The Road to War, By Richard Overy with Andrew Wheatcroft

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The Independent Culture

This updated third edition reminds us of the authors' brilliant combination of compression and detail in their account of Auden's "low, dishonest decade".

The chapter on Italy, one of seven powers scrutinised over the 1930s, reminds us of how Mussolini regarded Hitler as an insignificant "degenerate" in 1934, while Hitler was repelled by his pomposity. They were only drawn together after rejection by other states.

Ribbentrop's insistence in 1936 that the British Empire showed "all the marks of decay and inexorable breakdown" prompted Hitler "to perceive Britain as an enemy" at the moment when appeasement was at its peak.

The French PM Daladier "fully expected to be betrayed by the British... he considered Chamberlain a desiccated stick, the King a moron." It is mesmerising to read about a world careering to hell.

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