Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources, and Experts in the Second World War

Overview

The familiar image of the British in the Second World War is that of the plucky underdog taking on German might. David Edgerton's bold, compelling new history shows the conflict in a new light, with Britain as a very wealthy country, formidable in arms, ruthless in pursuit of its interests, and in command of a global production system. Rather than belittled by a Nazi behemoth, Britain arguably had the world's most advanced mechanized forces. It had not only a great empire, but ...

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Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources, and Experts in the Second World War

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Overview

The familiar image of the British in the Second World War is that of the plucky underdog taking on German might. David Edgerton's bold, compelling new history shows the conflict in a new light, with Britain as a very wealthy country, formidable in arms, ruthless in pursuit of its interests, and in command of a global production system. Rather than belittled by a Nazi behemoth, Britain arguably had the world's most advanced mechanized forces. It had not only a great empire, but allies large and small.

Edgerton shows that Britain fought on many fronts and its many home fronts kept it exceptionally well supplied with weapons, food and oil, allowing it to mobilize to an extraordinary extent. It created and deployed a vast empire of machines, from the humble tramp steamer to the battleship, from the rifle to the tank, made in colossal factories the world over. Scientists and engineers invented new weapons, encouraged by a government and prime minister enthusiastic about the latest technologies. The British, indeed Churchillian, vision of war and modernity was challenged by repeated defeat at the hands of less well-equipped enemies. Yet the end result was a vindication of this vision. Like the United States, a powerful Britain won a cheap victory, while others paid a great price.

Putting resources, machines and experts at the heart of a global rather than merely imperial story, Britain's War Machine demolishes timeworn myths about wartime Britain and gives us a groundbreaking and often unsettling picture of a great power in action.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A fascinating revisionist account that is also enjoyable to read. Highly recommended." —CHOICE

"A stunning booktold with authority, clarity and compelling energy." —James Holland, author of The Battle Of Britain

"Absolutely fascinating. This book will make you think differently about Britain's role in the Second World War." —Laurence Rees, author of Auschwitz: The Nazis and the "Final Solution"

"A remarkable achievement. He re-envisions Britain's role in the Second World War and with it Britain's place in modernity. The period will never look the same again." —Adam Tooze, author of The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

"An important corrective to the black-and-white portrait of the period that still prevails" —Financial Times

"Edgerton has written what could prove to be one of the most influential books on the history of the Second World War ... majestic ... [he] has successfully shown us that we still have a lot to learn about the conflict ... it will become the required reading for all students wishing to study the Second World War" —Reviews in History

"A major new assessment of Britain's war effort from 1939 to 1945. Never again will some of the lazy assessments of how Britain performed over these years ... be acceptable. That's why this is such an important book." —History Today

"Edgerton's well-researched volume bursts with data that reveal Britain's true strength even when supposed to be in critical condition." —Peter Moreira Military History

"Brilliant and iconoclastic ... debunks the myth that Britain was militarily and economically weak and intellectually parochial during the 1930s and 1940s." —David Blackburn, Spectator Book Blog

"This book has certainly changed my views ... It is a necessary and timely corrective to a great deal of loosely thought-through conventional wisdom, and makes a real contribution to our understanding of the war." —Richard Holmes, Literary Review

"Accessibly written and deserves a wide audience. Above all, Edgerton demonstrates that the war is a subject we haven't yet heard nearly enough about. Britain's War Machine is a considerable achievement." —Graham Farmelo, Times Higher Education

"Edgerton has excelled himself with this highly revisionist account of Britain's national performance during the Second World War ... an unusually provocative book." —Twentieth Century British History

"Brilliant and thought-provoking ... There are moments of edgy humour, too ... This remarkable book shows that whatever the reasons for the length of time it took to bring Hitler to heel, the quantity and quality of British war material was not among them." —Brendan Simms, Sunday Telegraph

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199832675
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/9/2011
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

David Edgerton is the Hans Rausing Professor at Imperial College, London, where he was the founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. He is the author of the iconoclastic and brilliant The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (OUP, 2007).

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Table of Contents

Maps
Illustrations
Tables
Note on Quantities

1. Introduction
2. The Assurance of Victory
3. Never Alone
4. Cronies and Technocrats
5. Politics and Production
6. Sons of the Sea
7. Worlds of War
8. Boffins
9. Machines and Modernity

Acknowledgements
Bibliography
Index

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