A. J. P. Taylor was perhaps the best-known British historian of the 20th century. He is best known for his controversial revisionist take on the causes of World War II. In particular, he discounted the then-popular idea that Hitler had a grand plan to start World War II, he highlighted the flaws of the Versailles Treaty, and he pointed out the popularity and allure of policies that now appear to have been mistakes. Taylor’s revisions have in turn been revised themselves — most historians don’t buy the fundamental thrust of Taylor’s thesis — but his work is still regarded as valuable because he shattered stereotypes that prevented a balanced look at the run-up to the war.
Like many historical events, the failure and success of many projects appears very cut-and-dried in retrospect. In fact, even the most successful projects were often life-and-death with certain issues and failed initiatives rarely believed that their failure was pre-ordained. An additional Taylor quote puts this concept nicely:
The historian deals with past events and therefore to him all history is inevitable. But these past events were once in the future and then they were not inevitable.