All Hell Let Loose

The World at War 1939–1945

Max Hastings

With a new preface by the author

Published in a richly illustrated Folio Society edition, Max Hastings’ All Hell Let Loose is a people’s history of the Second World War from one of its greatest historians: the complete story of the conflict.

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‘Military history at its most gripping. A veritable tour de force.’
  1. Ian Kershaw, Evening Standard

All Hell Let Loose is a commanding history of ‘humankind’s largest and most terrible event’ from one of our most eminent war historians. Drawing on 35 years of research, Sir Max Hastings covers the entire sweep of the conflict: six years of grand strategies, campaigns and battles, from the North Atlantic to the Far East. However, his focus is on ‘the voices of little people rather than big ones’, piecing together fragments of testimony from ordinary soldiers and civilians into a human tragedy of bravery, barbarism, endurance and loss. This Folio Society edition – presented in a striking cover and slipcase designed by artist Mark Smith – opens with a new preface by Hastings reflecting on perceptions of the war in our modern era. Each of its two volumes includes 10 maps and 32 pages of photographs, chosen in close consultation with the author. Acclaimed by fellow historians, and an international bestseller over the decade since its first publication, All Hell Let Loose captures the enormity of a war that saw the world scoured by unprecedented brutality, ending more than 60 million lives.

Two volumes

Bound in printed and blocked cloth with a design by Mark Smith

Set in Galliard with Helvetica as display

824 pages in total

Black & white frontispiece in each volume

32 pages of black & white photographs per volume (64 in total)

20 Maps

Cloth slipcase blocked with a design by Mark Smith

10˝ x 6¾˝

This has been described as the book Hastings was born to write: the distillation of a lifetime’s scholarship in military history, including many previous studies of the Second World War. All Hell Let Loose is a truly global account, documenting Allies, Axis nations and colonial subjects alike. It gives due weight to the decisive Eastern Front in the European war, but also encompasses the horror of Japanese occupation in China, internecine slaughter in Yugoslavia and the catastrophic famine in Bengal. Even on familiar ground, Hastings frequently shocks with a fact or statistic – as with the revelation that the number of Russian troops killed by their own officers exceeded the entire number of British fatalities. The selection of pictures is as broad as the narrative, helping to fulfil his aim of showing the human face of the war. The vivid, haunting images range from armoured columns and battlefield scenes to the privations of Leningrad and victims of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. All are reproduced as full pages or double-page spreads.

In All Hell Let Loose, Max Hastings sets out to answer a question for future generations: what was the Second World War really like? His answer is that it was vastly different for British tank crews and enslaved Chinese ‘comfort women’, American paratroopers and Soviet housewives, German panzer officers and Polish Jews. These, and many more, lend their eyewitness accounts to his readable, fast-paced narrative, and the vignettes of their lives make a conflict of scarcely imaginable scale understandable on an individual level. It is an account free from triumphalism – not a simple struggle between good and evil, but one in which all sides made moral compromises. As Hastings concludes, ‘All that seems certain is that Allied victory saved the world from a much worse fate that would have followed the triumph of Germany and Japan.’

Sir Max Hastings is a British author, journalist and broadcaster. During his early career as a foreign correspondent for BBC TV and the London Evening Standard, he reported on conflicts around the world, including Vietnam and the 1982 South Atlantic war. Among his many books are Bomber Command (1979, The Folio Society 2018), Battle for the Falklands (co-author Simon Jenkins, 1983), Nemesis: The Battle for Japan, 1944–5 (2007), All Hell Let Loose (2011, The Folio Society 2022), Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War, 1914 (2013) and The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas, 1939–45 (2015). In 2008, Hastings was awarded the RUSI Duke of Westminster Medal for his lifetime contribution to Military Literature, and in 2012 the Pritzker Military Library of Chicago presented him with its Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he was knighted in 2002.


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