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WWII as the First Global Conflict

The Second World War was not, in spite of its name, the second general war to be fought on a global scale. The previous war that gave it its name, the war of 1914-1918, was in fact only marginally a "world" war, and indeed in the interwar years it was known simply as "the Great War." Eighteenth-century wars had been at least as global in scope as the First World War; the Seven Years war and the war that grew out of the American Revolution had both involved fighting from North America to India. Going back another two centuries, we might even argue that the Anglo-Spanish war that culminated in the Armada was the first "world" war; Drake's voyage in the Golden Hind had literally carried military action against Spain around the globe. In a deeper sense, the Second World War was the first truly global conflict, in that it was really a conflagration of several wars, from China and the Pacific, to the Eastern Front, to the Atlantic, which grew together to the point that in terms of grand strategy, if not of military operations, they became one war raging around the planet. Although these various sub-wars involved various participants, and broke out at various times, the central war was the one that broke out in Europe in 1939, and the central issue was Nazi Germany. In evaluating the origins of the Second World War, we are thus led first and foremost to consider what happened in Central Europe in the second half of the 1930s.

The following essay evaluates a series of books and journal articles which offer varied interpretations of the origins of the Second World War. Some deal directly with events in Europe, others with the roundabout series of events that made the United States a participant in both major theaters of the war. One deals with the Holocaust, an event which in some respects stands separately from the war, but which on a deeper level addresses the issue that lay at the heart of the war, the career and intentions o...

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WWII as the First Global Conflict. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 17:40, May 24, 2020, from