Britain at Bay: The Epic Story of the Second World War, 1938–1941

Alan Allport. Knopf, $40 (608p) ISBN 978-0-451-49474-0
Allport (Browned Off and Bloody-Minded), a history professor at Syracuse University, delivers a sweeping first installment in a planned two-volume chronicle of Great Britain during WWII. He expertly sketches the cultural and social landscape of middle-class England in the 1930s; details political unrest at home (IRA bombings in Ulster) and abroad (the Arab revolt in British-occupied Palestine); and assesses Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as a “dreadful judge of character.” After the 1938 Munich accords failed to contain Hitler, Winston Churchill came to power, the British troops were forced to evacuate Dunkirk, and France fell. Allport offers cogent and insightful accounts of the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the first tank campaigns in Egypt and Libya, and bombing raids over Germany, and he sketches incisive portraits of key yet often overlooked political and military leaders, including conservative M.P. Leo Amery and Gen. Sir Archibald Wavell. Setting the stage for the next volume, Allport argues that three far-flung occurrences in the first week of September 1941 were key to England’s fate: a German submarine fired a torpedo at a U.S. Navy destroyer, a committee of British scientists was given the go-ahead to develop an “effective uranium bomb,” and Japanese strategists met to study the inevitability of war with the U.S. and Britain. Expertly researched and marvelously written, this sterling history casts an oft-studied subject in a new light. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/27/2020
Release date: 11/03/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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