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Tag: Second World War

Misinformation, Mass Observation and the Public Perception of the Norway Campaign, 1940

Written by Charles Taylor

If you ask the modern-day Briton about the Norway campaign of 1940, you will likely be met with a blank face or a simple shrug. Eclipsed by the evacuation of Dunkirk and the fall of France, Britain’s involvement in this theatre has undoubtedly drifted into the background of British memory of the Second World War. Though little known, the campaign holds many significances for the armed forces. Erupting on 9 April 1940 with Germany’s Operation Weserübung, Norway was the first land campaign of the Second World War for Britain, the earliest meeting of British and German troops on the battlefield, the first joint Allied land operation, and the first modern sea, land and air campaign. Despite these considerations, Britain’s military involvement remains all but forgotten, condemned as a humiliating background episode and often glazed over in the history books.

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Unlearning Eugenics: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Disability in Post-Nazi Europe

Review by David Peace

On 30 October 2020, in defiance of anti-COVID-19 measures to restrict public gatherings, over 100,000 mask-clad demonstrators took to the streets of Warsaw to protest proposed changes to Poland’s abortion laws. Only a few days earlier, on 22 October, Poland’s constitutional tribunal ruled that abortions sought on the grounds of ‘foetal defects’ or ‘congenital malformations’ were ‘incompatible’ with Article 38 of the Polish Constitution. Consequently, abortion has now become only legally permissible in Poland in either cases of rape and incest, or where there is potential threat to a mother’s life or health, or instances of irreparable damage to a foetus. Reportedly, these cases represent only 2% of all legal terminations in Poland. As Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, stated in a tweet shortly after the announcement, the new ruling has in effect removed the basis ‘for almost all legal abortions in Poland’ and amounts to ‘a ban and violates human rights.’ However, despite the days of protest marches across Polish cities and popular backlash against the ruling, Poland’s shift towards a curtailment of access to abortion services echoes a growing trend among traditionally Catholic European countries as populist parties in Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, Spain, and Croatia, seek to emulate the Polish legislative model to disrupt what they perceive to be the overt liberalisation of abortion as a reproductive right.

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The Life and World of Francis Rodd, Lord Rennell (1895-1978): Geography, Money and War

Reviewed by Edward Flint

More years ago than I care to remember, when starting my PhD, a colleague, Christopher Duffy, asked if I had found the people yet. I looked at him quizzically for my head was full of the big events, the organisations, theoretical frameworks, concepts and so forth – by the end of the process I knew exactly what he meant. Plenty of names had bubbled up in the PhD but three in particular had emerged as fundamental to the development and employment of British civil affairs and military government in the Second World War.

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Britain’s War: A New World, 1942–1947

Reviewed by Chris Smith

This book, the second volume of Daniel Todman’s mammoth history of Britain’s Second World War, picks up where the previous volume left off in 1941. Unlike the majority of histories of Britain’s conflict, which tend to focus on only one aspect of the war, Todman’s work aims to be completist – or rather as completist as any single history (even in two volumes) of Britain and the Second World War can hope to be.

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A Personal Reflection on the Recent War Graves Controversy

Written by Mark Connelly I first visited a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery when I was sixteen years old. It was Dud Corner Cemetery and the Loos Memorial in France. I can remember the moment vividly. Having developed a deep interest in the First World War, I was on my first battlefield trip. Although my reading had made me aware of the work of the Commission, nothing prepared me for the beauty, calm and dignity of…

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Turkey and the Soviet Union during World War II: Diplomacy, Discord and International Relations

Reviewed by Edward Corse

The Second World War produced some intriguing quasi-conflicts amongst the much larger and better-known battles of that period. Onur İşçi’s analysis of the relations between Turkey and the Soviet Union at that time carefully plots out one such fascinating story – one that is understudied and often misunderstood.

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The Dig (Netflix, 2021)

Reviewed by Oliver Parken

The sleepy Suffolk village of Sutton seems an unlikely backdrop for a major feature film. The Dig, starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes and Lily James brings a true story well known to Sutton’s locals to the big screen for the first time. Based on John Preston’s literary adaptation of the same name (2007), The Dig recasts one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century on British and European soil––the excavation of a Dark Age ship, packed with a priceless collection of treasure, in the late-1930s.

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Britain at Bay: Past and Present

Reviewed by Oliver Parken

Memories of Britain’s war continue to soothe a fragile national psyche. Brexit and the Coronavirus pandemic, two of the greatest political challenges in living memory, have often been unambiguously linked with the myths of Britain’s war. Given the recent turn to the right in mainstream British politics and the conservative underpinnings of Britain’s war memory, politicians and commentators draw freely from the past to provide stability in the present. Britain ‘stood alone’ in forging a Brexit deal as it did against continental Europe in 1940. Beating Covid-19 demands a pulling-together and sacrifice of civil liberties of society reminiscent of the ‘Blitz spirit’ (itself part of a larger, more egalitarian framing of the war which nonetheless feeds into right-wing narratives).

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Allied Communication to the Public during the Second World War: National and Transnational Networks

Reviewed by Will Butler.

This edited collection, which covers a diverse range of inter-related subjects, is a triumph, and a welcome collection to the study of the use of propaganda during the Second World War. It brings together a diverse range of scholars (both established and early career), who all tackle their subjects with aplomb, taking the reader on an exploration of their individual areas of study, without losing sight of the overall theme of the collection.

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Dying for the Nation: Death, Grief and Bereavement in Second World War Britain

Reviewed by Ellena Matthews.

Over the last 30 years an increasing number of historians have explored the social and cultural history of death in the twentieth century. Lucy Noakes’ Dying for the Nation builds upon these studies to show that an analysis of death in wartime enhances our understanding of the Second World War. Through examining how death impacts upon individuals, communities and the state, Noakes illustrates that the management of death, grief and bereavement shaped the impact of wartime loss during the war years and in the immediate post-war period.

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