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Richard Overy (born 23 December, 1947) is a British historian who has published extensively on the history of World War II and the Third Reich. In 2007 as The Times editor of Complete History of the World he chose the 50 key dates of world history.


After being educated at Caius Collegemarker, Cambridgemarker and awarded a research fellowship at Churchill Collegemarker, Overy taught history at Cambridgemarker from 1972 to 1979, as a fellow of Queens' Collegemarker and from 1976 as a university assistant lecturer. In 1980 he moved to King's College Londonmarker, where he became professor of modern history in 1994. He was appointed to a professorship in Exeter Universitymarker in 2004.

In the late 1980s, Overy was involved in a major historical dispute with the Marxist historian Timothy Mason that mostly played out over the pages of Past and Present journal over the reasons for the outbreak of World War Two in 1939. Mason had contended that a "flight into war" had been imposed on Adolf Hitler by a structural economic crisis, which confronted Hitler with the choice of making difficult economic choices or aggression. Overy argued against Mason's thesis, maintaining that though Germany was faced with economic problems in 1939, the extent and scale of these problems cannot explain aggression against Polandmarker, and the reasons for the outbreak of war were due to the choices made by the Nazi leadership. For Overy, a major problem with the Mason thesis was that it rested on the assumption that in way unrecorded by the records, that information was passed on to Hitler about the Reich's economic problems. Overy argued that there was a major difference between economic pressures inducted by the problems of the Four Year Plan, and economic motives to seize raw materials, industry and foreign reserve of neighboring states as a way of accelerating the Four Year Plan. Moreover, Overy asserted that the repressive capacity of the German state as a way of dealing with domestic unhappiness was somewhat downplayed by Mason. Finally, Overy argued that there is considerable evidence that the German state felt they could master the economic problems of rearmament; as one civil servant put it in January 1940 "we have already mastered so many difficulties in the past, that here too, if one or other raw material became extremely scarce, ways and means will always yet be found to get out of a fix". Recently, another British historian, Adam Tooze, has argued for a similar position as Mason's in his book The Wages of Destruction.

His work on World War II has been praised as "highly effective (in) the ruthless dispelling of myths" (A. J. P. Taylor), "original and important" (New York Review of Books) and "at the cutting edge" (Times Literary Supplement).


  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (1977)
  • Fellow of the British Academy (2000)
  • Fellow of King’s College (2003)
  • Samuel Elliot Morrison Prize of the Society for Military History (2001) - For his contribution to the history of warfare.
  • Wolfson History Prize (2004) for his book The Dictators: Hitler's Germany; Stalin's Russia

In media

Prof. Overy was featured in the 2006 BBC docudrama Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial.


  • William Morris, Viscount Nuffield (1976), ISBN 0-900362-84-7
  • The Air War, 1939-1945 (1980; paperback ed. 2005), ISBN 1-57488-716-5
  • All Our Working Lives (with Peter Pagnamenta, 1984), ISBN 0-563-20117-7
  • Goering: The "Iron Man" (1984; paperback ed. 2000), ISBN 1-84212-048-4
  • The Origins of the Second World War (1987; 2nd ed. 1998), ISBN 0-582-29085-6.
  • co-written with Timothy Mason "Debate: Germany, “Domestic Crisis” and War in 1939" pages 200-240 from Past and Present, Number 122, February 1989 reprinted as “Debate: Germany, `domestic crisis’ and the War in 1939” from The Origins of The Second World War edited by Patrick Finney, Edward Arnold: London, United Kingdom, 1997, ISBN 0-34-067640-X.
  • The Road To War (with Andrew Wheatcroft, 1989; 2nd ed. 1999), ISBN 0-14-028530-X
  • The Nazi Economic Recovery, 1932-1938 (1982; 2nd ed. 1996), ISBN 0-521-55286-9
  • The Inter-War Crisis, 1919-1939 (1994), ISBN 0-582-35379-3
  • War and Economy in the Third Reich (1994), ISBN 0-19-820290-3
  • Why the Allies Won (1995), ISBN 0-224-04172-X
  • The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Third Reich (1996), ISBN 0-14-051330-2
  • The Times Atlas of the Twentieth Century (ed., 1996), ISBN 0-7230-0766-7
  • Bomber Command, 1939-45 (1997), ISBN 0-00-472014-8
  • Russia's War: Blood upon the Snow (1997), ISBN 1-57500-051-2
  • The Times History of the 20th Century (ed., 1999; new ed. 2003), ISBN 0-00-716637-0
  • The Battle (2000), ISBN 0-14-029419-8 (republished as The Battle of Britain: The Myth and the Reality)
  • Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, 1945 (2001), ISBN 0-7139-9350-2 (republished as Interrogations: Inside the Minds of the Nazi Elite)
  • Germany: A New Social and Economic History. Vol. 3: Since 1800 (ed. with Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2003), ISBN 0-340-65215-2
  • The Times Complete History of the World (6th ed., 2004), ISBN 0-00-718129-9
  • The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia (2004), ISBN 0-7139-9309-X
  • Collins Atlas of Twentieth Century History (2005), ISBN 0-00-720170-2
  • Imperial War Museum's Second World War Experience Volume 1: Blitzkrieg (2008), ISBN 978-1-84442-014-8
  • Imperial War Museum's Second World War Experience Volume 2: Axis Ascendant (2008), ISBN 978-1-84442-008-7
  • The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars (2009), ISBN 978-0-71399-563-3

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