THE PEOPLE'S WAR: Britain 1939-45 by Angus Calder

THE PEOPLE'S WAR: Britain 1939-45

Email this review


The W.W. II myths regarding the magnificent performance of the civilian population during Britain's ""freest hour"" are many, and Angus Calder's thorough social history of the war years can't help but be somewhat of a debunking document. Calder captures the heroics of the unknown warriors in the bombed streets, on the factory floors, and in the Home Guard drill halls, but he also conveys the irrepressible blitz humor (West End stores with blown-out windows advertising ""More Open Than Usual""), the sense of ""a lark"" which many young people brought to their unaccustomed tasks, the cavalier attitudes of thousands of A.W.O.L.-ers, the antiwar sentiment of the ""People's Convention,"" and the overriding boredom which for many people was the chief feature of the war. The narrative ranges from the major events and leading personalities to the oddities and banalities of daily life, noting the radical changes induced by wartime conditions in the churches, the arts, science, agriculture, and industry. Calder is particularly concerned with there revolutionary potential for British society of the home front situation: the scrambling of social classes in the initial evacuations, the jolting of army conscripts out of their acceptance of the old social order by communal travel, hardship and danger, and the ruling classes' dependence on the willing cooperation of the ruled, including those from the underprivileged sector of the society. All these factors brought the British people ""nearer to discarding their most rigid institutions and social conventions than at any time since Cromwell's Republic."" A wide-ranging analysis that is scholarly but not stodgy.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1969
Publisher: Pantheon