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About the Author

Brendan Simms is a fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge and Professor in the History of International Relations at the Center for International Studies, University of Cambridge. The author of five books, including Three Victories and a Defeat and Unfinest Hour, which was shortlisted for the Samuel show more JOhnson prize, he lives in Cambridge, England. show less
Image credit: www.polis.cam.ac.uk

Works by Brendan Simms

Hitler: A Global Biography (2019) — Author — 93 copies


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Simms, Brendan
Legal name
Simms, Brendan Peter
Dublin, Ireland
Places of residence
Dublin, Ireland
Cambridge, England, UK
German School
Trinity College, Dublin
Cambridge University (Peterhouse)
Simms, David (father)
Simms, Anngret (mother)
The Henry Jackson Society
Project for Democratic Union
Bosnian Institute
Short biography
Brendan Peter Simms is an Irish historian and Professor of the History of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. Simms, a Newton-Sheehy Teaching Fellow, completed his doctoral dissertation, Anglo-Prussian relations, 1804-1806: The Napoleonic Threat, at Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Tim Blanning in 1993. A Fellow of Peterhouse, he lectures and leads seminars on international history since 1945.



Published Review of "Victory at Sea" by Paul Kennedy in Second World War History (May 2022)


This is a rather short book but very well written, focusing on the defenders of the La Haie Sainte at the battle of Waterloo. Very enjoyable.
jztemple | 6 other reviews | Feb 14, 2024 |
This book focuses on the diplomatic and political events between 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, and 11 December, when Hitler and Mussolini declared war on the USA. There is some attention given to the events prior to December 7, and there is an appendix that briefly describes the course of the rest of the war. But this mainly is a detailed study of the events of those few days.

The narrow scope brings with it some limitations. It is not just the time window. The authors give most of their attention to the actions of politicians and diplomats. They describe the circuit of messages between Tokyo, Berlin, Rome, Moscow, Washington DC, and London in great detail, with occasional forays to other capitals. It gives good insight in how diplomacy worked, or did not work, during this crucial week. It even has some comedy value. The spectacle of Mussolini giving a brief speech just because he wanted (despite prior agreements) to send his declaration of war a few minutes before Hitler's, is characteristic for the nature of the Axis collaboration.

But in doing so, they skip rather lightly over the parallel development of industrial and strategic thinking. By doing so, they probably make history look more malleable than it was, and give themselves more leeway for "what-ifs" than they rightly deserve. For example, there is mention of Wedemeyer's "Victory Program" and its leaking to the press in July 1941, but there is no deeper discussion of how US war plans developed during 1940 and 1941, including military coordination with Britain, and matured into Rainbow Five. The Lease-Lend act plays a central part in this book, but there is no discussion of the growing industrial collaboration, such as the large orders France and Britain placed with US industry, or the British decision to hand over the design of the cavity magnetron in September 1940. The future allies were more entangled before December 11 than Simms and Laderman allow for.

The chronological sequence is carefully retraced and wisely includes events elsewhere, such as the Soviet counter-offensive before Moscow and the fatal deportation of European Jews to camps and ghettos in the east. This is a well researched book, with extensive endnotes, but the authors are perhaps a bit over-confident in bringing some aspects of the story without admitting that they are controversial, especially when it comes to the timing of Hitler's decision to murder the European Jews.

There are no surprising new discoveries here, so it doesn't contribute a lot of new insights to our understanding of the course of WWII. But it is informative.
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EmmanuelGustin | 2 other reviews | May 28, 2023 |
This was a fun read but not the book I thought it would be. I expected an analysis of the reasons Hitler chose to declare war on the U.S. What I received instead was a very well researched and engagingly presented hour-by-hour global tour through the events of Dec. 6-12, 1941.

The narrative strategy-- one chapter per day, frequent cuts from one nation to another to capture events in chronological order-- has its merits but by the third or fourth day becomes a bit repetitive. Dec. 9: British *still* worried that Lend Lease aid will be diverted to the Pacific theater. On the other hand, Profs. Sims and Laderman are telling a really good story.

The story they're not telling, however, is why Hitler decided to bring a still recalcitrant after Pearl Harbor U.S. into the European war. Their interpretation-- Hitler thought the Japanese strike gave him a window of opportunity to build a geopolitical bloc sufficiently strong to withstand American industrial might-- takes up maybe 2% of the book, and hardly the best reasoned part.

Similarly, I find unconvincing the assertion that Hitler intended merely to hold West European Jews, as opposed to their Polish and Soviet brethren, hostage to Roosevelt's behavior. The lack of supporting evidence in an otherwise well-footnoted work grounded in the latest scholarship is telling.

Even so, a good and well-researched read. Worth the time. 4 stars.
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Dreyfusard | 2 other reviews | Nov 19, 2022 |
This book focuses on the few major countries through time, primarily France, the USA, and the area of the Germans (from the Holy Roman Empire to the Austria-Hungary Empire and German Confederacy to Austria and Germany today). England and Russia are on the peripherary throughout. The rest of the European nations are mentioned from time to time.

The most striking, disappointing, though not unique aspect of this book is it's focus on history through the lens of war not culture, trade, manufacturing, economies, etc.… (more)
eatonphil | 3 other reviews | May 8, 2022 |



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