In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section World War II Diplomacy and Political Relations

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works and Bibliographies
  • How War Came
  • General Overviews
  • Official Histories
  • Wartime Conferences
  • Peace Moves

International Relations World War II Diplomacy and Political Relations
Gerhard L. Weinberg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 February 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 February 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0113


As World War II recedes into the past, interest in it does not diminish. New publications about it appear steadily, and the public in many countries is clearly receptive. The television channels are so filled with programs dealing with the war that the History Channel is often referred to as the “Hitler Channel.” Three factors appear to be responsible. First, World War II was the largest war in world history, involving almost every country on earth and causing enormous loss of life—over fifty million dead—and unprecedented physical destruction. Second, the sheer drama of enormous victories for one side in the initial stages was followed by the crushing defeat of those who had initiated hostilities with such apparent success. Third, the element that continues to attract attention is the novelty of aspects of the conflict. The vast effort by the Germans to kill as many Jews as they could, now called the Holocaust, and the enormous expansion of bombing from its initiation in World War I are the subjects of controversy and publications. A further element in stimulating the continuing interest in the conflict has been the release—at times in dribbles, at times in torrents—of previously secret or unknown records and accounts of the belligerents. The world in the decades since the war is to a very large extent the product of the war and can be understood only by careful examination of its course and outcome. Debates about the war’s origins, the roles of both major and minor participants, the choices of key leaders, and the course and significance of specific campaigns and weapons have continued since 1945 and are unlikely to end any time soon. In the opening paragraph of The Peloponnesian War, Thucydides wrote, “Indeed this was the greatest movement yet known in history, not only of the Hellenes, but of a large part of the barbarian world—I had almost said of mankind.” The description also fits what has come to be called World War II. In view of the enormity of the war and the vastness of the literature on it, Oxford Bibliographies has divided the wider subject into two parts: the diplomatic and political issues, on the one hand, and the military operations, on the other. Because the broader issues of strategy and alliance politics frequently intersected with military decisions and operations, a certain amount of overlap is unavoidable, but the emphasis here will be on the diplomatic and broader strategic aspects.

Reference Works and Bibliographies

For all aspects of the war, see Dear and Foot 1995. The best bibliographic coverage of new books and articles is the Jahresbibliographie, an annual bibliography available in numerous languages. Ziegler 1971 is an English-language bibliography. The World War II Studies Association has published some further bibliographies in its newsletter, but a major compilation such as that in Ziegler 1971 is badly needed. The main journals in the field—Journal of Military History, Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, and Revue d’histoire de la deuxième Guerre Mondiale—carry bibliographic listings and some reviews of new publications on the war.

  • Dear, I. C. B., and M. R. D. Foot, eds. The Oxford Companion to the Second World War. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

    This book of over 1,300 pages includes entries by specialists on a wide variety of topics and has maps and short bibliographic listings.

  • Jahresbibliographie.

    An annual bibliography issued by the Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte (Library for Contemporary History) in Stuttgart and published by Bernard and Graef. The volumes include publications in numerous languages, and each volume also carries several bibliographical articles. The library has published its whole catalogue.

  • Ziegler, Janet. World War II: Books in English, 1945–65. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 1971.

    A bibliography in English that has been supplemented by two publications by Arthur L. Funk: The Second World War: A Bibliography; A Select List of Publications Appearing since 1968 (Gainesville, FL: American Committee on the History of the Second World War, 1972) covering 1966 to 1975, and The Second World War: A Select Bibliography of Books in English Published since 1975 (Claremont, CA: Regina, 1985) covering 1975 to 1985.

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