Richard Overy's 1939: Countdown to War re-creates hour-by-hour the last desperate attempts to salvage peace before the outbreak of World War Two. 24 August 1939: The fate of the world is hanging in the balance. Hitler has ambitions to invade Poland and hopes Stalin will now help him. The West must try to stop him. Nothing was predictable or inevitable. The West hoped that Hitler would see sense if they stood firm. Hitler was convinced the West would back down. And both sides acted knowing that they risked being plunged into a war that might spell the end the end of European civilization. A gripping analysis of the final days of peace...indispensable . (M. R. D. Foot, The Times ). Nail-biting...with rare narrative verve, he documents the ultimatums, emissaries, letters and increasingly desperate proposals that shuttled across Europe in the countdown to war . (Ian Thomson, Independent ). Even those who think they know it all about how war broke out will learn something from Richard Overy's book . (Simon Heffer, Literary Review ). One of the great historians of this conflict . (Simon Garfield, Observer ). A brilliantly executed extended essay that reads like a tense political thriller . ( Sunday Telegraph ). Richard Overy has spent much of his distinguished career studying the intellectual, social and military ideas that shaped the cataclysm of the Second World War, particularly in his books 1939 - Countdown to War , Why the Allies Won , Russia's War and The Morbid Age . Overy's The Dictators: Hitler's Germany , Stalin's Russia won the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hessell Tiltman Prize.