Richard Overy

Richard Overy

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Richard Overy is a British historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 who has published extensively on the history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the Third Reich. In 2007 as The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 editor of Complete History of the World he chose the 50 key dates of world history.


After being educated at Caius College, Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 and awarded a research fellow
Research fellow
The title of research fellow is used to denote a research position at a university or similar institution, usually for academic staff or faculty members. A research fellow may act either as an independent investigator or under the supervision of a principal investigator...

ship at Churchill College
Churchill College, Cambridge
Churchill College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.In 1958, a Trust was established with Sir Winston Churchill as its Chairman of Trustees, to build and endow a college for 60 fellows and 540 Students as a national and Commonwealth memorial to Winston Churchill; its...

, Overy taught history at Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 from 1972 to 1979, as a fellow of Queens' College
Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou , and refounded in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville...

 and from 1976 as a university assistant lecturer. In 1980 he moved to King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

, where he became professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of modern history
Modern history
Modern history, or the modern era, describes the historical timeline after the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution...

 in 1994. He was appointed to a professorship in Exeter University in 2004.

In the late 1980s, Overy was involved in a historical dispute with Timothy Mason
Timothy Mason
Timothy Wright Mason was a British Marxist historian of Nazi Germany.-Life and work:He was born in Birkenhead, the child of school-teachers and was educated at Birkenhead School and Oxford University. He taught at Oxford from 1971–1984 and was twice married. He helped to found the...

 that mostly played out over the pages of the Past and Present journal over the reasons for the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1939. Mason had contended that a "flight into war" had been imposed on Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 by a structural economic crisis, which confronted Hitler with the choice of making difficult economic decisions or aggression. Overy argued against Mason's thesis, maintaining that though Germany was faced with economic problems in 1939, the extent of these problems cannot explain aggression against Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 and the reasons for the outbreak of war were due to the choices made by the Nazi leadership. For Overy, the problem with Mason's thesis was that it rested on the assumption that in a way not shown by records, information was passed on to Hitler about the Reichs economic problems. Overy argued that there was a difference between economic pressures induced by the problems of the Four Year Plan
Four year plan
The Four Year Plan was a series of economic reforms created by the Nazi Party. The main aim of the four year plan was to prepare Germany for war in four years...

 and economic motives to seize raw materials, industry and foreign reserves of neighboring states as a way of accelerating the Four Year Plan. Overy asserted that the repressive capacity of the German state as a way of dealing with domestic unhappiness was somewhat downplayed by Mason. Finally, Overy argued that there is considerable evidence that the German state felt they could master the economic problems of rearmament; as one civil servant put it in January 1940 "we have already mastered so many difficulties in the past, that here too, if one or other raw material became extremely scarce, ways and means will always yet be found to get out of a fix". Recently, another British historian, Adam Tooze
Adam Tooze
Adam Tooze is a British historian and was Reader in Modern European Economic History at the University of Cambridge. In 2002, he was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for Modern History. As of Summer 2010, he is a professor of history at Yale University.He is currently best known for his economic...

, has argued for a similar position as Mason's in his book The Wages of Destruction
The Wages of Destruction
The Wages of Destruction is an award-winning non-fiction book detailing the economic history of Nazi Germany. Written by Adam Tooze, it was first published by Allen Lane in 2006....


His work on World War II has been praised as "highly effective (in) the ruthless dispelling of myths" (A. J. P. Taylor
A. J. P. Taylor
Alan John Percivale Taylor, FBA was a British historian of the 20th century and renowned academic who became well known to millions through his popular television lectures.-Early life:...

), "original and important" (New York Review of Books) and "at the cutting edge" (Times Literary Supplement.)


  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
    Royal Historical Society
    The Royal Historical Society was founded in 1868. The premier society in the United Kingdom which promotes and defends the scholarly study of the past, it is based at University College London...

  • Fellow of the British Academy
    British Academy
    The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national body for the humanities and the social sciences. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value.It receives an annual...

  • Fellow of King’s College (2003)
  • Samuel Elliot Morrison Prize of the Society for Military History (2001) - For his contribution to the history of warfare.
  • Wolfson History Prize
    Wolfson History Prize
    The Wolfson History Prizes are literary awards given annually in the United Kingdom to promote and encourage standards of excellence in the writing of history for the general public...

     (2004) for his book The Dictators: Hitler's Germany; Stalin's Russia

In media

Prof. Overy was featured in the 2006 BBC docudrama Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial
Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial
Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial, is a BBC documentary film series consisting of three one-hour films that re-enact the Nuremberg War Trials of Albert Speer, Hermann Göring and Rudolf Hess...



  • William Morris, Viscount Nuffield (1976), ISBN 0-900362-84-7
  • The Air War, 1939-1945 (1980; paperback ed. 2005), ISBN 1-57488-716-5
  • The Nazi Economic Recovery, 1932-1938 (1982; 2nd ed. 1996), ISBN 0-521-55286-9
  • Goering: The "Iron Man" (1984; paperback ed. 2000), ISBN 1-84212-048-4
  • All Our Working Lives (with Peter Pagnamenta, 1984), ISBN 0-563-20117-7
  • The Origins of the Second World War (1987; 2nd ed. 1998), ISBN 0-582-29085-6.
  • co-written with Timothy Mason: "Debate: Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and War in 1939" pages 200-240 from Past and Present, Number 122, February 1989 reprinted as "Debate: Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and the War in 1939" from The Origins of The Second World War edited by Patrick Finney, Edward Arnold: London, United Kingdom, 1997, ISBN 0-34-067640-X.
  • The Road To War (with Andrew Wheatcroft, 1989; 2nd ed. 1999), ISBN 0-14-028530-X
  • The Inter-War Crisis, 1919-1939 (1994), ISBN 0-582-35379-3
  • War and Economy in the Third Reich (1994), ISBN 0-19-820290-3
  • Why the Allies Won (1995), ISBN 0-224-04172-X
  • The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Third Reich (1996), ISBN 0-14-051330-2
  • The Times Atlas of the Twentieth Century (ed., 1996), ISBN 0-7230-0766-7
  • Bomber Command, 1939-45 (1997), ISBN 0-00-472014-8
  • Russia's War: Blood upon the Snow (1997), ISBN 1-57500-051-2
  • The Times History of the 20th Century (1999; new ed. 2003), ISBN 0-00-716637-0
  • The Battle (2000), ISBN 0-14-029419-8 (republished as The Battle of Britain: The Myth and the Reality)
  • Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945 (2001), ISBN 0-7139-9350-2 (republished as Interrogations: Inside the Minds of the Nazi Elite)
  • Germany: A New Social and Economic History. Vol. 3: Since 1800 (ed. with Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2003), ISBN 0-340-65215-2
  • The Times Complete History of the World (6th ed., 2004), ISBN 0-00-718129-9
  • The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia (2004), ISBN 0-7139-9309-X
  • Collins Atlas of Twentieth Century History (2005), ISBN 0-00-720170-2
  • Imperial War Museum's Second World War Experience Volume 1: Blitzkrieg (2008), ISBN 978-1-84442-014-8
  • Imperial War Museum's Second World War Experience Volume 2: Axis Ascendant (2008), ISBN 978-1-84442-008-7
  • The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars (2009), ISBN 978-0-71399-563-3

External links