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Hitler: A Study in Tyranny People AZ H Hitler Adolf Alan Bullock Harper Perennial Abridged edition


31st May 2012 History Books 23 Comments

Alan Bullock, Baron Bullock, was born in 1914. He studied at Oxford University and served as a research assistant to Winston Churchill while writing his A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. He was a history fellow at New College, Oxford, helped found St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and was Vice-Chancellor for the university. A renowned modern historian, Bullock was made a life peer in 1976. He died in 2004. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

The classic biography of Hitler that remains, years after its publication, one of the most authoritative and readable accounts of his life. Here in an abridged edition.

Hitler: A Study in Tyranny

The Ordeal of Total War: 1939-1945

“. . . a distinguished achievement which conveys a convincing picture of what total war means, or rather what it meant before the H-bomb added a new dimension.” — New York Review of Books

The Second World War’s destructive impact on the continent of Europe probably exceeds that of any previous disaster in the modern era. This volume is concerned with a brief six-year period. Wright, having mastered a vast amount of diffuse literature on WWII, has put his own stimulating interpretations on a difficult and complicated subject. The book goes far beyond the usual military chronicle. It is a splendid synthesis of a tragic phase of recent European history.

The Ordeal of Total War: 1939-1945










  • 23 responses to "Hitler: A Study in Tyranny People AZ H Hitler Adolf Alan Bullock Harper Perennial Abridged edition"

  • Matt SF
    3:55 on May 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The time this was written, early 60′s, and the author together make it the most authentic writing I’ve seen. It’s point of view is clear from the author’s introduction, where he claims to only want to tell the story accurately as a way to stay true to his historian training. The result is a candid and intense reflection on the way a narrow genius can be used to bring down an entire society.
    The circumstances of the time, where old royalty and private wealthy trusts wanted to use Hitler to regain their pre-WWI era control of Germany, made it easy for the gangsters that Hitler organized to double-cross them.
    Read this and be warned that this could happen again, with the complicit help of groups and nations too naive to recognize raw ambition and moral depravation.

  • Sellingfast
    7:38 on May 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I studied this book in high school; this is a history book.

    This is by no means a complete depiction of Hitler’s life and generally focuses on historical events rather than Hitler the person.

    If you don’t know much about Hitler, I would recommend this book to you. You will learn a lot.

    Unfortunately, there is not much information about the Holocaust.

  • Just_Iain
    8:57 on May 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I first read this book the best part of fifty years ago.

    It stands up remarkably well, even when read with a subsequent background of many books about World War II, several biographies of Hitler and other major war figures, plus smaller specialized studies.

    This is not a full biography, Hitler’s early years receiving fairly brief treatment. It is precisely what its subtitle says of it, a study in tyranny, and I don’t believe another book offers quite the same intense exploration of the subject.

    Allan Bullock writes as a genuine scholar, albeit an unusually articulate one. When Bullock is uncertain about the factors contributing to a certain event, he says so, along with giving readers a clear explanation of the alternatives. Bullock had studied the vast literature available in his time and little of substance escaped his analytical mind.

    Hitler surely represents three extraordinary historical phenomena.

    First, the outline of his rise is remarkable, almost unparalleled in history, rising from a tramp, would-be artist, a man with limited formal education, to become absolute leader of Europe’s most important nation and then achieving a series of dazzling successes until megalomania struck, sending Europe into a ghastly spiral of horrors and destruction.

    One of the few comparable rises I can think of is that of a man who shared none of Hitler’s dark obsessions and hatreds: I refer to Lincoln, a man who rose from life in a dirt-floor cabin and a year and half of formal education to become a successful corporate lawyer, president of the United States, and leader of what remains America’s bloodiest war.

    Second, Hitler is, in a number of ways, the most important historical figure of the 20th century – not the greatest, not the most gifted, and certainly neither admirable nor heroic, but the most important as measured by his impact upon great events both in his own time and after.

    Hitler’s career contributed to the rise or success of some of the century’s most able and heroic figures – Roosevelt, Churchill, and De Gaulle. And the gigantic destructive events Hitler unleashed profoundly affected the world to this day – the establishment of the Soviet empire, decades of Cold War, and the agonizing events following the creation of Israel.

    Third, few people in all of history wielded such immense, unquestioned power over others as he did – Stalin, Napoleon, Henry VIII, Cromwell, Augustus, Genghis Khan, Attila, and a few others come to mind. Understanding the mind and methods of such a person is beyond question an important study of the human condition.

    This is an essential book for students of history, statesmanship, World War II, politics, human character, and psychology. It is well enough written to hold the attention of those who are not scholars but interested in any of these subjects.

    One of the most interesting qualities of Bullock’s book is his avoidance of what has now become an almost de rigueur, politically correct minimizing of Hitler’s skills and talents, very much a flaw in Ian Kershaw’s biography, and preaching about his evil, something which is apparent just in telling the true history.

    Bullock makes clear that in every relationship and project Hitler ever had, the need to be regarded as final authority was an intense, overwhelming psychological drive. He also clearly had developed something of a Messiah complex, something not unknown in our own day among politicians and religious leaders. His vision of Germany’s expansion in the East was filled with ghastly concepts, yet the basic idea of a larger national landscape for Europe’s most technically and perhaps culturally advanced nation, similar to the space claimed by the United States on its rise or by the British Empire, was rational if not ethical.

    We know from well-regarded psychiatric studies that Hitler was not mentally ill, yet he did more damage than any mentally ill person I can think of. That fact alone makes understanding him immensely important and should serve as a continued warning concerning those who seek power in our societies. The all-too-common “Hitler the madman” is not helpful and shows no genuine learning from history.

    True madmen have little chance of gaining serious power anywhere: they are eschewed by democracies where the least evidence of experience with mental problems is an absolute disqualifier and they are not supported in tyrannies because, as Bullock shows, a tyranny requires many insiders to make it work.

    Indeed, one of the most important aspects of the Third Reich that Bullock so ably brings out was the endless creation of special fiefdoms to replace older fiefdoms and new offices for ambitious lieutenants to balance off against other ambitious lieutenants. It is for this reason that I believe all true tyrannies, at least in otherwise advanced states, are doomed not to last: they are actually far more unstable and inefficient than people generally realize.

    If you are reading about the Third Reich, this is, quite simply, an indispensable book.

    NOTE: I advise strongly reading the full text rather than this abridged edition.

  • Gene's brigade
    9:35 on May 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Alan Bullock is one of the foremost biographers of Hitler. Unfortunately, when he wrote Study in Tyranny, few documents were available for him to write a complete work like his Hitler and Stalin. Bullock concentrates more on Germany as a whole instead of Hitler. Unlike his dual biography, Study in Tyranny has a tendency to bash his subject unnecessarily. Given the date of publication, Study in Tyranny is a good survey of Hitler and Germany before and during World War Two. Unfortunately compared to Joachim Fest’s Hitler or Bullock’s Hitler and Stalin, Study in Tyranny is lackluster but not due to Bullock’s fault.

  • Ivanovich
    12:04 on May 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    If you’re looking for an introduction to World War II concerning the European theater you would do well to pick up _The Ordeal of Total War_. Gordon Wright goes beyond the stadard military/political description of war as is so often the case and delves into the social, economic, and psychological impact of modern or “total war”. In regards to economics the UK, USA, USSR and German economic policies are examined, evaluated and compared for their effectiveness in dealing with the demands for total war. Something very necessary in understanding what total war is all about.

    Although the campaigns and individual battles of the war aren’t greatly detailed they are covered sufficiently to provide a good introduction. Particularily useful are the chapters dealing with German rule in occupied Europe (and German resettlement polcies), the scientifid dimensions of warfare and the resistance movements (and competing resistance movements).

    Gordon Wright doesn’t end his book with the German surrender in 1945. He continues to explain the post-war situation, how World War II shaped the post 1945 Europe, and how the “Big Three” begins to unravel how the seeds of the Cold War are planted. I think Gordon’s contention that the war time alliance of the Allies had no validity after the destruction of the Third Reich is right on target.

    Final Word: Broad in scope yet compact; good reading even for the more familiar student of World War II.

  • Matthew Rizos
    19:57 on May 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Pay attention to his methods, compare them with Bush and Obama’s and you can see where we are headed

  • Inkspots
    20:21 on May 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Contemporary readers may not be as impressed with this biography as they ought to be, as it has been so influential that its conclusions have been widely adopted by subsequent historians. As a result, this book should be read in conjunction with a more recent biography. However, keeping in mind how old the book is, it is still a classic, and Bullock’s writing is a pleasure to read.

  • Biege Pony
    22:14 on May 31st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    A well researched book. I would have given it a higher mark but the anti-nazi comes out a little too strong from this author. To get a better understanding of where Hitler was coming from the author should have done more to understand the nazi movement at that time. Hitler believed in what he did, the author does not take this view very often in the book. The book covers all the major parts of Hitler’s life and a few parts that may surprise you…A good read if you like history.

  • Dom Frankie Z
    6:23 on June 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    If you’re looking for an introduction to World War II concerning the European theater you would do well to pick up _The Ordeal of Total War_. Gordon Wright goes beyond the stadard military/political description of war as is so often the case and delves into the social, economic, and psychological impact of modern or “total war”. In regards to economics the UK, USA, USSR and German economic policies are examined, evaluated and compared for their effectiveness in dealing with the demands for total war. Something very necessary in understanding what total war is all about.

    Although the campaigns and individual battles of the war aren’t greatly detailed they are covered sufficiently to provide a good introduction. Particularily useful are the chapters dealing with German rule in occupied Europe (and German resettlement polcies), the scientifid dimensions of warfare and the resistance movements (and competing resistance movements).

    Gordon Wright doesn’t end his book with the German surrender in 1945. He continues to explain the post-war situation, how World War II shaped the post 1945 Europe, and how the “Big Three” begins to unravel how the seeds of the Cold War are planted. I think Gordon’s contention that the war time alliance of the Allies had no validity after the destruction of the Third Reich is right on target.

    Final Word: Broad in scope yet compact; good reading even for the more familiar student of World War II.

  • Wayne Tempel
    7:31 on June 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I enjoyed the book very much as an amateur historian and read it often, so much so that my original copy fell apart over the years.

    The book itself compares well with Shirer’s ‘Rise and Fall of The Third Reich’, which I personally consider to be ‘the bible’ as regards the Nazi era.

    The abridged version of ‘Study in Tyranny’ I found a bit dis-appointing after having the original, full text edition as the bench mark. I found there was, naturally, some parts of the text absent and that was dis-concertiong plus the larger print of the new version was a shade off-putting.

    My paperback edition of Shirer’s work is full text, with naturally smaller print, but it is the full magnum opus, which is also an overweight Irish cat.

    I fully commend ‘Hitler, A Study in Tyranny’ to the student of The Third Reich but I would re-commend you purchase the full length version to gain the best from this work.

  • HenryCandy
    9:01 on June 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book was hard to put down once started. I have read many WWII histories covering various aspects of that time period, and this book ranks among the best, being tightly packed with fact-backed hypotheses and conclusions. The chapters on “German Rule in Europe” and “Economic Dimensions” are alone worth the price of the book, in my opinion.

    I will be the first to admit that I only rated the book 4 stars because of Wright’s blatant England-most-important bias, and his misfortune to have published in 1968. In 1968, I will also admit (in hindsight) that Wright’s conclusions would be strongly colored by the events of the ’60′s, and I suppose most historians at that time wound up doing the same. I was amused to see his matter-of-fact appraisals of the US wartime contributions as nevertheless extremely crucial. Maybe it was just the lesser amount of detail said! The reader will find in the “Economic Dimension” chapter the almost hidden admission that US wartime output was better per capita than the British. Capitalism always seems to outproduce any other economic strategy, but the gentleman (and he definitely was) can be forgiven for living through the Depression era.

    There is not much detail about military campaigns at the tactical level, but there are many other books which will have this kind of material. In reading “Ordeal of Total War” you will be rewarded, though, with having dozens of fresh perspectives on the strategic aspect of the WWII period. You will indeed think, and you will enjoy.

  • not hot
    11:16 on June 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Bullock is one of the most well-known of Hitler’s biographers, and that for a reason. The UNABRIDGED version of this book is, however, a much better choice and a more interesting read as well. Compared with others (Kershaw, Fest, Maser, etc) this abridged volume comes up short.

  • Aaron Cage
    11:42 on June 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book provides you with an inside view on two of the most formidable leaders of the modern era. The personalities of Stalin and Hitler are captured in an exceptional historical analysis, that provides the reader with intricate details of their childhood leading to their tyrannical adult lives.

  • Missy Deskins
    17:10 on June 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The unabridged version was the first major work dealing with Hitler in the English speaking world. As such it was widely read for years and made compulsory for many university students.

    Hitler is not that difficult a person to write a biography of. This can be contrasted with figures such as Stalin who was able to control the materials about his life and manufacture a range of untruths. The defeat of Germany and the discrediting of Nazism meant that little was hidden.

    Despite that there are some things which have occurred since this book came out which date it a little. Kershaws recent book on Hitler is thus superior simply because of this but Bullocks work is by no means badly dated.

    These are to some extent a matter of emphasis but they include.

    (a) Hitler seems to have falsified some aspects of his background. He exaggerated his poverty in Mein Kampf which was the source of Bullers material. (b) Hitlers rise to power depended more on the circumstances around him rather than his own actions. Hitler seemed to be rather lazy (c) During his last years Hitler spent most of his time with military personal. They portrayed him as a man who was the archetypal mad dictator. A good deal of this seems to have been made up to shield military leaders from their own actions.

    Despite that Bullers work is readable and comprehensive

  • Leola Nery
    18:31 on June 1st, 2012
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    I’ve never been drawn to the study of Nazi Germany as so many have, nor am I “fascinated” by the sweaty little man with bad hair and daddy issues who brought about Europe’s most costly war. I’ve read a few books about Hitler, mainly because I was directed to do so in various classes, and of them all, this was the best. In dubbing Hitler : A Study in Tyranny the best, I mean it presented copious information (nicely backed up with an immense quantity of footnotes) and never strayed into validating the myths about its subject. One can read this abridgment of Bullock’s work (I have never seen the long version) and come away reasonably well-informed about Hitler, his rise to power, the Second World War, and the Nazi regime with its various social misfits, failures, and assorted lovers-of-self. Bullock is an admirable sort of historian, one who does not inject his own personality far into his material and does not speculate so much as simply present facts through as little cultural filter as possible.

    In my views, as the title of this review declared, Adolph Hitler is given more credit than he deserves. Yes, he is at times too readily written off as “a nut” and left at that, but just as often (and increasingly in this century) he is unfairly praised and credited with accomplishments that were not fully his own. He is usually described as, “Boy, he was evil, but he was a genius.” Was he? Was he truly?

    Not only was the hard-working German nation by 1933 on the path to an economic recovery of amazing scope, but the unrest of the 1920′s with its inter-party feuding and Communist threat, was largely dissipating. Hitler is falsely believed in the popular view to have single-handedly set his nation on a path out of depression and into prosperity, while simultaneously quelling unrest and restoring order. In fact he had little to do with either, he came along at a time most propitious for him to make claims of responsibility for these things, but he did not author his (adopted) country’s recovery.

    As for Hitler being ” a genius” let’s consider for a moment the deeds of this “strategic mastermind.” Rather than containing his aggressions, Hitler took on virtually ALL the powers of Europe and eventually–in a fit of bad judgment so profound it should dispel his mystique right there-embroiled his nation in war with the United States, against whom the American people were not at war and were unlikely to be after the Pearl Harbor attack. Hitler allowed the British army to escape at Dunkirk, he invaded his own ally, the Soviet Union, he so centralized power within the military that on D-Day his generals were paralyzed without authority to act without the go-ahead from Berlin, and he set into motion such cruelties against his own citizens and the populations of those lands he occupied that any widespread support he might have gained was almost entirely lost to his armies.

    The man was not a military mastermind, not a political genius, and beyond any doubt not the savior of Germany, which he all-but destroyed in his less than dozen years as absolute ruler. Hitler was the architect and inspiration for mass murder and more human misery and suffering than any one person the world had witnessed up to that time. Alan Bullock is to be praised for remembering all of these things and tossing the Hitler myth out of the window. I wish more people would read books like these before they go on perpetuating misinformation about an evil man they do not know as much about as they likely think they do.

  • KatieW
    20:52 on June 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book gives an outstanding overview of all aspects of the war in Europe. Those elements combined into modern “total war” of unprecedented destruction and suffering, and tens of millions of deaths.

    For a single-volume book on the European-theater, it’s hard to beat. Required reading for students of World War II.

  • Chandana
    22:58 on June 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This is the basic book that the “WWII” industry has standardized in the field. It provides a great deal of factual information, moving beyond esoteric analyses of Hitler, to examine the War as well. Although Bullock seems “anti-Nazi” it was one of the most unbiased books on this “dark” topic. A nice part of the book is the detail that Bullock gets into with regard to Germany’s pre-WWII Treaties.

  • dlholling
    0:38 on June 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I am not a scholar of Nazism or the Holocaust, but I read quite a deal of history.

    Just recently I ploughed through Orlando Figes celebrated ’97 history of the Russian revolution, ‘A Peoples’ Tragedy’. Figes’ aim was as ambitious as Bullock’s: to write the defining history of the period in a book that would be as long as the subject warranted. But where Figes’ delivers a competent and rewarding, if still patchy reading experience – which is still better than 99% of histories – Bullock’s ‘Hitler’ delivers a dense and compelling book of magesterial sweep and narrative drive of nearly Tolsoyian proportions.

    Having not read too many histories of the Third Reich, I cannot claim with assurance that this is the definative tract: but I very much doubt anyone could better it. A great and very satisfying read.

  • Melissa McCreery
    1:38 on June 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Allan Bullock’s biography is comprehensive. Any history book exceeding 800 pages falls into this category. However, do not let the scale of the book deter the reader from gaining an insight to this mad and evil man.

    In terms of the history of the 20th Century, Hitler is certainly one of that century’s more influential characters. From a political perspective, the “pantheon” of significance would include Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler. Note that no democrats get a look in here. Perhaps the nearest in terms of influence would be Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Thus, no history of the last century can be complete without a thorough understanding of Adolf Hitler and his vast and demonic influence.

    Bullock’s work covers Hitler’s life in its entirety. We begin with his birth in 1889 in Austria near the Bavarian border, through his years as a rabble rouser and gutter politician and finish with his last days in the bunker in Berlin with the Red Army literally only a few hundred metres from capturing him. Yet through all this period, Hitler’s core personality is unchanged. He has a seemingly innate hatred for Jews combined with a belief that Germany was conspired against from the inside when the First World War armistice was signed. These views lead Hitler to indulge his fantasies that Germany will rise again and that only he is able to lead the nation. The end, of course, is the absolute defeat of Germany such that a platform is provided for its splitting in two during the cold war. It also provides the scope for Stalin to impose his wishes upon Eastern Europe. This piece of modern day imperialism only ended in the final years of last century.

    To complete a reading Allan Bullock’s work is not an easy task. It is truly an immense and impressive work. Yet, if the reader perseveres with the task, the reward is that one is left with a clearer picture of the mad man who legacy was death and destruction. It is the diary of madness succeeding over reason for too long. The consequences of this “success” were truly horrible.

  • Rocketship?
    3:55 on June 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I am a WW2 buff. Reasons? Plenty. But perhaps the strongest one one. I was there. I am currently reading ‘A War to be Won’ written by two outstanding scholars in the field and their two highest recommendations are ‘The ordeal of total war’ by Gordon Wright and ‘A world at war: A global history of World War II’ by Gerhard Weinberg. I was so interested in ‘A War to be Won’ that I can’t wait to get my hands on the next two ones mentioned above…

  • georgies
    8:22 on June 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    In “Hitler: A Study in Tyranny,” Alan Bullock stated that, as an author, he has no axe to grind. He adhered to that statement. Bullock offered a very balanced and plausible account of Hitler’s life atempting to understand the dictator not as a demon but as a human being.

    Readers interested in tantalizing controversy will be disappointed with this book. Bullock chose not to assert blame for such things as the Reichstag fire. Bullock dismissed the popular claim that Hitler changed his name from Schicklgruber (man, I got tired of my teachers reiterating that bit of misinformation) and the myth that Hitler resorted to astrology in decision-making. As for Geli Raubel, Bullock finds her best to be left as “a mystery.” Bullock took a conservative stance in his analysis focusing only on the known fact’s about Hitler’s life.

    Bullock offers a thorough study of Hitler’s days in Vienna before the First World War and the ways in which this experience formed his political views. Hitler is presented not as the originator of future Nazi principles but as a product of the anti-rational, anti-intellectual, and anti-Semetic ideas that had been circulating in Europe for the previous hundred years. His understanding of propaganda, oratory skills, and pratical exposure to street politics helped Hitler gain a following. Ultimately, it was Hitler’s determination that prompted him to turn down enticing offers of political position by Franz von Papen and Bruening that were less than what he sought: the Chancellory. During the Second World War, Hitler’s “warlord” image was transformed: “the human being disappears, absorbed into the historical figure of the Fuehrer.” Bullock also pointed out that this devotion to power led eventually to Hitler’s downfall.

    Although this book may be a little burdensome for pleasure reading (I doubt I will read it again), it is a very readable biography that would be appropriate for the college student who needs to learn places, events, etc. The lack of an index in this edition does pose a problem when one is trying to find information, however. Another criticism I have is its title “A Study in Tyranny.” I was expecting the work to go more into an analysis of Hitler’s tyrannical personality and the susceptibility of the German people to it. Maybe I was expecting a little psychology. This book, however, is a straight foward biography with not a lot of interpretation. The works of Ian Kershaw may be consulted if a reader wants more depth.

  • Kate Zeches
    8:50 on June 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This was the best profile of Hitler when I read it forty years ago (it’s only rival was Shirer’s `Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’). Bullock skillfully explores Hitler’s public and personal world in three sections (Party Leader, Chancellor, and War-Lord). Some of his surprising habits (non-smoker, vegetarian, and teetotaler) stand in contrast with the criminal war he launched and the innocents he killed.

    `A Study in Tyranny’ has since been supplemented with accounts by Fest, Kershaw, and several others, but Bullock remains well worth reading for those serious in the subject.

  • saminnj
    10:02 on June 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I really don’t know how to rate this book since I am currently rereading the unabridged version which I was forced to obtain from Amazon.com.uk. It is an excellent work and I can not imagine why Americans are not permitted to order it from the US. Does Amazon US think Americans are too lazy to read the original? I would give it 5 stars if it were the unabridged version. I will never know what the abridged said or left out.

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