Second World War

GWonline Learning & Teaching Suggestions
The Second World War (1939–1945)


World War II was a global conflict that involved the vast majority of the world while massive and increasingly mobile armies swept across Asia, Europe, and Africa in campaigns coordinated across countries and oceans. Although some conflicts that would develop in to the Second World War such as the Sino-Japanese War (1937) began earlier, the commonly accepted duration of the war was from 1 September 1939 until 14 August 1945. The Second World War continued many of the trends of industrialization seen in the First World War, but brought them to even greater extremes. For example, the blurring between civilian and combatant roles accelerated during mass strategic bombing campaigns targeting civilian centers well behind front lines were enabled by sophisticated aircraft production. Some of these bombing raids have become enshrined in the memory of the war, such as the bombing of London (the Blitz), the fire-bombing of Dresden, and the Atomic bomb used by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The countries involved and the death toll of the war grew well beyond those of previous conflicts. One of the major hallmarks of the Second World War was the massive number of casualties, particularly those of non-combatants. Most estimates suggest that approximately 60 million people died during the war, 20 million of whom were military personnel while another 40 million were civilians. Atrocities like the Holocaust, where approximately six million Jews were murdered by Nazi Germany and sympathizers, served to further illustrate the extremely ideological and brutal nature of the war. World War II set up many of the contours of modern world politics including the Cold War, the division and occupation of Germany, and the threat of nuclear war. In addition, the war has continued to provide historians with rich material regarding war, gender, politics and more. 

For basic information see the Wikipedia page on World War II.


Selected Suggestions for Learning & Teaching

Introductory Readings

Book Chapters and Journal Articles

General Literature 

Literature on Gender & War

Methodological Introductions

Websites with Timelines and Maps

Websites with Primary Sources

Women's Autobiographies

Documentaries, Movies, and Television Series


All linked titles of introductory readings, autobiographies, websites, documentaries and movies are connected to an entry in GWonline that provides an abstract and additional information.