The basis of A History of the Second World War In 100 Maps is that maps are ‘indispensable instruments of war’.
If anyone can convince us of this it is world-leading military and cartographic historian Jeremy Black, who has studied a huge range of maps from the Second World War in minute detail.
In this fantastic tome he proves why these pieces of paper are one of the most crucial weapons of war.
Whether they were strategic, operational or used for propaganda, all 100 maps – some of which are photographed for the first time in this book – offer a unique insight into the brutal conflict.
Black proves that it is nearly impossible to fully understand the Second World War without reference to these maps.
Detailing the likes of pre-conflict mapping programmes undertaken by Germany and the United Kingdom in the mid-1930s, as well as those used towards the end of the war in 1945, he demonstrates how the maps were used to plan each country’s next move – whether from the air, the sea, or the sky.
Their use was wide-ranging and systematic in the war effort on both sides.
The premise of Black’s historical exploration is genius. It is rare to see such a fresh and illuminating examination of an already much probed subject, but Black does this effortlessly.
The maps also act as windows to the mentality of the opposing forces of the time.
This book is as much concerned with attitudes as it is tactics and geography.
A Nazi map of hair and eye colour, and a map from the memories of a Holocaust survivor are among the book’s most fascinating insights.
Visually, the maps are striking and make it seem as though you are walking through a very detailed WWII museum. For any budding historian, Black offers a fascinating, ground-breaking new perspective on the war.
A History of the Second World War In 100 Maps, by Jeremy Black, published by the British Library, £35.