Richard Overy's work here is a neatly crafted examination of the interwar period. His main argument as a historian is to challenge that the period between 1919 and 1939 was a period of crisis rather than anything else. He sets out to define a period of crisis as being distinguishable from the common misuse of the term as in 'work crisis' or 'family crisis'. He expresses that he believes a period of historical crisis is one in which various factors serve to destabilise commonly accepted and founded principles. For instance a highly established social order across the world being disestablished by the advent of multiple revolutions when the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution occurred. He argues that the interwar period was a period of crisis because not only was the world order destabilised but that citizens across the globe recognised that they were living in a time of crisis.
Overy goes on to point out various factors which contributed the crisis. He indicates the revolutions which occurred in Russia and in other European nations. He indicates the aftermath of World War One and the rise of the façade of power that was The League of Nations. He points out the push towards modernisation and the rise of modernity which promoted a questioning of old ideas and an institution of new technologies. Overy further analyses these new ideas and technologies in challenging how science with its implementation of ideas such as eugenics to modern life created instability and contributed to crisis along with the rise of such concepts as psychoanalysis because of such individuals as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Overy also spends a decent amount of time considering the largest two destabilising factors of the interwar era: the rise of new ideologies and the Great Depression.
The ideologies of Communism and Fascism are examined in detail from the perspective of how they both led to a sense of instability. Communism was of course the enemy of the ruling class and the friend of the poor worker communities while Fascism appealed to governments because of its anti-Communist agenda. However Fascism was also a authoritarian and totalitarian system that ruled through dictatorship and as such was a force to also be feared by the democratic governments. However many of them still viewed the new Fascist governments of Italy and Germany as interested mainly in their own patriotic agendas. Until Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, 'allied' himself with the Soviets and divided Poland with them he was still viewed as a patriotic man merely wanting to return Germany to her glorious past. However Overy's argument indicates that Hitler was a man who believed that the strong empires would only truly rise through war. He adopted an approach which was very much Cultural Darwinism in action: the sense that the ideal of the survival of the fittest should be applied to politics and human life.
The other major historical movement examined is one which is familiar to nearly everyone with any historical or economic knowledge. That is the Great Depression one of the biggest economic failures of the 20th Century and likely the biggest if we exclude the forced reparation payments demanded from Germany. Those payments were a definite driving factor in why Hitler gained power in the way he did. Actually the Great Depression was another driving force which enabled the rise of his Nazi party despite the fact that they never received a majority vote. After all in difficult times people will vote for a radical solution if it will help them rise from the ashes (pardon the Phoenix metaphor). It is understandable I believe if we examine the effect of The Great Depression alone that Overy could argue that the interwar period was a period of crisis.
I highly recommend this as a history text or for anyone wanting to read an informative argument about the interwar period. I find that the one thing lacking is an examination of democracy however as Richard Overy is challenging that the interwar period was one of crisis it makes sense that he would not wish to delve into the positive attributes of democracy. I still believe however that an examination of the failings and positive aspects of democracy during this period would add further strength and fully complete his sound argument. On the whole this is a powerful work of historical argument and now I have to work out whether I agree with Overy's claim that the interwar period was a period of crisis for my history examination on Thursday.