Richard Overy

The Man Who Plotted for Peace

Hitler’s Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 329pp £20 order from our bookshop

Counterfactual history is now a well-established means of trying to explore what might or might not have happened in the Second World War, had different decisions been taken. If only ‘x’ had been the option chosen, ‘y’ could have been the consequence, or perhaps ‘y + 1’ (the algebra, of course, is infinitely elastic). Richard Bassett – in what is otherwise a brief and readable biography of the man who headed German military intelligence from 1935 to 1944, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris – argues that, if only the British had listened to Canaris, war might have been avoided in 1939 altogether, or, once started, could have been turned into a fight against Soviet Communism with a Hitler-less Germany on the side of the Western Allies. The ‘mystery’ alluded to in the title is little more than this, and it is not difficult to understand why neither counterfactual scenario ever became historical fact.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,