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Blood and Ruins,

The Last Imperial War, 1931-1945  

Professor Richard Overy 


Professor of History, University of Exeter  

Internationally renowned scholar of World War 2 

Fellow, British Academy, Royal Historical Society 

Prizes, The Hessel Tiltman. Wolfson History, Samuel Eliot Morrison 


Selected works: 

  • The Air War: 1939–1945  

  • Goering: The "Iron Man"  

  • War and Economy in the Third Reich  

  • Why the Allies Won  

  • Russia's War: Blood upon the Snow  

  • The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia  

  • 1939: Countdown to War  

  • RAF: The Birth of the World's First Air Force  


Episode #1

Q: Blood and Ruins – Professor Richard Overy – Intro:


  • Born in shadow of WW2 

  • Always interested in the big questions 

  • Curious about European History 

  • World War 2 – scope, violent, catastrophic 

Episode #2

Q: Global Order- Pre & Post WWI 


  • State of transition 

  • Industrial Revolution 

  • Global Empires 

  • USA Emerges as power post WWI 

  • Collapse of Turkey, Hapsburg, Czarist Russia 

  • USA turns back on Europe 

  • France & Britain dominant empires 

  • Germany, Italy & Japan seek Empire building 

Episode #3

Q: World War 2: 1931? – 1945?


  • 1930’s Japan wages war 

  • Mussolini expands into Africa 

  • Germany begins to flex muscles 

  • So war predates 1939 

  • Perspective of thirty year war 1914-1945 

  • Theory that W2 is about empire building 

  • 1920’s revisionist empires seeking countries 

  • Ends in 1960 with collapse of empires 

Episode #4

Q: Why was WW2 a global event? 


  • Global reach; around the world 

  • Not limited to Western or Eastern Front 

  • Pacific, Madagascar, Caribbean, Falkland Island 

  • Global connections: Britain, USA, Russia 

  • Axis Powers: Germany, Italy, Japan 

Episode #5

Q:  Major Empires – Pre WWII? 


  • Empires made up 40% of world’s land mass 

  • Britain: Commonwealth, India & more 

  • French: Vietnam, Indonesia, West Africa, Caribbean, Pacific 

  • Belgium Congo 

  • Dutch Latin America, Caribbean 

  • Italian Empire / Mussolini 

Episode #6

Q:  End of Empires – Why?


  • World War II main cause 

  • Nations gave up on empires 

  • Nationalism, Freedom 

  • War for Democracy 

  • Moral and Political Crises 

  • War Accelerated demise of British Empire 

Episode #7

Q: USA / Japan – Pacific Empires? 


  • Japan & USA – Long term rivalry 

  • Japanese Imperialism 

  • USA looks for free trade across the ocean 

  • Pearl Harbor - Japan miscalculates 

  • War inevitable 

  • Roosevelt set against empire building 

Episode #8

Q: Is USA an Imperialist Empire? 


  • USA has been called an Empire 

  • But both USA & Soviet Union are not classical Empires 

  • They are not territorial empires 

  • They are hegemonic, dominant 

  • USA: Empire by bases 

  • Soviet Union: dominated Eastern Europe 

Episode #9

Q: Nazi Germany – Genocide & Empire Building 


  • Nothing ordinary about Third Reich 

  • Hitler pointed to historical empire building 

  • Nazi Empire Building: impatient, radical, dangerous 

  • Instances of genocide via empire building 

  • Nazi different – Jewish race needed to be eliminated 

  • Jews stopping Germany from building Germanic empire 

  • Even while war is being lost, war against Jews continued 

Episode #10

Q: Post WW2 Tribunals – Good or Bad? 


  • Tribunals as Allied Justice 

  • Important to define International Law 

  • Crimes Against Humanity 

  • Wars of Aggression, Genocide 

  • Defines matters clearly 

  • Founding moment for International Law 

Episode #11

Q: Post Empire World Order – Safer? 


  • We live in a different world 

  • Nation Sates with their interests 

  • Will not go backwards 

  • Paradox – stable with potential instability 

  • Competition for economic resources 

  • Climate Change a big factor 

Episode #12

Q:  Emotional Geography of War? 


  • Study of war trauma 

  • Emotional impact on military and civilians 

  • How do you get soldiers to fight? 

  • How do you get them to overcome fear? 

  • How to overcome emotional crises 

  • Psychological casualties of the war 


Full Interview - Professor Richard Overy 

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