Fighting the People's War
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Fighting the People's War : The British and Commonwealth Armies and the Second World War

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Fighting the People's War is an unprecedented, panoramic history of the 'citizen armies' of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa, the core of the British and Commonwealth armies in the Second World War. Drawing on new sources to reveal the true wartime experience of the ordinary rank and file, Jonathan Fennell fundamentally challenges our understanding of the War and of the relationship between conflict and socio-political change. He uncovers how fractures on the home front had profound implications for the performance of the British and Commonwealth armies and he traces how soldiers' political beliefs, many of which emerged as a consequence of their combat experience, proved instrumental to the socio-political changes of the postwar era. Fighting the People's War transforms our understanding of how the great battles were won and lost as well as how the postwar societies were forged.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 966 pages
  • 160 x 235 x 45mm | 1,650g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 21 Tables, black and white; 38 Maps; 24 Halftones, black and white; 18 Line drawings, black and white
  • 1107030951
  • 9781107030954
  • 64,760

Table of contents

List of illustrations; List of figures; List of maps; List of tables; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; Overview of maps; Introduction; Part I. The Military and Political Context; 1. Interwar: 1.1 Materiel and manpower; 1.2 Doctrine; 1.3 Training and organisation; 1.4 Politics and public morale; 1.5 Structure and contingency; 2. Mobilisation: 2.1 The political context; 2.2 Mobilisation; 2.3 Equality of sacrifice?; 2.4 The social contract; 2.5 Rhetoric and reality; Part II. The Great Crisis of Empire; 3. Defeat in the West: 3.1 The 'Phoney War'; 3.2 The Norwegian campaign; 3.3 The Battle of France; 3.4 Assessments and recriminations; 3.5 Preparing for invasion; 4. The Middle East: 4.1 Operation 'Compass'; 4.2 From East Africa to the Balkans; 4.3 The Battle for Crete; 4.4 Strategic overstretch; 4.5 Operation 'Crusader'; 4.6 Spring 1942; 4.7 Gazala; 4.8 The July battles; 5. The Far East: 5.1 The strategic context; 5.2 Preparations; 5.3 The Malaya campaign; 5.4 The invasion of Burma; 5.5 The fall of Singapore; 5.6 Retreat to India; 5.7 The cost of failure; 6. The great imperial morale crisis: 6.1 The anatomy of defeat; 6.2 Morale crisis; 6.3 The ideological deficit; 6.4 The soldier and the state; Part III. Transformation; 7. Victory in North Africa: 7.1 No retreat; 7.2 Alam Halfa; 7.3 Colossal cracks; 7.4 War Office initiatives; 7.5 El Alamein; 7.6 The Tunisian campaign; 8. New Guinea and Burma: 8.1 The 'Battle for Australia'; 8.2 Kokoda; 8.3 Wau; 8.4 Quit India; 8.5 The Arakan; Part IV. The Limits of Attrition; 9. The Mediterranean: 9.1 Strategy and preparation; 9.2 The Sicilian campaign; 9.3 Opportunity lost; 9.4 The invasion of Italy; 9.5 Advance to the 'Gustav Line'; 9.6 Winter in Italy; 10. Remobilisation?: 10.1 The British Army and the Beveridge Report; 10.2 The New Zealand Furlough mutiny; 10.3 The UDF and the 'Blue Oath'; 10.4 Procedural justice; 11. Cassino: 11.1 Anzio and the First Battle of Cassino; 11.2 The Second Battle of Cassino; 11.3 The Third Battle of Cassino; 11.4 The Fourth Battle of Cassino (Operation 'Diadem'); 12. Transformation in the jungle: 12.1 Training and doctrine; 12.2 Institutional reform; 12.3 The South-West Pacific area; 12.4 Operation 'Postern'; 12.5 Burma; 12.6 Second Arakan; 12.7 Imphal and Kohima; 12.8 Turn around; Part V. Redemption; 13. D-Day: 13.1 Training and doctrine; 13.2 Selection and morale; 13.3 The assault; 13.4 Controversy; 14. Normandy: 14.1 The battle for Caen; 14.2 Operation 'Goodwood'; 14.3 Breakout; 14.4 Encirclement; 14.5 The trap; 15. The victory campaigns: 15.1 Operation 'Market Garden'; 15.2 Operation 'Olive'; 15.3 Manpower crisis; 15.4 The Scheldt and the 'Siegfried Line'; 15.5 Operational and tactical transformations; 15.6 Victory in Italy; 15.7 The surrender of Germany; 15.8 The South-West Pacific area; 15.9 Burma; 15.10 Operations 'Capital' and 'Extended Capital'; Part VI. The Post-War World; 16. Soldiers and social change: 16.1 From combat cohesion to social cohesion; 16.2 The forces vote and the 1945 British General Election; 16.3 The forces vote and New Zealand's great experiment in social citizenship; 16.4 The forces vote and the formalisation of apartheid in South Africa; 16.5 Soldiers, veterans and the partition of India; 16.6 Soldiers, veterans and social change; Conclusion: C.1 A deficit of political legitimacy; C.2 Military performance; C.3 Consequences; C.4 Fighting the people's war; Appendix 1. The censorship summaries; Appendix 2. The morale reports; Appendix 3. Quantitative indicators of morale; Appendix 4. Defining morale; Notes; Select bibliography; Index.
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Review quote

'[A] weighty, admirably uncomfortable account [by] an impressively diligent and thoughtful young historian ... This is a fascinating and important book, which brings together a mass of information ... never before assembled under one roof.' Max Hastings, The Sunday Times 'Incredibly well-researched, brilliantly written and quite frankly, an outstanding book.' History of War 'A richly documented, provocative and convincing study.' David French, The Times Literary Supplement 'Fennell draws on a wide literature and deep archival research to explore how the Commonwealth armies fought key battles and campaigns, but he never loses sight of the role of citizen soldiers and how they exerted agency in calamitous defeats and gritty victories. Fighting the People's War offers new interpretations in the global fight against Fascism, and will be required reading for scholars and the historically-minded public.' Tim Cook, author of The Necessary War and Fight to the Finish 'This is an outstanding book, based on immersion in archives across the globe. Rich in insights, it demands that we rethink the way we view the armies of the British Empire in the Second World War.' Gary Sheffield, author of A Short History of the First World War 'Indispensable for understanding both World War II and the modern British experience. Fennell's major contribution integrates three themes usually compartmentalized. Its base is the analysis of Britain's development of an army able to fight and win a global war. That costly achievement both fostered and depended on growing cohesion within the participating societies. Wartime cohesion and comradeship in turn brought classes together in the postwar 'quiet revolution' that ended the Empire and redefined the Commonwealth.' Dennis Showalter, author of Hitler's Panzers: The Lightning Attacks that Revolutionized Warfare 'Comprehensive, detailed and authoritative, Fennell breaks out of the national straitjackets that restrict our understanding of how the Commonwealth fought WWII - a triumph of multi-national research.' Peter Stanley, author of 'Terriers' in India 'This is a hugely impressive, sweepingly ambitious book which brings together the military histories of all the British Commonwealth nations for the first time. It asks vital questions about the relationship between wartime experience, society, and politics in a unique transnational way. A remarkable and valuable achievement.' Alan Allport, author of Browned Off and Bloody-Minded: The British Soldier Goes to War 1939-1945 'An absolutely fascinating and fresh account of the Commonwealth armies at war ... very well written and totally accessible. It contains a wealth of information that is fresh and new, and Fennell's insights on subjects that many might imagine are familiar will be of real interest ... Highly recommended.' Taylor Downing, Military History Matters 'Jonathan Fennell's astonishing book is full of compelling arguments that complete the puzzle of British, Commonwealth and Imperial victory in WW2. It's quite fantastic and revealing ... an incredible story. Absolutely recommend it.' Al Murray, Comedian and TV Personality 'The size, scale, and significance of this book is nothing but staggering.' Munitions of the Mind (www.blogs.kent.ac.uk/munitions-of-the-mind) 'Jonathan Fennell has produced a compelling and magisterial history of the British and Commonwealth armies between 1939 and 1945 ... Fighting the People's War establishes Fennell as among the leaders of the next generation of Second World War scholars.' Jonathan Boff, History Today '[A] weighty, admirably uncomfortable account [by] an impressively diligent and thoughtful young historian ... This is a fascinating and important book, which brings together a mass of information ... never before assembled under one roof.' Max Hastings, The Sunday Times `Incredibly well-researched, brilliantly written and quite frankly, an outstanding book.' History of War 'A richly documented, provocative and convincing study.' David French, The Times Literary Supplement `Fennell draws on a wide literature and deep archival research to explore how the Commonwealth armies fought key battles and campaigns, but he never loses sight of the role of citizen soldiers and how they exerted agency in calamitous defeats and gritty victories. Fighting the People's War offers new interpretations in the global fight against Fascism, and will be required reading for scholars and the historically-minded public.' Tim Cook, author of The Necessary War and Fight to the Finish 'This is an outstanding book, based on immersion in archives across the globe. Rich in insights, it demands that we rethink the way we view the armies of the British Empire in the Second World War.' Gary Sheffield, author of A Short History of the First World War `Indispensable for understanding both World War II and the modern British experience. Fennell's major contribution integrates three themes usually compartmentalized. Its base is the analysis of Britain's development of an army able to fight and win a global war. That costly achievement both fostered and depended on growing cohesion within the participating societies. Wartime cohesion and comradeship in turn brought classes together in the postwar `quiet revolution' that ended the Empire and redefined the Commonwealth.' Dennis Showalter, author of Hitler's Panzers: The Lightning Attacks that Revolutionized Warfare 'Comprehensive, detailed and authoritative, Fennell breaks out of the national straitjackets that restrict our understanding of how the Commonwealth fought WWII - a triumph of multi-national research.' Peter Stanley, author of 'Terriers' in India 'This is a hugely impressive, sweepingly ambitious book which brings together the military histories of all the British Commonwealth nations for the first time. It asks vital questions about the relationship between wartime experience, society, and politics in a unique transnational way. A remarkable and valuable achievement.' Alan Allport, author of Browned Off and Bloody-Minded: The British Soldier Goes to War 1939-1945 'An absolutely fascinating and fresh account of the Commonwealth armies at war ... very well written and totally accessible. It contains a wealth of information that is fresh and new, and Fennell's insights on subjects that many might imagine are familiar will be of real interest ... Highly recommended.' Taylor Downing, Military History Matters 'Jonathan Fennell's astonishing book is full of compelling arguments that complete the puzzle of British, Commonwealth and Imperial victory in WW2. It's quite fantastic and revealing ... an incredible story. Absolutely recommend it.' Al Murray, Comedian and TV Personality 'Jonathan Fennell has produced a compelling and magisterial history of the British and Commonwealth armies between 1939 and 1945 ... Fighting the People's War establishes Fennell as among the leaders of the next generation of Second World War scholars.' Jonathan Boff, History Today
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About Jonathan Fennell

Jonathan Fennell is a Senior Lecturer at the Defence Studies Department at King's College London. He is a Director of the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War and a Director and Co-Founder of the Second World War Research Group. His first book, Combat and Morale in the North African Campaign (Cambridge, 2011) was shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize, was joint runner-up for the Society for Army Historical Research's Templer Medal and was selected as one of BBC History Magazine's 'Books of the Year' 2011.
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