Richard Overy

Richard James Overy (born 23 December 1947) is a British historian who has published extensively on the history of World War II and Nazi Germany. In 2007 as The Times editor of Complete History of the World, he chose the 50 key dates of world history.[1]

Richard Overy

Overy lecturing at King's College London in 2015
Richard James Overy

(1947-12-23) 23 December 1947
Alma materGonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Known forstudies on military history, especially the Second World War
Notable credit(s)
Why the Allies Won, The Air War: 1939–1945

Life and career

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

In the late 1980s, Overy was involved in a historical dispute with Timothy Mason that mostly played out over the pages of Past & Present over the reasons for the outbreak of the Second World War 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 decisions or aggression. Overy argued against Mason's thesis, maintaining that though Germany was faced with economic problems in 1939, the extent of these problems cannot explain aggression against Poland, and that the reasons for the outbreak of war were due to the choices made by the Nazi leadership. For Overy, the problem with Mason's thesis was that it rested on assumptions in a way not shown by records, information was passed on to Hitler about the Reich's economic problems.[2] Overy argued that there was a difference between economic pressures induced by the problems of the Four Year Plan and economic motives to seize raw materials, industry and foreign reserves of neighbouring states as a way of accelerating the Four Year Plan.[3] Overy asserted that the repressive capacity of the German state as a way of dealing with domestic unhappiness was somewhat downplayed by Mason.[2] 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".[4] 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.)

Awards and honours

In media

  • Overy was featured in the 2006 BBC docudrama Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial.
  • KGNU's Claudia Cragg – interview with Overy on 'Countdown To War' for Remembrance Day (Veteran's Day) 2010.[6]


  • William Morris, Viscount Nuffield (1976), ISBN 0-900362-84-7.
  • The Air War: 1939–1945 (1980), ISBN 1-57488-716-5.
  • The Nazi Economic Recovery, 1932–1938 (1982), ISBN 0-521-55286-9.
  • Goering: The "Iron Man" (1984), ISBN 1-84212-048-4.
  • All Our Working Lives (with Peter Pagnamenta, 1984), ISBN 0-563-20117-7.
  • The Origins of The Second World War edited by Patrick Finney, Edward Arnold: London, Hodder Education Publishers (1997), ISBN 0-340-67640-X.
  • Co-written with Timothy Mason: "Debate: Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and War in 1939" pp. 200–240 in Past and Present, Number 122, February 1989, reprinted as "Debate: Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and the War in 1939" in The Origins of The Second World War (1997).
  • The Road To War (with Andrew Wheatcroft, 1989), ISBN 0-14-028530-X.
  • 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 (1999), 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.
  • 1939: Countdown to War (2009), ISBN 978-960-16-3467-8.
  • The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars (2009), ISBN 978-0-7139-9563-3.
  • The Bombing War: Europe 1939–1945 (2013), ISBN 0713995610 (later published as The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940–1945, ISBN 978-0-670-02515-2).


  1. Overy, Richard (19 October 2007). "The 50 key dates of world history". The Times. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
  2. Mason, Tim & Overy, R.J. "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 p102
  3. Overy, Richard "Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and War in 1939" from The Third Reich edited by Christian Leitz Blackwell: Oxford, 1999 p117-118
  4. Overy, Richard "Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and War in 1939" from The Third Reich edited by Christian Leitz Blackwell: Oxford, 1999 page 108
  5. "Samuel Eliot Morison Prize previous winners". Society for Military History. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  6. Cragg, Claudia (11 November 2010). "Chatting Up A Storm with Claudia Cragg". Retrieved 15 March 2012.
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