Richard Overy

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

(1947-12-23) 23 December 1947 (age 74)
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

Richard James Overy FRHistS FBA (born 23 December 1947) is a British historian who has published 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]

Life and career

Overy, after being educated at Caius College, Cambridge, and becoming a research fellow at Churchill College, taught history at Cambridge from 1972 to 1979, as a fellow of Queens' College and from 1976 as a university assistant lecturer. 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.[2]

Overy's work on the Second World War has been praised as "highly effective [in] the ruthless dispelling of myths" (AJP Taylor), "original and important" (New York Review of Books) and "at the cutting edge" (Times Literary Supplement).[citation needed]

Dispute with Timothy Mason

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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 by maintaining that though Germany was faced with economic problems in 1939, their extent cannot explain aggression against Poland and the outbreak of war was caused by the Nazi leadership. For Overy, the problem with Mason's thesis was that it rested on assumptions that were not shown by records, information that was passed on to Hitler about Germany's economic problems.[3]

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.[4] Overy asserted that the repressive capacity of the German state as a way of dealing with domestic unhappiness was somewhat downplayed by Mason.[3] Finally, Overy argued that there is considerable evidence that Germany felt that it 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".[5]

Awards and honours

In media



  1. ^ Overy, Richard (19 October 2007). "The 50 key dates of world history". The Times. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
  2. ^ "Professor Richard Overy". University of Exeter. Retrieved 18 June 2022.
  3. ^ a b 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, p. 102
  4. ^ Overy, Richard "Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and War in 1939" from The Third Reich edited by Christian Leitz Blackwell: Oxford, 1999, pp. 117-118
  5. ^ Overy, Richard "Germany, 'Domestic Crisis' and War in 1939" from The Third Reich, edited by Christian Leitz, Blackwell: Oxford, 1999, p. 108
  6. ^ "Samuel Eliot Morison Prize previous winners". Society for Military History. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  7. ^ Cragg, Claudia (11 November 2010). "Chatting Up A Storm with Claudia Cragg". Retrieved 15 March 2012.