‘In 1939: A People's History, Frederick Taylor has done us a great service in making the personal stories of what it was actually like to live through the most crucial year of the twentieth century vivid, compelling and salutary.’ - Roland Philipps, author of A Spy Named Orphan: The Enigma of Donald Maclean
In the autumn of 1938, Europe believed in the promise of peace. Still reeling from the ravages of the Great War, its people were desperate to rebuild their lives in a newly safe and stable era. But only a year later, the fateful decisions of just a few men had again led Europe to war, a war that would have a profound and lasting impact on millions of innocent people.
From the bestselling historian Frederick Taylor, 1939: A People's History draws on original British and German sources, including recorded interviews, as well as contemporary diaries, memoirs and newspapers. Its narrative focuses on the day-to-day experiences of the men and women in both countries trapped in this disastrous chain of events and not, as is so often the case, the elite. Their voices, concerns and experiences lend a uniquely intimate flavour to this often surprising account, revealing a marked disconnect between government and people; few ordinary citizens in either Britain or Germany wanted war.
Precisely for that reason, 1939: A People's History is also an interrogation of our capacity to go to war again. In today’s Europe, an onset of uncertainty, a looming fear of radical populism and a revelatory schism are dangerously reminiscent of the perils of the autumn of 1938. It is both a vivid and richly peopled narrative of Europe’s slide into the horrors of war, the war that nobody wanted, and, in many ways, a warning; an opportunity for us to learn from our history and a reminder that we must never take peace for granted.
In the media
Taylor . . . does an excellent job of telling the story of the Coventry raid . . . Taylor's thorough, authoritative account elegantly explains the horrors of that night, as well as the wider story of the raid's significance in the air war's collective descent into barbarism.
Review of Coventry Financial Times
Riveting . . . vivid . . . Taylor's account of flame and ruin in the Midlands in November 1940, superbly researched, shows how terror could come to anyone, anywhere, any time. It still can.
Review of Coventry Spectator
Taylor weaves a chilling narrative from eyewitness accounts and documentary research . . . His account of the air operation . . . is quite superb.
Review of Dresden The Times
This scholarly, objective, sane and well-written book . . . a tremendously powerful work, profoundly moving in the accounts of the ordinary German families who met their deaths that dreadful night.
Review of Dresden Evening Standard