The People's War

The People's War : Britain 1939-1945

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The 1939-45 conflict was, for Britain, a 'total war'; no section of society remained untouched by military conscription, air raids, the shipping crisis and the war economy. In this comprehensive and engrossing narrative Angus Calder presents not only the great events and leading figures but also the oddities and banalities of daily life, and in particular the parts played by ordinary people: air raid wardens and Home Guards, factory workers and farmers, housewives and pacifists. Above all, his book reveals how, in those six years, the British people came closer to discarding their social conventions than at any time since Cromwell's more

Product details

  • Paperback | 672 pages
  • 154 x 234 x 50mm | 939.99g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1
  • 0712652841
  • 9780712652841
  • 396,185

About Angus Calder

Angus Calder is Reader in Cultural Studies and Staff Tutor in Arts with the Open University in Scotland. He read English at Cambridge and received his D. Phil from the School of Social Studies at the University of Sussex. He was Convener of the Scottish Poetry Library when it was founded in 1984. His other books include Revolutionary Empire and The Myth of the Blitz. He has contributed to many Open University courses, notably on 'The Enlightenment', 'Popular Culture' and 'Literature and the Modern World'.show more

Review Text

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. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

"Full of vivid anecdote ... and of epigrammatic flair ... it is a dense, detailed, moving chronicle." -- Richard Eyre Independent on Sunday "A tour de force of historical reconstruction" Sunday Times "The People's War is more than a salutary iconoclastic analysis of its period and more than an immensely fastidious social history. It is full of vivid anecdote...and of epigrammatic flair... I've read Angus Calder's book several times and passed it on to friends. I've commissioned and directed several plays and films which have been inspired by it. It is a dense, detailed, moving chronicle that I am still unable to read without feeling both nostalgia and pain for the unfulfilled promise of the world I was born into" -- Richard Eyre Independent on Sunday "No verdict can I pronounce on The People's War other than, read it" -- Elizabeth Bowen Spectator "He has provided an engrossing, beautifully organized book that could provide a valuable education for the post-war generation and a salutary re-education for his elders" -- Phillip French Financial Timesshow more