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Books on the period between WW1 and WW2?
April 28, 2014 9:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm new to history as a field of study, and I chose World War 1 as a place to start. Having finished reading several books on the topic, I'm ready to move past World War 1 for now. My first instinct was to dive into the seemingly infinite pool of literature that is World War 2, but I'm not sure if I'd be doing the 20th century justice by skipping the intervening years. Essentially, I'm looking for a book that covers the period between the World Wars. Ideally, this book would focus on Europe but touch on at least some of the rest of the world. Bonus points if this book is available as an audiobook.
posted by jqb603 to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's narrowly focused, but in college I read a bit of The Weimar Republic, which was what Germany was from the end of the first war until Nazis happened. It was an interesting time and place.

I also enjoyed, mostly, the book In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson (best known for Devil in the White City), which is the story of the US Ambassador to Nazi Germany, a history professor, William Dodd. Dodd was joined by his daughter and son, and both Dodd and his daughter wrote substantial accounts of their life in Berlin starting in '33. They witnessed the early goings on between the SA and SS. The book ends before the war begins.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:22 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Doesn't look like it's in audiobook, but The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s sounds like just the ticket! I'm about halfway through. It covers Europe, Asia (China and Japan), and the US.
posted by orrnyereg at 11:52 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


There is a lot more to the 1920s and 1930s than simply being a bridge between the two great wars.

There are several good books on the Roaring 20s. There are good biographies on Coolidge, Harding, and Hoover.

There is also a ton of information about the Great Depression. And that, of course, helped cause the economic collapse of the Wiemar Republic, which helped set up the rise of the Third Reich.
posted by Flood at 4:17 AM on April 29


The Long Week-End by Robert Graves is a social history of this period in England, and it's really amusing.
posted by Hypatia at 6:32 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


The classic examples, for the US anyway, though some mention of what was going on elsewhere, would be Frederick Lewis Allen's books on the 20s and 30s, which were written pretty much immediately after the facts as recent history.

Only Yesterday is the better known. It covers the 20s from the vantage point of 1931.

There's also the less well-known but equally interesting Since Yesterday, in which he takes on the depression era 30s from 1940, with an (interesting from here) unawareness of what was about to happen to his world.
posted by Naberius at 6:40 AM on April 29 [2 favorites]


I strongly recommend The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, mentioned by orrnyereg. It's exactly what you want and brilliantly written.

I don't understand why people are recommending Frederick Lewis Allen's books. Yeah, I like them too, but they have zero to do with Europe, which is what the OP is interested in.
posted by languagehat at 7:02 AM on April 29


I don't think any comprehension of the period from WWI to WW2 is close to possible without an understanding of the financial and economic elements that helped drive the politics of the period. Perhaps one of the finest books covering that era (in the US and especially Europe) is the majestic book by Liaquat Ahamed... Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:20 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


The years between the wars are in a way more fascinating than the wars themselves.
I keep on recommending anything by Joseph Roth, a journalist/writer who lived then (and thus a primary source).
For more light reading, covering both wars and before, in-between and after: Edmund de Waals "The Hare with Amber Eyes".
posted by mumimor at 1:13 PM on April 29


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