Intelligence is an aspect of World War II that has long held a fascination for historians and the public alike. Very naturally, much interest has focussed on the role of the Security Services and the role of Bletchley Park in cracking the Enigma Code – witness, for example, the success of the recent film about Alan Turing, The Imitation Game. Continue reading “What was the Role of Scientific and Technical Intelligence During World War II?”
From a new history of the world to the forgotten soldiers of the Second World War, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
From the US legacy of apartheid to Putin’s plot to get Texas to secede, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
What Were They Fighting For?
German Subjectivities in the Second World War
Professor Nicholas Stargardt, University of Oxford
Centre for the Study of War, State and Society Annual Lecture,
University of Exeter, 18 March 2015, 5pm, Venue to be confirmed
The Second World War was a German war like no other. Having started it, the Nazi regime turned the conflict into the most horrific war in European history, resorting to genocidal methods well before building the first gas chambers. Over its course, the Third Reich expended and exhausted all its moral and physical reserves, leading to total defeat in 1945. Yet seventy years on — despite whole libraries of books about the war’s origins, course and atrocities — we still do not know what Germans thought they were fighting for and how they experienced and sustained this war until the bitter end.
When war broke out in September 1939, it was deeply unpopular in Germany. Yet without the active participation and commitment of the German people, it could not have continued for almost six years. What, then, was the war Germans thought they were fighting? How did the changing course of the conflict — the victories of the Blitzkrieg, the first defeats in the east, the bombing of Germany’s cities — change their views and expectations? And when did Germans first realise that they were fighting a genocidal war?
Drawing on a wealth of first-hand testimony, The German War is the first foray for many decades into how the German people experienced the Second World War. Told from the perspective of those who lived through it — soldiers, schoolteachers and housewives; Nazis, Christians and Jews — its masterful historical narrative sheds fresh and disturbing light on the beliefs, hopes and fears of a people who embarked on, continued and fought to the end a brutal war of conquest and genocide.
It’s often struck me that historians of World War II don’t make nearly as much use as they might of radio sources.
By contrast, they draw on newspapers to a much greater extent. Of course, the print media was important, but in order to capture people’s lived experience of the conflict the significance of radio has to be appreciated. Continue reading “Why do We Neglect Radio Sources When Studying #WW2?”
From Cold War cover-ups to ‘mansplaining’ IR theory, here are the week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
In the latest Reviews in History, published online by the Institute of Historical Research, Professor Kevin Matthews of George Mason University looks at Professor Richard Toye’s recent book The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill’s World War II Speeches, which has already aroused considerable controversy. Matthews notes:
To produce this study, Toye deftly combines secondary source material with archival research, especially Churchill’s own, often overlooked speech-writing files. The result is a book that is by turns informative, engaging, and, all too often, frustrating.
Matthews agrees that ‘Toye is surely right that Churchill did not command unanimous support during the war, a fact he demonstrates by lacing his book with contemporary reactions to the wartime speeches.’ However, he is critical of the book’s use of Mass-Observation material and the reports of the Ministry of information’s Home intelligence Division:
More than once, while the Home Intelligence Division reported overall support for a Churchill address, Toye is quick to highlight negative comments about the same speech found in the MO files, even when those comments represented ‘minority feeling’ (p. 108). Moreover, these negative reactions often say less about Churchill’s oratory than they do about a war-weary, but also fickle public.
In his author’s response, Toye responds robustly, arguing that Matthews overlooked the ways in which the book addresses such methodological concerns. Toye also emphasizes that highlighting contemporary criticisms of Churchill’s speeches does not necessarily amount to an endorsement of the critics’ point of view. He argues: ‘Once it is grasped that I am neither criticising Churchill nor rubbishing his speeches, then Matthews’s critique of my work loses its force.’
Who do you think is right?
You can check out the full exchange here.