Book Review: Avoiding Armageddon: From the Great War to the Fall of France, 1918-40


by Jeremy Black

London / New York: Continuum, 2012. Pp. xxii, 304. Notes, biblio., index. $29.95. ISBN: 1441157131

In Avoiding Armageddon the prolific Prof. Black (Exeter) address developments in the conduct of war between the world wars. 

Black’s principal point is that “there is no one way to write about military developments in the inter-war period.”  He argues that most accounts of developments in the period actually look backwards from a perspective that is clearly based on the events of 1939-1945.  In contrast, looking forward from 1918, there were two decades of great uncertainty about pretty much everything, and little practical experience to offer guidance.  Then, after admonishing us to keep in mind that even this account should not be taken as definitive, he looks at developments in the period as they unfolded. 

'Black takes particular note of  trends emerging from the limited wars of the period, including some major colonial wars (Spain and France in Morocco, Italy in Libya and Ethiopia), many smaller encounters, various coups and civil wars,and the handful of major wars in the period, such as the Russo-Polish (1919-1921), Chaco (1932-1935), Spanish Civil (1936-1939), and Second Sino-Japanese (1937 on).  He looks closely at new ideas in naval and air warfare, noting that the advocates of the latter in particular promised far, far more than they could deliver for almost the entire period.  Also of influence was the fact that during the second half of the inter-war period, military trends were taking place within the framework of a global economic disaster and rising tensions among the Great Powers. 

A very thought-provoking work, Avoiding Armageddon is essential for those seriously interested in the evolution of warfare in the twentieth century.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close