The Taylor Thesis

A. J. P. Taylor wrote his book Origins of the Second World War in 1961


rather, it was blunders, opportunism, traditional balance of power

Germany was the dynamic element in European politics since 1870s

Hitler & Mussolini responded to actions of others - no one in control, no plot

Poland from ILN 1939/05/06

Taylor thesis is narrow and deterministic

Taylor neglected variety of causes


Alan John Percivale Taylor was born March 25, 1906, Birkdale, Lancashire, and died Sept. 7, 1990, in London. He is regarded as one of the most important British historians of the 20th century.

"Taylor attended Oriel College, Oxford, graduating with first-class honours in 1927. In 1931 he began writing reviews and essays for the Manchester Guardian (later The Guardian). He continued his studies in history, and in 1934 his first book, The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy 1847-1849, was published. A second book on diplomacy, Germany's First Bid for Colonies 1884-1885: A Move in Bismarck's European Policy, appeared in 1938. Taylor was a tutor in modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1938 to 1963 and a research fellow there until 1976. He became a panel member of a BBC-TV news analysis program in 1950 and made regular television appearances thereafter. He was also popular as a journalist and lecturer. Though often sparking controversy with his unorthodox views, Taylor nonetheless maintained high standards of scholarship. Among his more than 30 publications are The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918 (1954; published as volume 1 of The Oxford History of Modern Europe) and English History 1914-1945 (1965). His most widely read and controversial book was The Origins of the Second World War (1961), in which he maintained that the war erupted because Great Britain and France vacillated between policies of appeasement and resistance toward Adolf Hitler. Taylor's autobiography, A Personal History, was published in 1983." (from EB)

Taylor has been used by the Holocaust revisionists, such as IHR but he was never this kind of revisionist, and never denied the reality of the Holocaust. He at one time praised the scholarship of the notorious David Irving, but he never endorsed the bogus Hitler Diaries or Irving's anti-Holocaust arguments. Taylor practiced a legitimate revisionism that is found in every field of history. Daniel J. Goldhagen has argued that a deep-rooted anti-Semitism in Germany caused the Holocaust, not just Hitler and the Nazi party. Herbert Bix has challenged the traditional interpretation of Hirohito as a passive, remote figure-head, and has instead argued that the emperor was an active supporter of war policies. Frederick Marks has criticized FDR for a failed diplomacy that caused World War II by appeasing Germany and harshly provoking Japan. John Charmley has written that Churchill unnecessarily warred with Germany and sacrificed the British Empire, rather than follow a Chamberlain-style diplomacy that would have resulted in a German-Russian war.


This article was posted to the University of San Diego website in April 2002 and is copyright Steve Schoenherr.  It was taken down in 2010, whereupon I copied it to this website.