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On June 18th, 1940, invoking their "finest hour," Winston Churchill galvanized his countrymen. Poland and France had fallen. Britain was next. Churchill knew, as now did millions of his countrymen, that their island nation alone faced Nazi Germany, and that soon it would be at the center of the greatest struggle of modern times - a struggle whose outcome was by no means predetermined. Historian Daniel Todman undertakes perhaps the greatest saga of the 20th Century, often told in parts but never as completely as here. A modest-looking box of war medals kept in a desk opens to reveal the full history of Great Britain in the Second World War.
Britain's War: Into Battle, 1937-1941 is the first of two volumes in which Todman offers a brilliantly fresh retelling of the Greatest Generation's narrative. Beginning in the pre-war years, when shadows across the Channel were deepening but most of Britain hoped to avoid a second continental cataclysm, it spans the dawning realization of what lay ahead and the massive and profound changes required to get a country at peace onto a war footing. It then covers the failure of appeasement, the invasion of Poland, the "phony war," the fall of France, the miracle of Dunkirk and the pivotal Battle of Britain, the Blitz, and ends with America's entrance into the struggle. The stories of rapid industrialization, social disruption, food rationing, Westminster politics, class snobbery, and the mobilization of a global empire are woven together with the major opening battles to show just how desperately high the stakes of the war were. Todman's epic project does what no other has done, linking economic, strategic, social, cultural, and military history in one compelling narrative. Here, also, are key individuals - the politicians, industrialists, pub owners, housewives, the pilots of the RAF, and the sailors at Dunkirk - caught in the maelstrom that threatened to engulf not just the "scepter'd isle" but the world itself.
Colossal in scale and engrossing in detail, Todman's project brings to vivid life the many dramatic and unexpected disruptions that changed the course of the war in ways none at the time could foresee. Britain's War: Into Battle, 1937-1941 offers readers a full account of the entire conflict as it was experienced by all the people of Britain and its Empire.
Daniel Todman is Senior Lecturer in the School of History at Queen Mary University of London. He is also the author of The Great War: Myth and Memory, and is co-editor of Field Marshall Lord Alanbrooke's War Diaries, 1939-1945.