The Armchair General

Posted: May 21, 2022 in Book reviews
Tags: ,

By John Buckley

Can you defeat the Nazis? And so reads the subtitle of this great book, though it’s not quite the whole story because what it should say is; can you defeat the Nazis? Oh and the Japanese as well!

Written by John Buckley, a professor of military history, The Armchair General is a book that combines three of my favourite things.

  1. History.
  2. Alternative history.
  3. Choose you own adventure books!

What Buckley has written here is a wonderful book that not only teaches you history, it also gives you a sense of what might have been, and it allows you to have fun while you’re reading it.

Buckley provides 8 scenarios, from the choice between Churchill or Halifax to replace Chamberlain, to the decision whether or not to develop and use the atom bomb.

Buckley’s writing is clear and concise, he explains complex situations coherently without ever patronising his audience. It did take me a little while to get into the book it’s true, but that was down to A/Getting used to the structure and B/Because the first scenario seems too obvious (and it is, whatever your views of the man, Churchill was always the best option, in any universe.)

The book definitely gets more interesting the further you get into it, and the less you know about some areas the more enjoyable it is. I made very logical decisions with regard to factors that led up to the battle of Midway, but these were totally the wrong things to do. Midway was an especially interesting segment, as was North Africa. The potential of seeing Stalin overthrown is intriguing, and the most interesting part was probably that in relation to Bomber Command, and Buckley has a very interesting view on how things might have gone very differently on the heavy bomber front.

What is fascinating is how, in most cases, the decision doesn’t change the eventual outcome. The Germans and Japanese always lose, it’s the timing of victory and the cost in lives that varies.

An enjoyable and intriguing way to teach history, the only caution is that you need to be very careful not to get real history mixed up with the might have been history!  

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