil," is nowhere near that uncomplicated. You ...more
Gill
Davies here makes the case for the centrality of the Eastern Front in WWII in Europe and thus for the Soviet Union being the victor with the US, UK, and others playing a minor role.

This ahistorical and gross exaggeration is a useful corrective to the similar distorted view in the West that the US and UK were the decisive players and that the Soviet Union would never have been able to stand up to the Germans without them.

There are no certainties in alternative history so we can't know how WWII
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Peter

I find Norman Davies' history books both thought provoking and annoying.
He makes you reconsider what you think you know but he also writes as a vehicle for his opinions which can, unfortunately detract from the enjoyment of the former. One occasionally gets the impression of an axe being sharpened in between lines.
To extend the well known football metaphor 'this is a book of several halves'.

Its' basic premise is that the Second World War in Europe was a conflict between three ideologies and two
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Justin Evans
So, this was published in 2007, but smells of the '90s, when people apparently were shocked to learn that Stalin and his cronies were actually pretty evil. It'll teach you a lot about the war in Europe, especially if you know little about it, particularly the importance of the Eastern Front and the Red Army. There's no narrative, but the format, especially for the more social history type bits, is great: a page or two on important themes, with references if you want to read more.

I would go to f
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Marcus
Let's clarify one thing right from the start - "No Simple Victory" is not a traditional book about history of Second World War. Rather, it is a study of historiography of this period and an analysis of the reasons why this period is perceived in such different and often very warped way by different people, depending on their nationality, ethnicity and political background. Furthermore, Davies claims that if the history of Second World War was reviewed objectively, then historians wouldn't be abl ...more
Oleksiy Kononov
Davies's history of WWII in Europe will be a captivating reading for both western and eastern (ex-USSR and CEE) readers. The role of the Soviet Union in victory over the Nazis had indeed been underestimated in western historiography and pop-culture. On the other hand, I'd be interested to read more about the role of the Allies' supplies to the USSR. Even some Russian historians are starting to acknowledge the vital role of the Land Lease deliveries, especially in 1941-42. Unfortunately, Davies d ...more
Kate Sampsell-willmann
I question the validity of drawing meta-conclusions about good and evil when one's sample is intentionally incomplete. The Pacific cannot credibly be disconnected from the Atlantic when assessing which group did "more." In doing so, Davies sets up a very weak argument in assessing 3 ideologies. He includes the US as an equal source of ideology long before its ideologies became relevant to the war in Europe and thus commits the primary historical sin: presentism. The US emerges as the arsenal, th ...more
Ken Hernandez
I've never been a huge WWII buff but I've read my share of books and am conversant the basics, or I thought. I was never away of the huge part the USSR played in the allies winning WWII.
As an American growing up, my history school books where full of The Battle of Britain, D-Day, the western theater of the war. The pacific theater, Midway, Sea battles and battles for tiny little islands.
The Eastern theater was skimmed, half a chapter in passing.
The Eastern theater of WWII dwarfed anything that
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Stefan
A brilliant analytical study of how a dysfunctional view of the Second World War created problems later. Norman Davies is a gifted write who is able to effectively articulate about the lack of a balanced, comprehensive, complete view of the Second World. Davies intelligent, carefully researched, well communicated message is that everyone's view of World War Two is distorted because each country's individual role in the War is put before a general picture. For example, Davies points out that D-Da ...more
Ravi
A comprehensive and brilliantly written book on the history of the Second World War in Europe from a non-nationalistic point of view. The author convincingly makes the case with facts, figures and events that the Second World War in Europe was essentially a German-Soviet war with everything else being a side show. He calls the Western allied contribution against Hitler "respectable but modest" and "important but not decisive". Essentially an "un-Hollywood" version of history.

Davies also dispels
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Chuck
This is a tedious book. The author claimed that it was a revistionist history of WW2, but anyone who's read much history of the war is already familiar with his main points. There's nothing particularly new or bold about them. Broadly speaking, he has two main points. The first is that it wasn't a war of the Allied good guys versus the Axis bad guys. The truth isn't as simple as that according to Davies, and as he points out, Stalin was every bit as bad as Hitler. His second point is that it was ...more
Sheridan
Mr. Davies has a refreshingly detached perspective of the war. He also has an empathy for those who suffered. There however are many irritations- his style is that of a bored lecturer, playing to a safe gallery with an eye on his career rather than the incisive independence required for a truly good historian. His main failing, a huge one, is that he does not put the war in context, the German genuine grievances, the duplicity of Churchill, the opportunism of business, the secret implementation ...more
John
This comprehensive book by a British historian breaks down much of what Americans "know" about the European theater of the Second World War. The volume reorients attention toward Eastern/Central Europe and explores the magnitude of the conflict between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Moreover, the book discusses how the alliance with the USSR tangled the US and UK up in complicated moral questions that largely have been swept away (to say nothing of other morally-fraught choices like the western bomb ...more
Mario Liesens
It takes a few lifetimes to read all books on world war 2.
For those who don't bet their money on reincarnation yet still want to have a good overview of the most important facts, figures and angles, Norman Davies offers one of the best books available:
it's easy to read, doesn't go too much into details and tries to offer a bigger picture.
Norman doesn't care about taboos and therefor some people really hate this book. For example, he claims that the USSR has done the biggest part in crushing the
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Dr.
A brave book that attempts to undermine the western view of the European theater during world war 2. It's exciting to read and genius in the way that it uses the facts that most Americans are already familiar with to crush our way of thinking about it. Anyone, especially people who read a lot of this kind of shit could benefit from it's fresh analysis and bold questioning of conventions. At times it goes so far as to condemn the allies for their inhumane behavior in the course of the war. By the ...more
Scott
While I appreciated the perspective the author offered on his subject, at times I felt he was overly critical of wartime decisions made by the Allied governments. I'm not well-read enough to fully appreciate the criticisms made against WWII historians, but accept them at face value and am grateful for the enlightenment they offered to me. The organization of the book, being more topical than chronological, enhanced the experience of looking at the war from a different perspective. Some of the se ...more
David Lowther
This was an outstanding piece of history writing. It wasn't yet another narrative of the war in Europe but rather a commentary on those events. The author describes it as an essay, which I suppose it was, although at 500 pages, it was the longest essay I've read!

The assertions that Davies made certainly made me sit up and think. All of these were backed up with an immaculate referencing system. It was never dull, brilliantly written, occasionally shocking and debunked many myths.

A superlative h
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Fritz
Good book for nerds and history buffs but somewhat dry and very long.
Czarny Pies
Sep 26, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one. There are better survey histories of WWII.
Recommended to Czarny by: I am a Norman Davies fan.
Shelves: european-history
This is a very good book in a terribly overcrowded field. Antony Beevor's history of World War II is by far the best book available.
Rui
You get an overall impression that you cannot grasp the many aspects of a war much less The second world war. Norman Davies can be factual and objective. The more you read about facts and figures the more dificult is to leave the abstract and share the tragic, human side of the conflict.

There is a very good perspective about the historians ordeals on keeping impartial when judging the actions of the winning and the loosing side.

I learned a lot with this book.
Joseph Serwach
Probably the best ``big picture'' book about World War II ever written. Davies brilliantly shows how every nation has its own biased history of the war, elevating its own role as well as its allies/adversaries. Few really know what the biggest battles of the war were and many are actually taught it started in 1941 rather than 1939. He puts it all into perspective even showing how that history as well as the way it is remembered changed the world over the next six decades.
Martin Bonfil
Excellent study that covers tje European war in a comprehensive and balanced way. It is insightful on the true cost and impact of the conflict on the participants and handles the moral complexities of a war, normally seen in the West with an Atlanticist and narrow "Good War" perspective, well. The massive and decisive role of the Soviet Union is clearly acknowledged as well as the moral issues posed by Stalin's regime.
Jim
Davies claims that WW2 in Europe was mainly a "clash of two titanic tyrannies." Morally, Stalin and the Soviets were every bit as bad as Hitler and the Nazis, and the "Soviet war effort was so overwhelming that impartial historians of the future are unlikely to rate the British and American contribution to the European theatre as much more than a sound supporting role." I, for one, am persuaded. Sorry, Private Ryan.
Keith
A historical assessment of the Eastern front during World War II. Davies concentrates on the battles, politics, soldiers, and civilians that were involved with Germany's conflicts with Poland, Russia, and other eastern European countries. He is heavily critical of the Western tradition's viewpoint of the war and believes that the U.S. dominates World War II history. Good book, but there are too few sources.
Peter
I found this a really tough read to get the benefit of it. Its not a book to speed read through as the Author presents a challenging and supported overview of WWII. Its an eye opener to see that our part in WWII was much less than we are taught and that the outcome was almost fortuitous given our resources. It seems our national History is somewhat selective!

A good book, but a tough read.
Perry Andrus
One of the rare WW2 books that I found to be so bad that I could NOT finish it.

One example, the author lists some rather current books about Kursk yet the author then repeats the garbage that the Germans lost 2,000 tanks in the battle.

I kept finding garbage like this and finally told myself to return the book to the library and find something worth my time.
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Professor Ivor Norman Richard Davies FBA, FRHistS is a leading English historian of Welsh descent, noted for his publications on the history of Europe, Poland, and the United Kingdom. From 1971, Davies taught Polish history at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) of the University of London, where he was professor from 1985 to 1996. Currently, he is Supernumary Fellow at Wolfso ...more
More about Norman Davies...
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