James Holland

Men-of-War

The Bitter Sea: The Struggle for Mastery in the Mediterranean, 1935–1949

By

HarperPress 416pp £25 order from our bookshop

Far too many historians continue to view the global conflicts of the twentieth century – and especially the Second World War – through the narrow prism chosen by previous generations of writers. In the case of North Africa, for example, there are reams of books, told from an Allied perspective, that begin with General O’Connor’s trouncing of the Italians in 1940 and end after the Battle of Alamein some two years later. Accounts of the war in Italy usually stop at the fall of Rome in June 1944. The ensuing long and bitter struggles that marked the culmination of both campaigns are covered with little more than a cursory nod. Reading through each new generation of campaign histories, it sometimes seems as though the authors are afraid that they might be committing some kind of historical faux pas if they venture outside the constraints established by the chroniclers of fifty or more years ago. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,