by Chris Wrigley
Head of the School of History and Art History,
The Course of German History is one of A.J.P. Taylor's best known books. It has rarely been out of print since it was first published in July 1945. It was very much a product of the Second World War, history with a moral for the victors in a second modern war against Germany. Its message was that there were continuities in German history and Hitler and the Nazis were not an aberration but only an extreme version of Germany's drive for mastery in at least central and eastern Europe.
Alan Taylor began his Preface to the first edition by observing,
The book is a pièce d'occasion. It is meant to be serious history. All the same I should never have written it except for the events of the last five years and, still more, the need of some historical background to the political problems of the present.
It had begun as a chapter on the Weimar Republic era (1919-22) of German history for a government handbook for British troops. Alan Taylor had written it in for the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), which was attached to the Special Operations Executive, an important part of the British wartime intelligence service. It was the second historical piece he had written for the PWE, and was the second rejected