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Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources, and Experts in the Second World War Hardcover – September 9, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1St Edition edition (September 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199832676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199832675
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #837,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A fascinating revisionist account that is also enjoyable to read. Highly recommended." --CHOICE

"A stunning booktold with authority, clarity and compelling energy." --James Holland, author of The Battle Of Britain

"Absolutely fascinating. This book will make you think differently about Britain's role in the Second World War." --Laurence Rees, author of Auschwitz: The Nazis and the "Final Solution"

"A remarkable achievement. He re-envisions Britain's role in the Second World War and with it Britain's place in modernity. The period will never look the same again." --Adam Tooze, author of The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

"An important corrective to the black-and-white portrait of the period that still prevails" --Financial Times

"Edgerton has written what could prove to be one of the most influential books on the history of the Second World War ... majestic ... [he] has successfully shown us that we still have a lot to learn about the conflict ... it will become the required reading for all students wishing to study the Second World War" --Reviews in History

"A major new assessment of Britain's war effort from 1939 to 1945. Never again will some of the lazy assessments of how Britain performed over these years ... be acceptable. That's why this is such an important book." --History Today

"Edgerton's well-researched volume bursts with data that reveal Britain's true strength even when supposed to be in critical condition." --Peter Moreira Military History

"Brilliant and iconoclastic ... debunks the myth that Britain was militarily and economically weak and intellectually parochial during the 1930s and 1940s." --David Blackburn, Spectator Book Blog

"This book has certainly changed my views ... It is a necessary and timely corrective to a great deal of loosely thought-through conventional wisdom, and makes a real contribution to our understanding of the war." --Richard Holmes, Literary Review

"Accessibly written and deserves a wide audience. Above all, Edgerton demonstrates that the war is a subject we haven't yet heard nearly enough about. Britain's War Machine is a considerable achievement." --Graham Farmelo, Times Higher Education

"Edgerton has excelled himself with this highly revisionist account of Britain's national performance during the Second World War ... an unusually provocative book." --Twentieth Century British History

"Brilliant and thought-provoking ... There are moments of edgy humour, too ... This remarkable book shows that whatever the reasons for the length of time it took to bring Hitler to heel, the quantity and quality of British war material was not among them." --Brendan Simms, Sunday Telegraph

About the Author

David Edgerton is the Hans Rausing Professor at Imperial College, London, where he was the founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. He is the author of the iconoclastic and brilliant The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (OUP, 2007).

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Customer Reviews

So why doesn't he disprove their case?
Also spends a lot of time on invention and shows how it was important in a few cases (radar), but many of the ideas and schemes did not work or were not needed.
Edgerton challenges both these views in a book that is full of challenging arguments and counter-intuitive insights.
Nicholas Walton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By MMG on September 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
David Edgerton's "Britain's War Machine" is a wonderful book which deserves a place on one's boookshelf beside the companion work The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze.

The first merit of Edgerton is to demolish the die-hard myth of Britain's unpreparedness in 1939. On the contrary he convincingly demonstrates that Britain was first of all opulent, "the richest state in Europe... certainly richer than Germany"; no wonder that "the British were the great meat-eaters of Europe" (even during the war "rationing did not imply drastically cut supplies, except in the case of sugar") and that "Britain was the most motorized nation in Europe" as well as "the world's largest importer of oil"; to be more precise "Britain started and ended the war as the world's largest importer". "So powerful was Britain in the world economy that it could in effect force many people around the world to supply it with goods for credit". Moreover "it had resources to spare, was wealthy enough to make mistakes, and could fight as it chose to rather than had to".

This enviable condition reflected itself both in the industry and in the armed forces. "The warfare state was one of plenty, of armed forces generously supplied with new equipment by new factories", "interwar Britain was a military superpower at sea and in the air, supporting the largest arms industry in the world" (incidentally, "it was the largest arms exporter of the world"). "Britain rearmed on a scale unprecedented in peacetime".
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By wimiam on January 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I can't even imagine how the publisher passed this book - this is a strange collection of disconnected chapters, as if the author found certain aspects of WW2 interesting and decided to throw them together as a book, then he wondered: what would be the theme? I am still wondering that, but Edgerton claims that he is proving that Britain was strong after all and that we shouldn't beat up the appeasers and wasters who were leading Britain at the time. Ironically, although he shows that Britain was economically strong, that just proves further how unprepared Britain was for war: an empire that was stronger than Germany but in retreat for the first 3 years of the war and then dependent on foreign economies. Edgerton never explains this - in fact he never refers to operations. The book is full of strong opinions but backed by highly selective data and even bizarrely reinterpreted evidence. For instance, Edgerton seems to rely heavily on the bizarre assertion that the British Army of all things was more mechanized than the German army, but the British Army was small and still awaiting its equipment. Edgerton presents no new data and it all comes from official histories published in the 1950s, but he nonetheless takes the liberty of reinterpreting it in unconventional ways. For instance, how does he prove that Britain had more tanks than Germany? He codes most German medium tanks as light tanks and codes all the British light tanks, most of which were armed with just machine-guns and were surplus to requirements, as equivalent. Edgerton's repeated assertion that the British Army was completely mechanized is ignorant and ironically proves his poor research.Read more ›
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By P. Williams on October 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
it is rare that I look forward to finishing a book so that I can write a Review, however from about half way through this book, that has been my objective. This is a flawed work, with a highly partisan perspective. The author makes a comparison in the first chapters to Wages of Destruction, by Tooze, an excellent book detailing the economics of Nazi Germany prior to and during ww11. In "Wages of Destruction", so many of the military actions of the Germans in WWII become, possibly for the first time,rational, whereas in "Britian's War Machine", a hypothesis is presented, with carefully selected "facts"(ah statistics the essence of so many partial truths), more in the form of a diatribe than a well researched and constructed perspective.

There is certainly an excellent book to be written considering the economic context of Britain in WW11, but this is not it.

Although quite readable and at some times informative, given that the echoes of the economic decisions of the US and UK in the war can still be felt some 70 years on, it is disappointing that "Britain's War Machine" does not rise to the challenge. Perhaps the editors at Oxford University Press were not able to work their usual rigor into the text?

A great potential book, but lacking a cogent and compelling proposition
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Hughes on December 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Anyone seriously interested in the grand strategy of Britain in relation to Germany and its wider place in the world needs to read this book. It challenges some common conceptions about the plight of Britain and it going it alone against the might of the Axis powers: an understanding that underestimates the role of Empire and Britain's superior position in relation to resources, both material and geographical. The book debunks several myths about ariel bombardment among other things, and contains an array of helpful statistics about actually war casualties. More than an eye-opener, this is an important challenge to the official and popular ideological history of the Second World War.
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