USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945


I have written and prepared this book primarily, though not exclusively, for college and university students. I undertook the task for three principle reasons. The first is that the cost of textbooks for history courses, especially history surveys, has risen to unjustifiable heights. When the cost of a coursebook climbs to around $200, we have long ago left the realm of education and are firmly in a zone of corporate control. That universities continue to support such a system is baffling, especially considering that nearly all institutions of higher education possess hundreds or even thousands of alternative books gathering dust in their libraries. One wonders where all the used copies of these textbooks eventually go. The landfill and the recycling plant seem the best guesses.  

There are three types of student book-buyers, generally speaking. The first has plenty of money and feels no qualms about spending hundreds of dollars for a textbook. And these student have little difficulty paying the $1,200-$1,400 for a year's worth of books and supplies. The second group of students is able to scrape together money for books, working extra hours, cutting expenses here and there. These students line up to sell the textbooks back to university bookstores as soon as they possibly can -- and they are able to do it, assuming it is not one of the frequent years when a new edition of a textbook, mostly with cosmetic alterations, replaces the old. The third set of students is like the second, except that the money from the books ultimately comes from student loans. The enormity of student loans in general dwarfs money spent just on books -- another drop in the bucket; and the corporate book industry exploits this fact its full advantage. This book, then, is a humble attempt to push back against this system. It is not the only way or perhaps even the best way to try to reorient higher education away from corporate abuse -- but it is one way, at least. 

The second reason for this book is that I hope it generates collaboration and sets an example for faculty-produced content. This project has taken me well beyond my core capacities, and I know that to push further and deeper, I need the help of others. In addition, the univocal nature of this book presents many limitations. Intellectual endeavors are made richer by a polyphony of voices and perspectives -- especially when these perspectives are deep and thoughtful. I would welcome the help of other faculty, who would like to make my work better, to engage in discussion and debate within the pages of the book itself.

Finally, I believe in the content of this project. Though many books cover many parts of this story -- and do so much better than I can -- I haven't yet discovered a book that covers the years from 1914-1945 in the same multidisciplinary, global way as I do here. I will let the reader judge whether or not I have at least partially succeeded in this endeavor. 

I'd like to thank Pieter Tryzelaar for his work helping with the design of the first version of this project. I'd also like to thank the staff at the Center for Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Southern Maine for supporting this project, with special thanks to Rucha Modak and Damien Michaud for their advice and support.


Seth Rogoff


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